Planning officers recommend scheme for refusal despite supporting demolition of site’s existing 1940s building and overwhelming local backing

PLP’s plans for an eight-storey office scheme in London’s West End which it described as an “homage to 1930s architecture” are set to be refused on heritage grounds.

The practice’s 27 Savile Row scheme for developer Henigman is likely to be given the boot at Westminster council’s planning committee next week following a recommendation for refusal from planning officers.

In a 59-page report, officers said the proposed replacement of the former West Central Police Station “failed to preserve or enhance” the surrounding Regent Street conservation area despite the plans receiving overwhelming support from local businesses.

PLP Savile Row 1

View of the proposed scheme from Savile Row

The unlisted former police station, an early modernist building completed in 1940, became vacant in 2021 following the consolidation of the policing functions for the West End at the Charing Cross Police Station on Agar Street.

More than 100 letters of support for PLP’s plans were received from adjacent occupiers, against just four letters of objection.

Planning officers also said the demolition of the existing building was acceptable in circular economy and sustainability terms because its physical constraints meant that a reuse and adaptation approach would not result in a significant embodied carbon saving.

> Also read: Westminster refuses Savile Row rebuild scheme in warning shot to developers

But the Greater London Authority, a consultee, said the public benefits of the scheme would not outweigh the heritage harm caused to nearby buildings, partly because the proposed affordable workspace in the new building would be too small and of relatively low quality.

Historic England have also criticised the plans for replacing a “pre-war building of architectural interest” with an “overbearing and visually intrusive” building which is larger than the surrounding townscape.

The heritage advisor has called for the reuse of the former police station, highlighting Westminster’s emerging plan to turn the borough into a ‘retrofit-first’ city which last month led to the demise of another demolish and rebuild scheme on the same street.

Fathom Architects’ plans for the 18-19 Savile Row site were refused in a knife edge vote in April after planning committee chair Ruth Bush said the council needed to send a “strong message” to developers on sustainability.

PLP said its proposals for the street had “responded to the heritage setting of Savile Row with a carefully scaled building whose palette, details, and articulation plays homage to the legacy of 1930’s architecture, whilst complementing the surrounding context and positively contributing to the conservation area and townscape.”

“The proposal for 27 Savile Row represents a significant opportunity to enhance the quality and character at the northern end of Savile Row,” the practice added.

The project team also includes structural engineer Arup, sustainability consultant Hoare Lea, planning consultant DP9, cost consultant Gardiner & Theobald, daylight consultant GIA and townscape consultant The Townscape Consultancy.