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Jenrick calls in Pilbrow & Partners’ London Fire Brigade HQ plans


Communities secretary Robert Jenrick has intervened on Pilbrow & Partners’ proposals to overhaul the former London Fire Brigade headquarters on Albert Embankment

Jenrick called in the application for his decision after it had been approved by Lambeth Council.

The scheme would create more than 400 homes, a 200-bed hotel and some 10,000m2 of office space as well as a modernised fire station and related museum.

But the government received more than 200 requests for it to call in the application and will ask a planning inspector to report on the proposals’ compliance with local and national planning policy, particularly regarding conservation of the historic environment.

The Twentieth Century Society objected to the plans, saying a proposed roof extension would ‘destroy the character and form’ of the Grade II-listed building designed by EP Wheeler and opened by King George VI in 1937.

However, a spokesperson for project backer U+I warned that Jenrick’s intervention could lead to ‘significant delay’ delivering the scheme.

‘The plans, which received the backing of the London Borough of Lambeth and followed extensive consultation with the local community, will positively transform a site that has lain vacant for almost 10 years,’ said the spokesperson.

London Fire Brigade said the station required ‘significant modernisation’.

‘These plans deliver improved training facilities, new accommodation for a diverse workforce and a new community space,’ said a spokesperson.

‘This development will also release capital funds to invest in our stations, training and equipment across the capital. We remain committed to this scheme, which is an important part of our future.’

Pilbrow & Partners’ designs represent the second attempt by the London Fire Brigade to redevelop the site, following the rejection in 2011 of a scheme designed by Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands for developer Native Land (pictured below).

Dismissed by Lambeth Council because of concerns over scale and impact on the daylight of neighbouring properties, the Native Land scheme failed to win a subsequent appeal to the planning inspectorate.

Pilbrow & Partners divided the 1.06ha site into three plots.

Proposals for the first parcel of land, the west site, include a glazed extension of the listed fire station to provide a rooftop restaurant, which will connect via a footbridge to a new 200-bed hotel.

This plot will also contain the new fire station along with 95 homes, while the brigade is seeking permission to change the building’s ground floor and basement for use as a permanent home for the London Fire Brigade Museum.

The central site, meanwhile, will comprise four buildings ranging from four to 26 storeys, delivering a range of office and workspace units, a gym, flexible retail and 318 residential units.

An 11-storey building with a further 30 homes and ground-floor retail units is proposed for the east site.

A government spokesperson said: ’Each planning application is taken on its own merits and the secretary of state has called in this case to be further considered. The case will now be considered at a local inquiry so it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.’

Lds albert embankment london fire brigade

REJECTED: Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands’ proposals for London Fire Brigade HQ on Albert Embankment

REJECTED: Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands’ proposals for London Fire Brigade HQ on Albert Embankment


Readers' comments (2)

  • Surely the failure to reach agreement over ten years (and counting) on a redevelopment that the London Fire Brigade says '....will also release capital funds to invest in our stations, training and equipment across the capital' speaks volumes for the context of the terrible Grenfell Tower inferno, where the LFB was reduced to having to borrow high reach fire fighting equipment from another brigade.
    Surely the estimable 20th Century Society has far more critical threats to our built heritage to address - and Jenrick's motivation in calling in this approved planning application is open to question on more than one count.
    The warning bells should be deafening on this one.

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  • The hypocrisy of the LFB and would-be developers U+I would make even Boris blush. It is nothing less than criminal that these central London sites have been left mostly vacant for 20 years in public ownership, yet all successive Mayors can do is back schemes helicoptered in and completely out-of-scale or context, of little use to London or Londoners, and totally at odds with the planning regime Mayors are intent upon constraining everyone else across London.

    The LFB workshops are industrial and in need, with adjacent sites doing core central London work (gutting fresh fish for West End restaurants, for example, employing local people, 50% of whom walk to work). As a result the sites' industrial use are protected. So what do LFB do? They spent from 2007-11 cajouling planners to let them max out on swanky housing and offices, in order to big-up their return, like the most rapacious developer - whilst minimizing on social housing by claiming the sites were worthless because of the planning protections!

    Lambeth refused the LFB's charm offensive in 2011, but the LFB pressed on and badly lost their Appeal when it was proved the plans would decimate daylight in adjacent social housing.

    Lambeth then tightened planning policy further: no tall buildings, industrial on most of it. Did the LFB learn? Nope. They casually swatted away an approach from Brompton Bikes looking for a central London workshop, and instead in 2015 engaged another group of wannabe developers U+I, who thought they could bully their way through the planning system. The LFB did warn them to engage with the local community, but U+I didn't speak to us during the 3 years they spent working up a scheme twice the height of that already rejected, completely at odds the planning designation, and with - surprise, surprise - a greater impact on daylight.

    The Mayor's 'family' find it easy to bully Lambeth planners - remember Lambeth caving in to the Garden Bridge when TfL threatened to pull their transport grant? So, after three years grinding down officers and 5 hours deliberation with members, plus the chair's casting vote, Lambeth finally gave in.

    But hang on, what about Sadiq's brave new London Plan? Didn't it have bold policies restricting tall buildings to identified sites? Didn't it have an absolute restriction on many boroughs such as Lambeth letting their industrial sites be lost? Didn't it demand at least 50% affordable housing on all public land, and on all redeveloped industrial land? Oh, soddit, said Sadiq's deputy Jules Pipe, when he signed the plans off - on the very day Boris announced social distancing towards the lockdown. Good day to bury the bad news: the London Plan is for others, not for the Mayor's 'family'!

    It's crocodile tears from the LFB and the 6 month delay this could bring to their plans for a re-fitted fire station and a re-housed LFB musuem, plus £42m cash from U+I. They should have had these sites sorted a decade ago, instead of playing developer's roulette with public land. Instead, real families living in real social housing could lose up to 40% of their already meagre daylight, because of safety-deposit boxes posing as housing piled 90m high beside them. And London could lose the last outstanding C20th building on Albert Embankment, views of Lambeth Palace could be wrecked, and even views of the Westminster world heritage site could be impacted.

    So three cheers for Jenrick! He's proved he doesn't always listen to wannabe developers and assorted hypocrites, but can hear the squeals of real people.

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