Heritage groups have accused the government of failing to protect Britain’s world heritage sites after effectively allowing plans for a development on London’s South Bank that will obscure views of the Houses of Parliament.
Campaigners say this confirms fears that the National Planning Policy Framework, promoted by ministers to encourage house-building, is giving too much power to developers.
Unesco had taken the unusual step of asking the government to reconsider plans that would see the demolition of Elizabeth House in Waterloo, a 1960s tower block, and replace it with two new buildings, one 29 storeys high. The £600m scheme will provide 142 new homes alongside offices and shops, but Unesco said this, along with the Nine Elms Regeneration and Vauxhall island site in Battersea, would affect London’s skyline, and the world heritage status of the sites.
Lambeth Council’s planning committee, which approved the scheme in December, acknowledged that the development would result in a “noticeable” change, but argued that it was not “significant” or “comprehensive”. It would have a positive impact on the local area and create jobs.
English Heritage and Westminster Council went to the high court to try to stop the scheme but failed. Campaigners had hoped the communities secretary, Eric Pickles, would call for the scheme to be revised, but last week the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) announced that it would not be intervening. ….