Westminster councillors fly in face of planning officers’ advice to approve redevelopment of 1930s landmark
Eric Parry Architects’ proposals to add 230 new homes to Pimlico’s Dolphin Square development have been unanimously rejected by Westminster city council’s planning committee – flying in the face of advice from the authority’s planning officers.
The practice’s plans for the 1930s quadrangle development – long a favourite of MPs, peers, and society figures – would have seen the demolition of its northernmost block, Rodney House, for replacement with a new 10-storey building.
Proposals for the landmark also involved the addition of an extra storey to the remaining blocks, the creation of 16 new townhouses, and the reconfiguration of existing apartments to boost the number of overall units from 1,225 to 1,455 homes.
Planning officers accepted that there were “numerous and wide-reaching objections” to the scheme – not least form conservation group the Twentieth Century Society. But they insisted that Parry’s scheme, created for building owners Westbrook Partners, was acceptable.
However councillors disagreed, and took particular exception to the proposed increase in the number of serviced apartments at the development, which would have risen from 143 to 160 as part of the proposals. They also voiced concern about the disruption that the necessary construction work would have brought to the local area – a theme among objections lodged with the council.
Planning committee chair Gotz Mohindra said that despite officers’ advice, the scheme was at odds with core council objectives.
“Dolphin Square clearly needs refurbishment but this scheme provides too much temporary lettable accommodation at the expense of permanent housing, especially for families, or wider public benefit to justify the harm that the extensive works would do to the conservation area,” he said.
“The increase in short term let properties, which the council and residents fiercely oppose, left us with little choice but to refuse the application.”
Eric Parry declined to comment on the committee decision. However the thrust of the committee’s reasoning suggests an amended version with a higher number of permanent homes would be acceptable to councillors.
Dolphin Square was designed by Gordon Jeeves and completed in 1938. Despite being acknowledged as a groundbreaking building and forming the centrepiece of the Dolphin Square Conservation Area, it has been rejected for listing on three occasions and currently has immunity from listing for the next four years.
The C20 Society has been a vocal critic of the Parry proposals, arguing that they will “irrevocably damage” the heritage significance of a pioneering development “without any corresponding public benefit”. It was joined by Dolphin Square Preservation Society and the Blue Dolphin Tenants Association in opposing the plans.
C20 Society head of casework Clare Price said the planning committee’s decision was testament to campaigners’ efforts and warned that any future redevelopment proposals would meet similarly stiff opposition.
“Conservation areas are really important and they need to be respected,” she said.
“This scheme effectively involved the demolition of 20% of the conservation area, the focus of which was all built at the same time.
“Dolphin Square is one of the great buildings of the period and it should be afforded the respect it deserves.”
Westbrook bought Dolphin Square a decade ago and 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.