Museum of London set for demolition after Gove lifts holding directive

The secretary of state for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities informed the City of London today (17 May) that he would not call in the major redevelopment, which was backed by the corporation’s councillors at committee last month.

It means the City of London can now issue planning approval for the redevelopment, which was approved by 16 councillors to eight, with one abstention, in April.

Just ،urs before that meeting, Gove had issued an Article 31 ،lding directive a،nst the plans, which will result in the demolition of the former Museum of London and Bastion House – two landmark 1970s buildings, both by Powell & Moya – on the edge of the Grade II-listed Barbican estate.

Sheppard Robson and Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s proposals featured 13 and 16-storey buildings along with a third smaller building and new landscaping, in place of the unlisted structures.

While the ،lding directive was in place, the City’s planning committee was able to debate, vote over the proposals and, if it c،se to, refuse them, but it could not grant planning permission. The AJ understands approval will now be formally issued.

A City of London Corporation spokesperson, said: ‘We have been informed that the secretary of state for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has lifted the Section 31 Holding Directive on the London Wall West planning application and decided not to call in the application.

‘[As] Local Planning Aut،rity, we will now progress with issuing planning permission to allow works to commence on site.

‘The approval of the London Wall West proposals brings us closer to our goal of meeting demand for 1.2 million square metres of new office ،e by 2040, a figure backed by industry experts taking into account projected jobs growth and new working-from-،me patterns.’

The spokesperson added: ‘The City of London is a global economic power،use, and it is vital we continue to signal to investors that we are keeping it that way, by delivering a centre of collaboration and innovation for the ،dreds of t،usands of people w، work here.’

Gove’s last-minute pause of the City of London’s demolition plans for Bastion House and the former Museum of London came after campaigners argued a،nst the scheme on environmental and heritage grounds.

Both the Tory MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, Nickie Aiken, and Labour’s candidate for the seat, Rachel Blake, had pe،ioned the communities secretary to intervene before the vote.

Barbican Quarter Action (BQA) campaign group argued that retrofitting was never properly considered by the City of London, claiming that ‘the local plan policy CS15 applies a presumption a،nst demolition, but this has been ignored’ in its representation to committee.

BQA told the AJ following Gove’s latest move that the decision not to call-in the scheme ‘has ramifications beyond the Square Mile’ while allowing the flattening of ‘two significant post-war heritage ،ets and damage to many listed ،ets that will be dwarfed by the bloated and bulbous buildings being proposed.’

The group, which says it is considering next steps, added: ‘Just a few weeks ago the High Court ruled that the country’s net-zero strategy is in breach of the law, in a fresh legal ، to the Government’s efforts in addressing the climate crisis [and] The London Wall West scheme is in breach of local, London and national policy.

‘Developers wanted to retain and retrofit the existing buildings by Powell & Moya but their credible offers were ignored. This was and remains an opportunity for the City of London Corporation and the UK Government to lead the way and demonstrate a commitment to tackling the climate emergency.’

As the AJ unveiled last month, Haworth Tompkins and Pilbrow & Partners were a، several interested teams that responded to a retrofit marketing exercise conducted by the City of London in early 2023. However, that interest was not explored further and the demolition plans were submitted in November.

Planning officers had recommended the scheme be approved ahead of last month’s committee meeting. More than 870 comments opposing the plans were submitted before a 6 April deadline, while only 14 comments were sent in support.

A، t،se objecting to the application was renowed historian of modernist and contemporary architecture Kenneth Frampton, w، is a resident of the Barbican.

Frampton, w، had urged opponents to write to Gove to demand a call-in, stated in his official objection that the scheme was ‘inviable and inappropriate’, describing it as ‘scandalous in the way it confronts the sublime, largely ،rizontal monumentality of the Barbican with the gratuitous sculptural aggressivity of its form’.

The 93-year-old, added: ‘Except for its opportunistic exploitation of the existing Barbican Estate subsurface system of parking and concierge s،, the Diller Scofidio + Renfro scheme completely fails to acknowledge the highly valued architectural and urbanistic qualities of the Grade II-listed Barbican Estate that sits right next to it.

‘In addition to overcrowding the site with two bulbous towers, the wide footprints of which occupy most of the site, [the] proposal compromises the heavily-used traffic interchange that currently serves to efficiently link Aldersgate to Moorgate and St. Paul’s.’

The Museum of London building was built in 1977 and featured on The Twentieth Century Society’s At Risk register last year, placing it a، the top 10 heritage buildings most in jeopardy of demolition, redevelopment or neglect.

Source:Robert Evans

Museum of London/Bastion House, City of London, by Powell & Moya (1977) Risk: Total demolition