Backlash over plan to redevelop Liverpool Street station
Stephen Fry and artist Tracey Emin join backlash over ‘grossly opportunistic’ £1.5billion plan to redevelop London’s Liverpool Street station with 16 storey tower block on top of Grade-II listed Victorian hotel
- Developer Sellar wants to double the size of station concourse and
Broadcaster Stephen Fry and artist Tracey Emin are among dozens of public figures and conservationists urging the Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove to prevent a ‘grossly opportunistic’ development of London’s Liverpool Street station.
In a letter published in The Times, they called on Mr Gove to intervene in proposals by developer Sellar to build offices, shops and a hotel in a 16-storey tower above the station.
Other signatories include comedian Griff Rhys Jones, who is president of the Victorian Society, and representatives of other heritage groups.
The station is used for mainline train connections to destinations across Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk, as well as Elizabeth line and London Underground services.
Sellar says its proposals involve more than £1.5 billion of private investment, including £450 million to double the size of the station concourse and add more lifts and escalators.
Broadcaster Stephen Fry and artist Tracey Emin are among dozens of public figures and conservationists urging the Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove to prevent a ‘grossly opportunistic’ development of London’s Liverpool Street station, Above: A computer generated image of the proposed redevelopment
Liverpool Street station opened in 1875 and is now one of London’s busiest
The station ‘suffers from significant overcrowding’ as well as ‘poor pedestrian accessibility and connectivity’, according to the company.
The plan would involve rebuilding the neighbouring Grade II listed Andaz hotel, which opened as the Great Eastern hotel in 1884.
The development would be capped with a roof garden and swimming pool.
Network Rail – which owns the station – and transport company MTR are partnering with Sellar in developing the project.
Liverpool Street station opened in 1875 and is now one of London’s busiest.
An estimated 135million people passed through it each year before the coronavirus pandemic.
In their letter, opponents to the plans wrote: ‘The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities must call in the planning application for Liverpool Street Station and its terminus hotel.
‘To plonk 15 storeys of insensitively-designed tower directly on top of the Grade II listed former Great Eastern hotel, thus partially demolishing the listed station and overwhelming the Victorian train sheds, is grossly opportunistic and wrong.
The plans would include the construction of a 16-storey tower adjoining the station. The development would be capped with a roof garden and swimming pool
Sellar says its proposals involve more than £1.5 billion of private investment, including £450 million to double the size of the station concourse and add more lifts and escalators. Above: A CGI image of the proposed redevelopment
Network Rail – which owns the station – and transport company MTR are partnering with Sellar in developing the project
The plan would involve rebuilding the neighbouring Grade II listed Andaz hotel, which opened as the Great Eastern hotel in 1884
Liverpool Street station is seen above in 1930, as passengers wait to board a train to Felixstowe
‘The claim that a cantilevered building directly on top of a heritage asset somehow ‘preserves’ that asset is nonsense, and sets a dangerous precedent.’
Architectural historian Dan Cruickshank added his voice to the criticism. He told MailOnline: ‘I have very strong feelings about this most selfish and useless proposal.
‘With so much commercial space empty in the City and in Spitalfields, and with the future of the office as a money generator open to doubt, this type of proposal is absurd.’
Sir John Betjeman, then poet laureate, campaigned to save the station in the 1970s
Mr Cruickshank, who was closely involved in the campaign against proposals to redevelop the station in the 1970s, added that it was ‘exasperating’ to have to ‘fight much of the battle over again’.
Sir John Betjeman, then poet laureate, was also involved in the 1970s campaign.
Betjeman’s efforts helped to generate significant public opposition to the plans to demolish the existing station building and they were eventually dropped.
The station also featured in one of Betjeman’s poems, A Mind’s Journey to Diss.
It began: ‘Dear Mary, Yes, it will be bliss / To go with you by train to Diss / Your walking shoes upon your feet / We’ll meet, my sweet, at Liverpool Street.’
Liverpool Street is also one of four railway stations which features on the British version of board game Monopoly.
A Sellar spokesman said: ‘Our proposals aim to deliver the vital upgrades needed at Liverpool Street station to address significant overcrowding and access issues, while protecting and celebrating its remaining Victorian elements.
The hand-drawn plans for the 1895 extension of Liverpool Street station
A poster advertising ‘Liverpool Street Hotel’ at the London station. It was offically known as the Great Eastern Hotel
Commuters are seen heading to work at Liverpool Street station at 9am in 1926
Liverpool Street station is seen in 1921, when it had been open for nearly 50 years
Scores of passengers are seen passing through Liverpool Street station in 1934
‘We would hope that Mr Gove or anyone involved in the decision-making process would assess our proposals in full, and balance the impact of building over and removing less than half of a 1980s concourse roof against the £450 million of privately funded public benefits delivered at no cost to the taxpayer.
‘Our proposals allow Network Rail to invest in other much-needed infrastructure improvements elsewhere in the country while transforming Liverpool Street station into the accessible, future-fit transport hub that the City of London, as a global centre of business and tourism, deserves.’
In October last year, Network Rail group property director Robin Dobson said the plans would ‘deliver a world-class transport interchange alongside new workspace with a new 24/7 leisure district at its heart’.
Heritage body Historic England has also opposed the new proposals.
Chief executive Duncan Wilson said last October: ‘Liverpool Street Station is one of London’s great Victorian stations, with a distinctive and special character.
Interior of Liverpool Street train station busy with commuters at rush hour on February 14, 2022
‘While we recognise the need for upgrades to the site so that it can better serve the millions of people that pass through its doors, these oversized and insensitive proposals are not the best solution to the site’s issues.
‘We believe that this scheme is fundamentally misconceived and misses the opportunity to unlock real public benefits while also enhancing the station’s heritage.
‘At Historic England we are in favour of development where it secures a sustainable future for our best public and private buildings. This scheme does not.
‘We continue to hope that collaboration with Network Rail and developers Sellar can achieve a better outcome for this special place.’
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