Campaign to list Robin Hood Gardens appear doomed after heitage minister decides to renew Certificate of Immunity for estate

Plans to save Robin Hood Gardens in Tower Hamlets look to be doomed after heritage minister Tracey Crouch announced that she is minded to approve a new Certificate of Immunity (COI) from development for the estate.

The certificate of immunity is a legal guarantee that the building or buildings named in the certificate will not be considered for listing for five years. The announcement by Crouch means that the bid to have the historic estate designed by Alison and Peter Smithson listed had failed in a last-ditch attempt to save it from the wrecking ball.

In its latest assessment of the estate Historic England said that many of the points raised in the consultation response were in reference to the original 2008 report and did not provide new information.

Speaking about the decision Emily Gee, Head of Designation at Historic England, said: “Any of the Smithson’s buildings deserve to be considered for listing, and a number are already listed. We have therefore given much thought to Robin Hood Gardens.

“We assessed the complex for listing in 2008 and our advice was subject to detailed scrutiny and review. No new information has come to light that would cause us to revise our assessment, so we stand by our view that Robin Hood Gardens does not meet the very high threshold for listing.

“In recommending a building for listing, particularly one so recently built, we need to consider whether it stands up as one of the best examples of its type. We don’t think that Robin Hood Gardens does. It was not innovative in its design - by the time the building was completed in 1972 the ‘streets-in-the-air’ approach was at least 20 years old. The building has some interesting qualities, such as the landscape, but the architecture is bleak in many areas, particularly in communal spaces, and the status of Alison and Peter Smithson alone cannot override these drawbacks.”

The news from the heritage minister is a blow to campaigners, including the Twentieth Century Society and eminent architects Norman Foster and Richard Rogers, who had fought to have the 1972 estate listed.

In June Roger’s urged architects to ‘deluge’ the heritage minister with appeals to help save the estate from major redevelopment. Rogers wrote to 300 fellow architects and property construction “influencers” urging them to help save the estate. Fellow architect Norman Foster said that the estate should also be listed and recycled. Foster called on the government to consider the ‘sustainability factor’ in listing the estate.

In January this year Karakusevic Carson Architects won planning for a 242-home, three block scheme at the estate. the development formed the latrest phase of Tower Hamlet’s Blackwall Reach regeneration programme. The entire project plans to deliver a maximum of 1575 homes as well as shops, an improved public space and links to the surrounding neighbourhoods.

The original COI was issued by former culture secretary Andy Burnham in 2009 and expired in 2014. When the certificate expired the London Borough of Tower Hamlets applied to Historic England for it to be renewed.

A period of 28 days is now allowed for review before the certificate is issued.