A new front in the battle over Liverpool Street station opened on Wednesday when the national conservation watchdog said the proposed redevelopment was “grossly disproportionate” and would harm the “extraordinary historic character of the City of London as a whole”.
Historic England said it would object in the “strongest terms” to the £1.5bn proposals to build a 16-storey tower block on top of the historic station and listed Great Eastern Hotel, now known as the Andaz.
Shard developer Sellar, Network Rail and Elizabeth line operator MTR are seeking permission to radically alter the front of the station by erecting the tower block.
In total, there would be 21 storeys – with the tower reaching a maximum height of 108.6m (356ft), which opponents say would block protected views of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Historic England say Liverpool Street is “one of London’s great collection of important Victorian stations” and forms part of an outstanding group of historic buildings at the heart of the City of London.
It said the proposed demolition of the sensitive 1985-92 concourse extension would sever the fine 1870s train shed from the Victorian part of the station.
This would result in the loss of the “architectural harmony and heritage significance” achieved by the Nineties redevelopment and mean natural light would no longer be thrown across the concourse.
According to Historic England, the “sheer bulk” of the tower “would encroach on celebrated views of some of London’s great landmarks”, including protected views of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Last week the Victorian Society warned there would be a “decade of disruption” for commuters if the plans went ahead, though this is denied by the developers, who say they aim to start construction in 2024 with completion in 2028/29.
Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England said: “Liverpool Street Station is one of London’s great Victorian stations, with a distinctive and memorable character.
“While we recognise the need for upgrades to the site so that it can better serve the millions of people that pass through its doors, these oversized and insensitive proposals are not the right solution to the site’s issues.
“We believe that this scheme is fundamentally misconceived and misses the opportunity to unlock real public benefits while also enhancing the station’s heritage.
“At Historic England we are in favour of development where it secures a sustainable future for our best public and private buildings. This scheme does not. We must seek a better outcome for this special place.”