Planners set to approve changes despite concerns over loss of retail

Make has revised its £350 million redevelopment of the “Banksy” building behind Oxford Street in a bid to squeeze in Facebook’s European headquarters.

Rathbone Place was originally designed as a speculative mixed-use scheme on a former Royal Mail depot on Newman Street in London’s West End. It won planning in 2013 and work has begun.

Great Portland Estates signed up the social media giant in September as sole tenant of the office floors. It is the developer’s largest project yet.

But at 33,000sq m, the space is slightly too small for Facebook’s requirements so the architect took it back to the drawing board.

Make’s revised scheme, which reconfigures some of the retail space and entrances to create an extra 1,275sq m of offices, goes before Westminster council tomorrow.

Planning officers expressed concern about loss of the retail at ground level as this was considered one of the “merits” of the approved scheme.

But they recommended the changes for approval because they felt the “prestige and wider economic benefits” of Facebook moving to the area outweighed the loss of lively frontage.

Approval would cost the developer an extra £1 million to the council’s “affordable” housing fund because of a ratio tied to the increase in office space.

The 0.9ha site in Fitzrovia has frontages on both Rathbone Place and Newman Street and was once overlooked by Banksy’s One Nation Under CCTV mural – until Westminster council ordered its removal in 2008.

A new pedestrian route will lead from both streets into a central, privately managed space containing cafe tables.

It is due for completion in June 2017, in time for the opening of Crossrail.