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Row erupts as Historic England refuses to list Hopkins’ Portcullis House

portcullis house shutterstock 2
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Historic England has rejected another application to spot-list Hopkins’ Portcullis House, claiming planned changes to the landmark office block didn’t present a serious enough threat

The heritage watchdog turned down an application to list Portcullis House by The Twentieth Century Society early last year. But, before Christmas, the organisation received a second bid from SAVE Britain’s Heritage after parliamentary authorities said they intended to remove the original water fountains in the the central atrium. 

Historic England said that, because the building was under 30 years old – it was commissioned in 1992 and completed in 2001 – there had to be a ‘serious threat of demolition or major alteration’ and meet the criteria for Grade II* or Grade I listing to warrant statutory protection.

The organisation confirmed that in its assessment it had taken into account BDP’s planning application for an overhaul of Parlaiment’s Northern Estate, which would see the construction of a link building along the northern perimeter of Portcullis House, joining the block to the Norman Shaw South building.

A spokesperson for Historic England said: ‘After careful consideration, we advised that the threat to the building was insufficient to justify urgent listing and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport agreed with our advice.’

The news was condemned by heritage campaigners. SAVE Britain’s Heritage labelling Historic England’s decision ‘pathetic’ and Hopkins Architects called for the organisation to reconsider its stance. 

Portcullis House in Westminster

Portcullis House in Westminster

Source: Matt Brown

The glass atrium with water features in Portcullis House

A spokesperson for Hopkins said: ‘More significantly than the removal of the water features is the current planning application for the Northern Estate which includes a single-storey extension along the length of the north façade of Portcullis House.’

‘A lean-to construction of this nature is diametrically opposed to the original concept of a free-standing palazzo-type building and is something we could never support.’

She added: ‘As such we consider this proposal entirely inappropriate and a major alteration to the building and would encourage Historic England to urgently re-consider their verdict in light of this.’

©secchi smith portcullis extension link building

©secchi smith portcullis extension link building

Source: Secchi Smith

CGI of BDP’s proposed link building between Portcullis House (left) and Norman Shaw South

Marcus Binney, executive president of SAVE Britain’s Heritage called for Historic England to ‘give proper weight to the grave concern expressed by Hopkins about the further alterations proposed to Portcullis House, which are extremely inappropriate and [do amount to] a major alteration’.

He added: ‘[Historic England and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport] are official guardians of the nations architectural heritage, and its self-proclaimed champions, but their response in this case is pathetic.’

A spokesperson for Historic England reiterated that it had ‘considered both last year’s listing requests carefully but concluded that the threat to the building was insufficient to justify urgent listing’.

A Parliamentary spokesperson hit back over plans for the link building, saying: ‘The proposed covered link is structurally independent of Portcullis House.

‘This light, stand-alone structure has been designed to connect to Portcullis House with the most minimal impact, while providing the additional space needed to cope with the increased number of people who will be working within Parliament’s Northern Estate.’

A spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: ‘We are content that the changes to Portcullis House do not constitute a sufficient threat to merit listing.’

BDP declined to comment. 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • The link would clearly be a lightweight structure, and should surely be seen as a temporary necessity (?) to cover the period while the houses of parliament are being refurbished, with strict legal conditions incorporated in temporary planning approval.
    This would also help maintain BDP's reputation as architects worth the name - but why on earth get rid of the water features?

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