SAVE Britain’s Heritage and Historic England (HE) are promoting a ‘call-in’ of proposals would see three unlisted buildings of merit, including the former Foyles store, demolished along with several other key buildings
Last week the GLA announced they would not intervene in the application, so SAVE has written to the Secretary of State, requesting that he call in the application for public inquiry.
These are handsome buildings, Victorian, Edwardian, and twentieth century, in brick, stone and stucco with considerable charm. Foyles opened in 1929 at 113-119 Charing Cross Road and was the largest bookshop in the world. Together the buildings make a clear positive contribution to the Conservation Area and surrounding heritage assets, and should be retained, adapted and reused.
In their place a monolithic nine storey office led development is proposed, out of character with the Conservation Area. It is much higher and bulkier than its neighbours – in marked contrast to the fine grain of the surrounding streets and the prevailing domestic scale of the Soho Conservation Area.
Westminster City Council approved the application in May, despite strong objections from Historic England, the Victorian Society, and others. The Greater London Authority also stated that ‘the loss of the original Foyles building causes significant harm to the conservation area’.
Historic England writes:
Responding to the news that Westminster Council has decided to give permission for the demolition of the original Foyles store in Soho and replace it with a new development against Historic England’s advice, the heritage body is asking London’s new Mayor, Sadiq Khan, to call in the scheme and refuse it.
Chief Executive of Historic England, Duncan Wilson, said: ‘We are sorely disappointed by Westminster Council’s decision. The height, bulk and corporate character of the design for this building to replace the much-loved original Foyles store on Charing Cross Road is completely out of keeping with the historic grain of Soho.
‘There is only so much of the fabric you can tear away before a special place starts to lose its meaning. Soho is one of the most distinctive, well-loved places London has, and the Foyles building is another important part of it now threatened with demolition. Buildings like the one proposed to replace Foyles do not belong in this important conservation area.’
The existing building was probably the first purpose-built bookshop and certainly the most famous of its kind in the country. It stands in the Soho Conservation Area, known for its rich and diverse history.
In its advice to the Council, Historic England expressed concern about the loss of a wide group of buildings, including Foyles, saying: ‘Soho’s distinctive charm is formed by its layers of architectural styles from different periods. It is village-like but also louche and edgy.’
Historic England advised Westminster Council that this development would strike at the heart of why Soho is so special.
Read more about the scheme
See the petition
Read about SAVE’s campaign
Read HE’s news article