Westminster councillors advised to back redevelopment of 1930s landmark despite ‘numerous and wide-reaching’ objections
Eric Parry Architects’ proposals to add 230 new homes to Pimlico’s groundbreaking Dolphin Square development are set to be given the go-ahead – despite the objection of heritage groups.
The practice’s plans for the quadrangle development – which has long been a favourite of MPs, peers, and society figures – will see the demolition of its northernmost block, Rodney House, for replacement with a new 10-storey building.
Retained parts of Dolphin Square, which was designed by Gordon Jeeves and completed in 1938, will see an extra storey added and some of the development’s existing 1,225 apartments will be reconfigured to deliver additional homes. A further 16 mews houses will also be constructed along the western edge of the development.
Parry’s proposals – drawn up for Dolphin Square owner Westbrook Partners – would also increase the number of serviced apartments at Dolphin Square from the current 143 to 160.
Heritage group the Twentieth Century Society has been a vocal critic of the proposals, arguing that they will “irrevocably damage” the heritage significance of a pioneering development “without any corresponding public benefit”, and is joined by Dolphin Square Preservation Society and the Blue Dolphin Tenants Association in opposing the plans.
Government heritage adviser Historic England said it was content for Westminster city council to determine the application in line with its own policies and national guidance.
While Dolphin Square has been the subject of three unsuccessful listing bids – the most recent of which was concluded last year, it is an unlisted building of merit in the Dolphin Square Conservation Area, which was designated in 1990. Dolphin Square Gardens – the development’s central landscaped area – was listed at grade II last summer, however.
Recommending the proposals for approval at tonight’s meeting of Westminster’s planning committee, city council officers accepted that the scheme faced “numerous and wide reaching” objections.
But they said demolishing Rodney House was considered to represent “less than substantial harm” to the conservation area, which is a significant consideration in terms of the government’s National Planning Policy Framework.
“The increase in height of the proposed replacement building and rooftop extensions will increase the building’s dominance,” they said in a report.
“However, given the scale of the existing building, and the simplicity of the proposed architecture, it is considered that the architectural character of the conservation area will be preserved.
“The proposed extensions are also considered to have a satisfactory relationship with surrounding residential properties in terms of amenity.”
Officers said that 57 of the new homes would be “affordable”, split between 23 for social rent and 34 for “intermediate” ownership. They said the Greater London Authority’s housing viability team had accepted that the figure was the maximum that could be delivered.
Westminster’s planning committee meets to consider the report at 6.30pm tonight.
Westbrook, which bought Dolphin Square a decade ago, said it picked Parry because of the practice’s “considered, artistic approach to creating beautiful buildings in sensitive historic environments”. It singled out as examples the restoration of St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square and the extension to Bath’s Holburne Museum of Art.