1970s department store to be knocked down and replaced with modern work spaces

By Julia Gregory, local democracy reporter

A former flagship department store and offices will be knocked down to make way for modern work spaces, shops and a village square in Victoria.

The 1970s House of Fraser department store in Victoria Street closed for the last time in 2019.

There has been a department store in the street since 1871 when the Army and Navy Co-operative Society leased distillery premises and expanded rapidly in the 1870s.

The company later merged with high street giant House of Fraser.

Westminster City Council’s planning committee has just approved a multi-million pound plan to demolish the two-storey shop and the 51m office block behind it.

The Labour party currently has its headquarters in the block.

The new 470,000 sq foot block will tower 68m above the ground.

105 Victoria Street Aerial view of 72m office block with shops, DBOX for BentallGreenOak

Developers Welput,  a central London office fund managed by BentallGreenOak, said it will have the largest area of roof terrace in the West End and between 17,000 to 400,000 sq ft of office space.

It will have a village square and a row of 17 shop units at street level and a basement multi-sport area.

The developers said they would offer the space to the nearby Greycoat School and Westminster City School who could use it for sport or displaying artwork to the community.

However councillors wanted them to increase the amount of time on offer to the schools.

Alexander Morris, for owners Welput, told the planning committee that “people wanted an improvement on the  current building”.

He said there was  anti-social behaviour and rough sleeping on the street by the building.

The developers pledge to work with the council to help find employment for rough sleepers, during the construction of the new block, he said.

They plan to complete the building work in 2026.

Business organisation Victoria Bid’s chief executive, Ruth Duston, said: “The existing building has poor quality public realm and a lack of urban greening.”

She said the new building “responds to the ambition to create a memorable and pleasant space with new publicly accessible spaces through the site and a new activity zone at the lower ground floor.”

She said the green spaces in the site and on its podium “will help to deliver ambitions for a new linear park along Victoria Street”.

However residents and amenity groups the Thorney Island Society and Queen Anne and Cathedral residents associations were concerned about changes to the  townscape and the environmental cost of demolition.

Councillor Tim Roca voted against approving the scheme.

He said: “This is one of our main thoroughfares where there have been disasters to speak quite frankly.”

He was concerned about the impact on some residents who could lose light because of the increased height and the effect on the nearby Westminster Cathedral.

“It’s just too big,” he said.

Councillor Mark Shearer said he thought the scale was too large.

“It’s ambitious. Done well it could be an interesting space, done badly it could be awful.”

The plan was approved by 3 votes to 1.

 


 

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