Demolition of 1940s former police station given the nod despite officers’ recommendation for refusal

PLP Savile Row 4

PLP’s plans for the 27 Savile Row site

PLP’s plans to redevelop a 1940s former police station on Savile Row have been approved despite being recommended for refusal.

Westminster councillors ignored the planning officers’ recommendation to throw out the scheme, voting four in favour and two against at a committee meeting earlier this week.

The 27 Savile Row proposals will see the demolition of the former West Central Police Station, an early modernist building completed in 1940, and its replacement with an eight-storey office block.

The plans, described by PLP as a “homage to 1930s architecture”, had seen a wave of local support, receiving more than a 100 letters of support from nearby businesses against just four letters of objection.

They were also praised by adjacent occupiers for helping to revitalise the northern end of Savile Row, which is comparatively rundown compared to the world famous street’s southern end.

PLP Savile Row 3

The building will provide office space

But planning officers had criticised the scheme for “failing to preserve or enhance” the surrounding Regent Street Conservation Area.

In the committee meeting, councillor Jim Glen said the public benefits of the scheme outweighed the loss of the former police station and would “send an important message about Westminster and Savile Row being open for business”.

Councillor Paul Fisher said: “I’m so unenthusiastic about this application. I think we could have done something more with the police station and this is a very difficult decision for me”

But he opted to vote to approve the plans, saying he was conscious of the need to support Savile Row and make sure it’s “rejuvenated at every end of the street”.

Councillor Nafsika Butler-Thalassis countered this view in her vote to refuse, saying: “I think we could have done something much better. 

“We’ve seen from the previous applications when we have not approved an application a much better scheme has come back. I am not convinced by the public benefit.”

Savile Row police station

The former West Central Police Station will be demolished to make way for the new block

The approval for 27 Savile Row comes a month after similar plans by Fathom Architects for an adjacent site on the other side of the street were refused in a knife edge vote.

The 18-19 Savile Row scheme, which had also been recommended for refusal, was thrown out on the deciding vote of committee chair Ruth Bush because of the embodied carbon impact of demolishing the site’s existing building.

Bush had said her vote to refuse was intended to “send out the strong message that everything proposed in planning terms in major applications must meet the highest possible sustainability criteria that exist currently in policy.”

The decision came following the council’s announcement of its plans to transform Westminster into a ‘retrofit-first’ city by significantly strengthening rules on demolition as it looks for ways to cut carbon emissions.