The controversial Elizabeth House development in Waterloo looks set to go ahead, after Communities Secretary Eric Pickles declined to call it in for review.
Designed by David Chipperfield Architects, the 19-storey building will be the firm’s first development in London. According to their website, their vision for the site is to “create a dramatic new public space in front of Waterloo Station”.
However, the controversy surrounding the proposed design may be more drama than they had expected. During the planning permission meeting the committee acknowledged that the design of the building was likely to provoke a “marmite reaction”, dividing people into two camps.
Among those in favour of the development are Executive Chairman, London & Regional Properties, Ian Livingstone, who described the design as giving Waterloo “the shot in the arm needed to create a new business district. The development will create exceptional quality office space in the heart of London adjacent to one of the best connected stations in the UK.”
Meanwhile Sir Stuart Lipton of real estate investors Chelsfield said that “…the plans will significantly improve the experience for the tens of millions of people who pass through the site each year.”
Like the majority of those in favour of the project, Lipton and Livingstone focus on the potential business gains, which include improved access to Waterloo Station and the trebling of available office space in the area.
But while David Chipperfield Architects describe the response to their plans as “overwhelmingly positive”, there is considerable opposition, most of it centred on the visual impact the building would have on surrounding views of Big Ben, as well as views from the Waterloo Bridge and the London Eye.
Westminster City Council’s deputy leader, Robert Davis, said that the new building would “irreversibly damage the views of Westminster’s World Heritage Site…” an opinion which is shared by both English Heritage and UNESCO. Culture Secretary Ed Vaizey also raised concerns about the proposed design.
Previous plans for the site by P&O Estates were turned down three years ago for this very reason.
Calls for a review may have been denied, but it is unlikely that we have heard the last of the Elizabeth House debate.
What do you think? Does the new Elizabeth House represent the future for Waterloo?
(Image by lucyrfisher via Flickr.)