The Georgian Group has received confirmation that it has been granted Rule 6 status in advance of the Public Inquiry, starting 25th January 2022, into proposals to convert Custom House into a hotel. This means that the Georgian Group will be a main party to the proceedings alongside the City of London Corporation and the applicant, so ensuring that our objections will be heard by the Planning Inspectorate.
The Group submitted four successive objections to the scheme and various iterations of it. In these we highlighted the national significance of Custom House as the first purpose-built office building in the City of London and the harm that would be caused to its setting and historic fabric by the proposals.
At the most recent of the City of London’s Planning and Transport Committee meetings its members voted unanimously to refuse consent for the proposed conversion of the Custom House into a luxury hotel. The Georgian Group’s London and south-eastern Conservation Adviser, Eddie Waller, addressed the committee to highlight the exceptional significance of the building and to reinforce our concerns over the loss of historic fabric, sub-division, and the addition of glass roof-top pavilions to either side of the central pedimented block.
The west wing of Custom House is an important survival both in terms of the City of London and from a national perspective. The architect David Laing’s original conception very largely survives and is clearly expressed in its planform. This reveals to us how the building functioned and how the roles of those employees within it operated and intermeshed. The arrangement of cellular rooms wrapped around a central light well, innovative in its day, provided sufficient light to each room. This set the template for office building in the following centuries. The proposed development would require extensive removal of historic fabric to provide the desired services for a luxury hotel and would render the original floor plan illegible.
Alterations to the primary spaces in the building would see further historic fabric removed from the Queen’s Warehouse, the storage space where contraband was kept from those ships that were subject to inspection when they docked in the Pool of London. Public access to the Long Room, measuring in at an impressive 190ft by 66ft, would be restricted, contrary to its historic function as the centre of activity within the building.
In the subsequent debate that took place at the City’s planning committee, the chair Alistair Moss opened the discussion by stating that:
“Unfortunately the applicants have failed to grasp where the City is going and what this building is capable of. We cannot have selfish buildings being consented in the City, or buildings which do not offer genuine public space and are not properly open to the public.”
This statement was shared and reinforced by members and led to the unanimous vote against the scheme.
Despite this resounding refusal, the scheme will be considered again by a nominated Planning Inspector following a Public Inquiry scheduled for late January. This is because the applicant appealed on the grounds of, earlier, non-determination.
The Georgian Group will appear as a main party alongside The City of London and the applicant where we will make our objections clear and provide evidence to ensure this nationally important building is protected for future generations. Further updates on the proceedings will be posted on our social media channels and website.
To read more about the history of the building follow click here.
To watch a recording of the Planning and Transport Committee click here.
To read the Group’s original objection click here.
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