Westminster councillors have rejected Eric Parry Architects’ £400 million plans to increase the size of the UK’s largest single private residential development
The council’s Planning Applications Sub Committee went against its own officers’ recommendations voting unanimously to refuse consent for the practice’s overhaul of Stanley Gordon Jeeves’s 1938 Dolphin Square in central London.
The scheme, backed by US developer Westbrook Partners, would have added 230 homes to the unlisted 1,225-flat Pimlico estate. Proposed works included demolishing and rebuilding Rodney House, adding a rooftop extension to the rest of the estate, reconfiguring existing units and adding 16 townhouses.
A consultation on the scheme elicited 98 responses, most of which were negative. The Twentieth Century Society warned the scheme would harm the significance of the Dolphin Square Conservation Area.
‘It is a testament to Dolphin Square’s design quality that despite its massive size it sits well with both the adjoining estates and the stucco terraces, and its gardens and interior, especially the shop arcade, create an absolutely beautiful haven of 1930s character,’ said the heritage body.
The Dolphin Square Preservation Society branded the plans ‘excessive’ and insisted they would ‘destroy the ethos, character and fabric’ of the neo-Georgian estate. The buildings, which has been home to princesses, MPs and spies and actors over the last 80 years, has been the subject of three unsuccessful listing bids.
Planning officers had, nevertheless, recommended approval, saying the ‘significant’ benefits of new homes – 57 of which would be affordable – outweighed ‘less than substantial’ harm to the conservation area from demolition of Rodney House.
‘The increase in height of the proposed replacement building and rooftop extensions will increase the building’s dominance,’ conceded the planning report to committee. ‘However, given the scale of the existing building, and the simplicity of the proposed architecture, it is considered that the architectural character of the conservation area will be preserved.’
Regardless of this advice, councillors voted to refuse the scheme.
Westminster City Council chairman of planning Gotz Mohindra said: ’Dolphin Square clearly needs refurbishment but this scheme provides too much temporary lettable accommodation at the expense of permanent housing, especially for families, or wider public benefit to justify the harm that the extensive works would do to the conservation area.
’The increase in short-term let properties, which the council and residents fiercely oppose, left us with little choice but to refuse the application.’
Eric Parry Architects and Westbrook Partners have been contacted for comment.
Dolphin Square, Grosvenor Road, Pimlico, London shortly after completion in 1939
Source: Architectural Press Archive/ RIBA Collections