Concerns over loss of Art Deco elevation and new scheme’s bulk derail Orms’ plans

Westminster councillors have voted to block architect Orms’ plans to redevelop an inter-war office building that fronts Dean Street and Soho Square.

The practice’s proposals would have delivered a new building with 8,269 sq m of floorspace, a boost of around 15% on the current structure. It would also have included three levels of roof terraces and a new pedestrian short cut.

US property firm Hines is acting as the development manager while project manager is M3 Consulting. Others working on the job included planning consultant Gerald Eve, structural engineer Ramboll, QS Gardiner & Theobald, acoustic consultant Buro Happold and sustainability consultant Cundall.

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The existing 1930 building on the left, neighbouring the grade II*-listed French Protestant Church, on the right

Orms, which is architect on a scheme to overhaul the current offices of Deutsche Bank, said the scheme had been inspired by the Soho Bazaar market that existed on the site 200 years ago.

Planning officers had recommended approval for the proposals although acknowledged that the eight-storey-plus-basement scheme would be “bulkier” than the current structures on site, resulting in “less than substantial harm” to the Soho Conservation Area.

But Westminster City Council’s Planning Committee voted to reject the proposals by four votes to two at their meeting this week.

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How the Soho Square entrance would look when built

Concerns were raised about the bulk of the proposals and the loss of the current building’s Art Deco frontage in Soho Square, which is next to the square’s grade II*-listed French Protestant Church. Some councillors also questioned the basis for demolishing the existing office building, rather than retrofitting it, and the value of the public benefits attributed to the scheme.

Officers said the development team had put considerable work into the case against retrofitting the existing structure and that any resolution to refuse would be referred to the Greater London Authority.