Waterloo office project faces High Court challenge

English Heritage fears for Westminster Palace and Big Ben

Contentious proposals to redevelop a 1960s office complex near Waterloo station in central London are set to be the subject of a legal challenge in the High Court next year.

Concerns have been raised by groups including English Heritage about whether the project could have an adverse impact on views of Westminster Palace and Big Ben.

Westminster Council and English Heritage have been granted permission to bring a judicial review challenge against the decision of the Department for Communities and Local Government not to call in the plans for Elizabeth House for review.

These would see the existing building replaced by a new glass and steel structure designed by David Chipperfield Architects that features two 29-storey towers.

In May, it was also reported that a Unesco study from the UN’s cultural experts had urged Britain to halt work on several big construction projects, including Elizabeth House, amid concerns they which could endanger three of the country’s 28 world heritage sites.

English Heritage said it thought the principle of redeveloping Elizabeth House was “acceptable” but has objected to the current plans “because of its potential impact on the Westminster World Heritage Site and felt that this important issue should be explored at a public inquiry.”

The two parties requested a judicial review because they are seeking clarity on how the Secretary of State exercises his judgment when considering complex and potentially controversial cases.

Westminster council has also urged a public inquiry to take place.

Councillor Robert Davis, deputy leader of Westminster City Council, said areas can be created for new jobs and enterprise “but it does not have to be at the cost of risking the nation’s heritage”.

“The council is committed to preserving the status of the Palace of Westminster as one of the world’s most important and most recognised World Heritage sites.” he said in a statement.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said in a statement that its decision not to call-in the application was made after a careful consideration of the issues. “Only a very small number of planning applications are called in each year.” it said.

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