PETITION: STOP THE DEMOLITION OF 72-81 FLEET STREET
27th April 2021
SAVE Britain's Heritage has launched an urgent petition calling upon Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to stop the demolition of Nos.72-78 and 80-81 Fleet Street and call a public inquiry.
We are calling on all those who care about London's historic character to support our petition to the Secretary of State Robert Jenrick to call a public inquiry into the City of London Corporation's approval of its own plans to demolish Nos.72-78 and 80-81 Fleet Street and four other significant historic buildings in the heart of the Fleet Street Conservation Area.
The plans, approved at a special planning sub-committee meeting on 22nd April 2021, will see a large chunk of buildings on Fleet Street and adjoining alleyways gouged out for a massive new 18-courtroom complex, a new ten-storey police station and an office block, squeezed into a cramped site.
The new courts building proposed in place of Nos. 69-81 Fleet Street is required by the City Corporation's security brief to have no windows or doors at street level, which will see the currently lively street scene of shops and bars deadened to a prison-like wall.
The delightful group of buildings set to be demolished under the plans represent a period in early 20th century London when Fleet Street was the heart of Britain's publishing industry - giving character and life to one of the capital's most historic streets.
The City Corporation cannot be allowed to be judge and juror of its own case. As a city founded by the Romans, they should not need reminding of the famous Latin tag Nemo judex in causa sua - a cardinal principle of natural justice.
Several members of last week's special planning sub-committee, convened specifically to assess these plans given the City's joint role as the applicant, disclosed strong opposition to the proposed demolition.
In his speech to the committee, representative for Bassishaw Ward, Councillor Graeme Harrower was clear that the proposed development would be deeply harmful and contrary to City of London planning policy:
"Most significantly, this application would be contrary to the policies to preserve our heritage, as it would entail the demolition of six buildings that make a significant contribution to the Fleet Street Conservation Area, the partial demolition of a listed building, the obliteration of the last remaining traces of medieval alleyways and the impairment of views of St Paul’s on the Processional Way."
Harrower went on the conclude that, ultimately, the development "should be sited where it is not necessary to demolish part of a conservation area to accommodate it."
Councillor for Cripplegate Ward and former architect Susan Pearson also criticised the scheme's failure to meet the City's own planning and climate policy commitments:
"We find the [proposed] complex fails the requirements of the London Plan for whole life-cycle carbon emissions and that of the Corporation - whose own climate action strategy aims to achieve net carbon emissions for our own operations by 2027."
"I’m saddened that the applicant, the Corporation itself, has submitted a building complex that fails in so many ways to meet the requirements of the London Plan and our own Local Plan, shows a total disregard for heritage, and shows no vision or leadership in the development of the City. I totally understand that new courts and police headquarters are needed, but this scheme does not provide what we should be providing."
Fleet Street has been synonymous with Britain’s rich newspaper and printing history since the 16th century, and is one of London’s most historic thoroughfares, dating back to Roman times. The buildings to be demolished are an integral part of Fleet Street’s lively commercial architecture, a mixture of impressive banks and newspaper premises, which remains remarkably unchanged since the Second World War.
All six buildings to be demolished are protected by both national and local planning policy as non-designated heritage assets within a designated conservation area. The City’s own planning policy identifies them as Unlisted Buildings of Merit which contribute positively to the character and appearance of the Fleet Street Conservation Area.
Notes to editors:
1. For more information and images contact Ben Oakley, Conservation Officer at SAVE Britain's Heritage: firstname.lastname@example.org / 07388 181 181.
2. See here for our previous press release.
3. SAVE Britain’s Heritage has been campaigning for historic buildings since its formation in 1975 by a group of architectural historians, writers, journalists and planners. It is a strong, independent voice in conservation, free to respond rapidly to emergencies and to speak out loud for the historic built environment.