So, according to my wont, I awoke early this morn, wrote the blog and sent it to Chris in London. Then as the morning progressed other emails arrived. Two from the UK, one you will hear about, the other not. The one you will hear about is one from a wonderful ambitious woman, Celia Scott whom I first met while in London during my December 2018 visit. She forms a spearhead of people fighting against the ridiculous development of Dolphin Square, was introduced to Celia by my gracious friend, and when meeting Celia vowed to do what possible to assist the cause. It is not so much for retribution, but rather the righteousness of their cause. Respect the past and defy greed, something unknown in this City of Greed, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Her email contained a brilliant piece of wiring that was submitted to the Planning Authorities in the City of Westminster which shall now be presented in full. Her email began: Dear All and a special greeting to Alexis McBride back in Vancouver. T
People wonder if I have a personal interest in Dolphin Square as i shall scarcely live there when I return to London. Their inhumane rental practices and treatment of me being one reason, the other being its distance from Bloomsbury, where my life will be centered. But faithful readers will remember that Dolphin Square was going to be the venue of the fictionalized marriage of Alicia McTwit and Kim Me Poo. The venue was abandoned when news of the renovation was first learned. Perhaps it is a sign that I should pursue that book so cleverly titled: Did Jesus Tell You to Block Me on Instagram. No, I do not think there will be immediate publication, for reasons to be learned later. I did, of course. respond to Celia’s email.
Me: My goodness dear, it is brilliant and it is going on the blog I so admire your tenacity and hopefully I will be living in London when this ridiculous Pkan is defeated!!! With affection, Alexis
She: Great to hear from you. I do hope all is going very well for you now that you are back in Canada. However we look forward to welcoming you at Dolphin Square again whenever you can come over again. Thank you very much for putting it on your blog. We are hoping to get the petition numbers up if poss to 2,500 – anyway to 2,000 at least.
Lots of best wishes and we will keep you informed of the situation. I am copying this to Shabzaliyah in the supermarket so she knows that we contacted you.
For Westminster Council, South Area Planning Team
Cc: Rt Hon Jeremy Wright MP, Secretary of State for Digital media, Culture & Sport
Re: the proposed partial demolition and extension of Dolphin Square, Pimlico by Westbrook Partners. Yr Ref 18/01099/Full.
I am writing following an Extraordinary General Meeting of the St George’s Square Residents’ Association (“SGSRA”) that I chaired on 31st Jan 2019, at which a resolution was unanimously passed authorising me to express to Westminster Council the strong and broad opposition to the proposal by Westbrook Partners to partially demolish, and then extend Dolphin Square. The meeting was attended by one of Westminster’s councillors and also by a representative of the Dolphin Square Preservation Society.
I have seen the 2008 Westminster Conservation Area Audit on Dolphin Square, the information dossier sent to the Mayor by the Dolphin Square Preservation Society, and the objections raised by Protect Our Pimlico to these plans (see attached). SGSRA, supports all these objections.
Immunity from Listing
Further, it is bizarre, if not scandalous, that in June 2018, just before Jeremy Wright was appointed as the new Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, his predecessor Matt Hancock seems to have decided not to list Dolphin Square as a “Building of Special Architectural or Historic Interest” and then granted the developers a “Certificate of Immunity from Listing”, good for five years!
This decision, which is naturally trumpeted as a huge victory by the developers on their website, is obviously illogical and frankly does not smell too good. It is hard to imagine many buildings in London more deserving of description as having Special Architectural or Historic Interest. Perhaps the Secretary of State had not read the fascinating little book called “A History of Dolphin Square” by K.F. Morris nor “Wartime in Dolphin Square” by Jan Prebble. The list of famous occupants is extraordinary, unparalleled. The Square’s design and construction methods represented ground-breaking innovation in the 1930s, presciently intended to resist collapse in the event of aerial bombardment. It survived about a dozen bombs. The Square is genuinely iconic. But the architecture of that period is sadly unfashionable with the architectural fraternity today who seem only interested in featureless glass high-rise “luxury” flats.
The Dolphin Square Complex underpins the Dolphin Square Conservation Area. In fact, without the DS complex, there would not have been a DS Conservation Area and if post war restoration and internal alterations years ago had not given them an excuse to refuse, English Heritage would surely have had to listed the complex. Thus, allowing external alterations today will only further undermine its integrity and chance for preservation for posterity. Approval of this planning application would pile one mistake on top of another completely eroding any chance for preservation of this landmark building long term. Approval of this application would mean that both the complex’s interior and its exterior are no longer original. These creeping alterations, drip fed over time, would ultimately lead to the entire complex’s destruction and replacement.
DS Conservation area sits at the centre of Churchill Gardens Conservation Area and Pimlico Conservation Area. If this keystone building is allowed to be undermined so to will be the ambiance, character and human scale of the adjacent Conservation areas.
Local & Neighbourhood Centre
Pimlico in South Westminster is a socially mixed and diverse community and has been for years. It prides itself in supporting local and neighbourhood centres in local parades of small shops, serving the resident population with convenience goods, and services such as post, pharmacy, laundrette and hair dressers.
Green, not greed
Understandably, Westbrook as the owners proposing to redevelop Dolphin Square show little interest in the promoting wellbeing of tenants and local residents nor in preserving the integrity of its original design. Their goal is to maximise profit. Your job as the Planning Authority is to look after the whole community, ensuring that the greed of developers is tempered by the needs and wishes of local society. They should not be adding an extra storey all around the Square, further raising the skyline and reducing light for neighbours and residents. The demolition of the north block and rebuilding 3 stories higher would be wasteful, not at all “green”, and would overshadow the school. The mess, noise and other pollution while all this is done would last years, dreadful for those of us who live nearby.
Westbrook purchased Dolphin Square with their eyes open, and a full understanding of the historic importance of the building and its careless disregard for the building’s integrity and the building’s wider community significance is irresponsible and should not be allowed. Their use of a growing % of the building as serviced-apartments or hotel is deliberate. It ups their profit but undermines the long-term community.
Furthermore, their suggestion in the plan of dividing family-sized flats of three or four bedrooms into bedsits and small, one-bed flats undermines Westminster Council’s stated aim of seeking to increase the intermediate, long-term housing market which is currently only about 1.5% of property available in Westminster.
As a local resident
Speaking now personally, I have lived in St George’s Square since 1978 and I am a keen supporter of the preservation of Pimlico as an island of old fashioned sanity and calm in this increasingly mad city. Pimlico is a ‘quiet area’ of London. Residents work long hours in all walks of life from theatre to health care from retail to Parliament. It is an area which builds community through long-term residential commitment. This ‘quiet area’, as the Mayor calls it, needs protection from the chaos and noise that will ensue with a build of this scale. The loss of quality of life to the community, but mainly the inhabitants of DS, is not outweighed by a company’s wish to develop this site to maximise its profit.
I am a frequent user of the arcade of community shops in Dolphin Square which cater to local residents’ daily needs with friendly service at reasonable prices. In the glossy photos that go with the plan, these are replaced by branches of the usual high-price chains with plate glass fronts, selling overpriced coffee and fashion, but London has more than enough of those already.