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Heritage bodies hit out at plans to revamp listed police station

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Proposals by Seven Architecture to overhaul the only listed post-war police station will harm the architectural significance of the building, heritage bodies have warned

The practice is seeking planning approval to erect a nine-storey tower, infill an existing courtyard, convert basements and carry out internal refurbishment work at the City of London Police’s Grade II*-listed station in Wood Street.

Completed in 1966 to the designs of ‘progressive Classicists’ McMorran and Whitby, it was Donald McMorran’s last major project before he died in 1965.

Edward Denison’s book on the practice describes the building as ‘the greatest success of McMorran’s lifetime … a work of art that defines McMorran’s philosophies succinctly. It is an Italianate composition harking back to his favourite architect, [the Mannerist] Michele Sanmicheli, yet is rooted firmly in Britain and in the 20th century.’

Seven Architecture’s design and access statement suggests the building, the two main elements of which are four-storey courtyard buildings and a tower originally used as residential accommodation for officers, is ‘tired’ and no longer suitable for the needs of modern policing.

But The Twentieth Century Society is objecting to the practice’s scheme for its client, the City of London Corporation, arguing that the proposals would ‘harm the outstanding significance of the building’.

The society is particularly concerned about the ‘damaging’ tower extension, which would connect to the existing tower via a glazed link at each level. It feels this would mar the north elevation of the original tower and undermine ‘the careful balance and legibility of the built ensemble’.

Tess Pinto, conservation advisor to The Twentieth Century Society, said: ‘The approach has been to try and squeeze as much extra space as possible on to an extremely tight and sensitive site, around a historic building of outstanding significance.

The approach has been to try and squeeze as much extra space as possible on to an extremely tight and sensitive site

‘The society has suggested from the outset that the police station has the potential to make a fantastic boutique hotel, for example, and we don’t consider that the applicants have properly demonstrated that the buildings couldn’t be better conserved through a change of use.

‘What is of serious concern is that, despite our advice at pre-application, there does not appear to have been a comprehensive conservation management plan that has guided the formation of these proposals from the outset, despite the fact the building is Grade II*-listed and the only listed post-war police station.’

Historic England also has ‘serious concerns’ about the proposed tower extension because it would ‘harm the architectural significance of one of London’s finest post-war classical buildings’.

A Historic England spokesman added: ‘We support the continued original use of the building as a police station, and acknowledge that the City of London Police need a building that is fit for purpose. Ultimately it is for the local authority to balance the harm against the public benefits of the proposals in their decision.’

Seven Architecture declined to comment.

A spokesperson for City of London Corporation said: ‘We have noted the objections to the Wood Street police station planning application. These will be discussed by the Corporation’s planning committee later this year when the application will be reviewed by members.’

Click here to see the full plans

  • 3 Comments

Readers' comments (3)

  • chris Dyson

    Wood Street police station is a handsome piece of Architecture that in particular lends a human scale and proportion to this city quarter. The practice McMorran and Whitby was arguably at its pique when this building was designed as a grade 2* listed building its integrity must be protected. Meddling with a building of integrity such as this must be stopped. A more thoughtful, studied and sensitive approach is required.

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  • McMorran and Witby piqued by the Grade 2 listing? Au contraire, should have been Grade 1 surely? The usual knee jerk chicken response from Historic England and the 20th century people? Nice set of buildings though. Leon Krier visited them on a year 2 field trip?

    The police need a long life, loose fit, low energy building. Their needs and budgets will change every time there's a new Mayor, Lord Mayor or Home Secretary?

    Costs. £300K, no er £300m, no per annum or up front???

    Let's calm down and let the architects present their proposals, but open to constructive comment?

    David Farmery

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  • PS Will have to get the IT guy to show me how to insert the visage alongside the comment!

    And I worked with a Will McMorran in the late 70s, based too close to Julie's Wine Bar. A descendant? Was at a Geordie College with Bryan Ferry. He went round to his house in Holland Park one day and a Python answered the door! Star f**ker moment?! Luckily Sting never found out.

    David again

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