David Chipperfield Architects’ controversial plans to replace the Elizabeth House office block near London’s Waterloo Station with a 29-storey tower have been approved by Lambeth Council for a second time
The decision comes just over two years after the borough’s councillors originally ‘resolved to approve’ the scheme, and nine months after English Heritage and Westminster City Council lost a High Court bid to stop it.
Although judge Justice Collins refused the legal challenge, he urged Lambeth to reconsider the scheme’s impact on the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, which was the purpose of last night’s (December 9) decision.
Developers Chelsfield and London & Regional Properties proposals want to demolish Elizabeth House and replace the 1906s block with two new buildings, one part 29-storey and part 14-storey, and another of 11 storeys. They will provide 132,000m2 of new space including 142 new homes and a range of office and retail space.
Recommending the scheme for approval, planning officers conceded in a report that the development would result in a ‘noticeable’ change to the setting of the Westminster World Heritage Site - but not one that was ‘significant’ or ‘comprehensive’.
They argued that the benefits of the scheme would have a positive impact on the local area.
Lambeth’s planning officers said: ‘[The scheme] would provide a catalyst for redevelopment of [Grimshaw Architects’] Waterloo International Terminal, and the proposed public realm improvements would remove the existing blight of the current building, which acts as an impenetrable mass between Waterloo Station, Lower Marsh and the South Bank.
‘It would deliver heritage benefits in revealing the flank to Victory Arch, giving it a renewed prominence and a welcoming entrance to the station.’
Speaking after the decision, Lambeth Council leader Lib Peck said committee members had ‘very carefully reconsidered the application’ and now hoped it would again win the backing of London Mayor Boris Johnson and communities secretary Eric Pickles.
A spokesman for the developers said the scheme would be transformational for the area, and would create more than 8,500 new jobs.
He said: ‘We do not agree that there is significant adverse impact on important views to and from the Westminster World Heritage Site and our plans have been thoroughly tested through two and a half years in the planning process, by Lambeth Council, the Greater London Authority and the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Each time the same conclusion is reached
‘Each time the same conclusion is reached, which is that the scheme should be delivered for the benefit of Lambeth and London.’
Affordable housing connected with the Elizabeth House scheme will be delivered through the refurbishment and extension of a nearby office block in Leeke Street, with plans drawn up by BPTW Partnership.
Previous story (AJ 02.12.14)
Betty Boothroyd attacks ‘building frenzy’ on South Bank
Former House of Commons speaker Betty Boothroyd has accused the Government of failing to protect the heritage of the Palace of Westminster.
In June 2013, world heritage body UNESCO expressed fears over a series of schemes proposed for the South Bank of the river Thames in central London and their potential impact on the Houses of Parliament.
Last week, in a House of Lords debate, Boothroyd said the UK risked being embarrassed on the international stage if the government did not intervene and halt the development of a ‘wall high-rise high-density tower blocks stretching in a jagged line from Waterloo to Vauxhall’.
She said: ‘If this place [Parliament] is confronted by citadels of glass, steel and concrete on the other side, UNESCO has no choice but to tell the world that we are failing to meet our obligations.
“It would be a shameful blow to this country’s reputation, a dereliction of the Government’s responsibilities and a betrayal of future generations. Nothing like this has happened in continental Europe and it must not be allowed to happen here.’
In March last year, communities secretary Eric Pickles decided not to intervene when Lambeth Council gave its backing to David Chipperfield Architects’ contentious plans for the redevelopment of Elizabeth House in Waterloo. Councillors approved the 132,000m2 scheme, featuring a 29 storey tower, by four votes to two in the face of strong objections from Westminster Council and English Heritage.
In June this year, a UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in Cambodia demanded the ‘proposal [was] not approved in its current form and that it be revised in line with the concerns raised by expert bodies, including English Heritage (EH)’.
Although UNESCO last year opted against registering the Palace of Westminster on its List of World Heritage in Danger, the body has given the UK Government until next February to submit an update on the status of the heritage site.
In her speech, Boothroyd went on to attack Mayor of London Boris Johnson for failing to stop the towers.
She said: ‘It is a far cry from when he defended Westminster’s heritage before he became Mayor of London. He changed his tune when he was elected; he should do so again before he resumes his parliamentary career.’
Also speaking in the debate, Labour peer Denis Tunnicliffe questioned the Pickles’ conclusion that the Elizabeth House scheme ‘[did] not involve a conflict with national policies, have significant effects beyond the immediate locality, give rise to substantial cross boundary or national controversy or raise significant architectural or urban design issues’.
Tunnicliffe said: ‘How could the Secretary of State possibly have come to that conclusion?
‘I find it impossible to see how he did. He has, essentially, abdicated his responsibility to make a national decision about a national issue and given it to the London Borough of Lambeth.’