In December last year, Lambeth Council’s planning committee unanimously resolved to grant consent for the 2.2ha Royal Street scheme after officers ruled that its public benefits outweighed heritage harm.
This summer London mayor Sadiq Khan also backed the huge project, which features buildings up to 16 storeys tall on a plot just across the river from the Palace of Westminster.
However, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) later issued an Article 31 Holding Directive, preventing the borough from signing off permission until communities secretary Michael Gove had considered whether to call in the proposals.
But last month, Gove wrote to the council saying he was lifting the temporary halt and had decided not to call in the application.
Instead, the application has been returned to Lambeth Council which will officially grant permission subject to the section 106 obligations being agreed.
The scheme, for developer Stanhope, selected as development partner by landowners Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation, aims to create more than 160,000m2 of office space plus 133 homes – half of which will be designated ‘affordable’.
The project between Waterloo Station and St Thomas’ Hospital is being targeted at ‘cutting edge MedTech firms’.
Masterplanner AHMM is working alongside a design team including COBE with Morris+Company, East, Henley Halebrown, Piercy&Company and Feilden Fowles, whose own demountable London studio at Waterloo City Farm will be removed to make way for the plans.
Historic England had objected to the proposals after identifying harm to six heritage assets, including the Westminster World Heritage Site and Lambeth Palace.
Westminster City Council also opposed the development, which it said would have an ‘unacceptable’ impact on views of the Palace of Westminster.
Although Lambeth’s planning officers accepted the scheme would harm heritage assets, they said this would be ‘less than substantial’ and that it would be outweighed by the benefits of the scheme, including job provision, transport improvements and affordable homes.
‘No material considerations of sufficient weight to found a reason for refusal of planning permission have been identified,’ they concluded in a report to councillors, who voted to approve the scheme.
The proposed works include flattening the 1957 Canterbury House and its 1964 neighbour, Stangate House.
Canterbury House was designed by Leslie G Creed, architect to St Thomas’ Hospital, working with William Holford and initially James Stirling then based at Lyons, Israel, Ellis. In 1954, architecture critic Robert Maxwell became involved and helped with the design.
The reinforced-concrete building features a block of maisonettes and a separate collection of flats connected by a communal stairwell. The Twentieth Century Society described the building as an ‘excellent example of a 1950s slab block’ with its ‘sophisticated’ design ‘clearly inspired by Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation in Marseilles’.
The 14-storey Stangate House, which has a concrete frame and yellow brick panels, was built seven years later to the designs of architect William Fowler Howitt, working for St Thomas’ Hospital under William Holford. The society said that the tower was a good example of a ‘post-war point block, arranged on an H-plan raised up on tapering concrete pilotis’.
The approved plans for Royal Street include the reuse and extension of the 1974 Becket House by YRM.
The government’s decision to issue a holding directive was revealed in response to a letter written by former Labour MP Kate Hoey, who now sits in the House of Lords, demanding Gove hold a public inquiry into the proposals.
Stanhope, AHMM, DLUHC and Lambeth Council were all contacted for comment.
Extract of letter from DHLUC to Lambeth Council
The government is committed to give more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues and believes planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible.
In deciding whether to call in this application, the Secretary of State has considered his policy on calling in planning applications. This policy gives examples of the types of issues which may lead him to conclude, in his opinion that the application should be called in. The Secretary of State has decided not to call in this application. He is content that it should be determined by the local planning authority.