You would think that having declared a climate emergency and made a commitment to refurbish rather than demolish buildings, architects designing a building on Tottenham Court Road would be proposing a state-of-the-art, environmentally-friendly refit.

View from street of building.
Prudential UK Real Estate have applied for planning permission to redevelop 247 Tottenham Court Road.

But not so. Because it is business-as-usual for Fitzrovia’s property developers who are yet again intending to demolish and rebuild on a large site, despite all the virtue signalling by their chosen architects Stiff + Trevillion.

Around 10,000 square metres of commercial and residential floorspace on a site bordering Bayley Street and Morwell Street is in line to be demolished, and the rubble carted away in a convoy of lorries ahead of a second flotilla of trucks inbound filled with materials for the rebuild. As well as the carbon emissions there is the air pollution associated with all this activity.

The new design will retain the same mix of office, residential, education and retail uses on the site but increase the total floor space by nearly 20 percent. As a concession, some of the rubble will be re-used in the foundations of the new building. There is no affordable or social housing proposed.

Architects Stiff + Trevillion are signatories to Architects Declare, a pledge by architects to combat climate change by refurbishing rather than demolishing buildings due to the amount of carbon released during the demolition and manufacture, and transport of materials. They are also signed up to Architects Journal’s RetroFirst campaign, which is calling for greater re-use of existing buildings to slash carbon emissions in construction.

A letter by Gerald Eve on behalf of applicants Prudential UK Real Estate explains their reasons for demolition: “Sustainability has driven the project brief, with it being clear in this case that demolition is the most sustainable option when taking into account the embodied and operational carbon impacts of retaining and refurbishing the existing structure.”

A planning committee of Camden Council, which has also declared a climate emergency, will make a decision on the plans.

Planning application: 2020/3583/P. Demolition of 247 Tottenham Court Road, 3 Bayley Street, 1 Morwell Street, 2-3 Morwell Street and 4 Morwell Street and the erection of a mixed use office led development comprising ground plus five storey building for office (Class B1) use, flexible uses at ground and basement (Class A1/A2/A3/B1/D1/D2), residential (Class C3) use, basement excavation, provision of roof terraces, roof level plant equipment and enclosures, cycle parking, public realm and other associated works.