Friday18 August 2017

Save launches 'fastest-growing' petition against Hall McKnight scheme

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Campaigners appeal to memory of King’s alumnus John Ruskin

A petition urging King’s College to drop its plans to bulldoze four historic buildings on the Strand attracted more than 1,200 signatures in 12 hours.

The campaign, launched by Save Britain’s Heritage, asks the college to rethink Hall McKnight’s competition-winning scheme to improve its cramped central London campus.

Save director Clem Cecil said it was their fatest-growing petition yet. “We’ve never had such a successful petition, which illustrates the strength of feeling about these buildings and how misjudged the proposals are,” she said.

Westminster planners approved the project last week by three votes to one, leaving the path clear for demolition.

The petition, hosted by online lobby group 38 Degrees, is addressed to the council and to King’s principal Edward Byrne and the chairman of its estates strategy committee, Jamie Ritblat.

It urges King’s to reconsider the plans and “lead the way in respecting heritage and planning law. These proposals fail on both accounts”.

The college has also come under fire for proposing the demolition of some historic buildings on Borough High Street. The Strand scheme – and especially its backing by Historic England – were criticised by Dan Cruickshank last week.

Cecil said of the Strand: “These charming buildings with their narrow medieval plots provide important context and setting to the grade I-listed Somerset House and St Mary-Le-Strand.

“Their loss will be hugely detrimental to the conservation area, the surrounding listed buildings, and will substantially harm one of London’s most historic thoroughfares – the processional route from St Paul’s to Buckingham Palace.

“Historic buildings are an asset to a historic campus, and should be celebrated as such. Britain is respected worldwide for its sensitive approach to historic buildings, indeed the social thinker and proponent of preservation John Ruskin himself is an alumnus of King’s College London.”

The petition criticises Hall McKnight’s proposed design for failing to respect Westminster’s heritage and local distinctiveness, and accuses it of repeating the mistakes of the 1970s.

“[The scheme] removes a group of buildings with distinctive façades and replaces them with something bland,” says the text.

“It will also be dominant in its environment, unbalancing the composition of Somerset House, and repeating the mistakes of the past: when the neighbouring brutalist building was built a large group of precious late 17th- and early 18th-century buildings were destroyed, similar to those at 152-158.

“At the planning committee meeting on April 21, Westminster councillors regretted the loss of these buildings and construction of the brutalist block, yet still approved the demolition of 152-158 Strand.

“No further encroachment of this kind should be allowed. The character of central London depends on a balance between large institutional and commercial buildings and smaller scale buildings on narrow plots.”

King’s argues the buildings are much altered and in poor condition. It also says it is in desperate need of high-quality space if it is to remain one of the world’s leading universities.



Readers' comments (4)

  • You can't blame King's for wanting to expand, but what a crude way to do it! There must be some way of keeping more of the special character of this ancient thoroughfare.

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  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    There must be at least 1,000 ways - a new building would be perfectly OK - but not with these architects.

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  • They should obviously keep the facade at the v least, as an ex Kings student I am ashamed. But it's all about money now at the London Universities, have you seen what the management and chief exec are earning??

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  • SomeoneStoleMyNick

    "t's all about money now at the London Universities" - yes: as a direct result of government policy, which forces universities to act like private corporations (the ultimate aim being to make them completely private with NO public funding).

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