Fitzrovia will face more noise and disruption from construction work next year after planning permission was given to demolish three buildings on Berners Street and redevelop on the site. The neighbourhood will also lose one of its most distinctive buildings, despite objections from local residents and The Twentieth Century Society conservation group.

Front of three buildings.
Copyright House by Richard Seifert (left) and two other buildings at 25-33 Berners Street will be demolished next year after plans were approved by Westminster City Council.

A Westminster City Council planning sub-committee on 14 October approved the plans by Derwent London a real estate investment trust (REIT) to demolish a building by architect Richard Seifert known as Copyright House and two other buildings including a neo-Georgian building by Robert Angell & Curtis. The approved plans are for a new office block with shops and restaurants on the ground floors.

The plans for 25-33 Berners Street were approved subject to a section 106 agreement to provide £2,050,000 towards the City Council’s affordable housing fund, £221,624 for the Mayor of London’s Crossrail levy, £167,882 towards public realm in the vicinity of the site, as well as payments for construction monitoring purposes.

Front of building designed by Richard Seifert and Partners on Berners Street.
Copyright House on Berners Street, designed by Richard Seifert and Partners.

The plans were however strongly opposed by the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association, neighbouring residents and The Twentieth Century Society who had applied for the building by architect Richard Seifert to be listed. Conservation group the Charlotte Street Association also supported the listing application.

The new building includes plans for a large amount of restaurant space on the ground floor. Local residents and the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association say this will intensify an overconcentration of entertainment uses in the street, damage the local environmental quality, and cause an increase in motor-vehicle traffic in Berners Street and Berners Mews. Concerns were also raised about the increased size of the replacement building and its affect on the streetscape and neighbouring conservation areas.

A few years ago Derwent London used the marketing line “We are quietly making a difference around here”. However, after plans for demolition in Charlotte Street and Gresse Street were approved that quaint phrase was quietly dropped. Elsewhere Derwent have chosen to retain the bulk of a building and take the less environmentally-damaging path of refurbishment, as they explain in one of their videos.

In a press release Derwent London said:

“The proposed scheme, designed by Piercy & Co architects, includes 20,000 sq ft of A1/A3 retail use on the ground and lower ground floors and 85,000 sq ft of offices on the first to seventh floors with two floors benefitting from generous roof terraces.  Derwent London holds a long leasehold interest over the majority of the site and discussions with the freeholder are progressing well.

“The existing buildings are let to the MCPS-PRS Alliance Limited (“PRS for Music”) who intend to relocate in January 2015.  This would allow work to start early next year.  The site is in Fitzrovia and benefits from the substantial ongoing improvements in the area, as well as the opening of Tottenham Court Road Crossrail station in 2018.”

John Burns, Chief Executive Officer of Derwent London, commented:

“We are excited by the prospects for this scheme, which will contribute to the continued regeneration of Fitzrovia, and adds to our significant development pipeline”.