By Owen Sheppard, Local Democracy Reporter
A beautiful 1930s estate that became the setting of discredited conspiracy theories about a Westminster paedophile ring is facing redevelopment.
Developer Westbrook Partners will take a controversial planning application to revamp Dolphin Square in Pimlico, pictured above, to a public inquiry on May 12.
Last year, Westminster council rejected the US company’s proposal to add 230 new homes by adding extra floors to the red-brick blocks, taking the total number of homes to 1,455. Westbrook has appealed the case
Dolphin Square’s remarkable list of past tenants includes Princess Anne and Winston Churchill’s daughter, Sarah.
High profile MPs such as ex-Tory leader William Hague, former Prime Minister Harold Wilson, and Liberal Democrat leaders David Steel and Sir Menzies Campbell also lived there.
There is no suggestion that they were involved in or knew about any unlawful or improper conduct.
When Westminster council rejected the plans in July last year, members of its planning committee took issue with a lack of affordable housing. They also complained about the proposed increase in the number of serviced apartments, which would have risen from 143 to 160.
The developer said the scheme would include 23 new social rent flats.
Westbrook also proposed demolishing Rodney House on the square’s northern side, which houses an arcade of independent shops, and replacing it with a 10-storey block.
Residents said Westbrook’s proposals would have caused “noise and disruption” on their tranquil estate.
Athol Ross Huntly, 83, a retired West End theatre actor, said: “I’m very fond of this place, and the greenery is wonderful. It’s also very safe, there’s only been one or two robberies.
“Rodney House was going to be demolished and they wanted to build several more floors. Just think of all the noise and the dust that would have caused.”
He added: “I believe buildings do need to be renovated sometimes but this is too much.”
A 41-year-old father-of-two, who asked to speak anonymously, said: “When Dolphin Square was originally built it was a unique place with a mix of different classes, because to live here you needed to work in Westminster. So you had bus drivers living near MPs.
“The problem is it will lose its sense of community.
“The new development will bring a lot of properties that are extremely expensive. And the sprinkling of affordable homes, but those will still be extremely high.”
Commenting on the appeal, a spokesman for the redevelopment said: “We remain very committed to (architect) Eric Parry’s beautifully designed scheme to secure the future of Dolphin Square for the next 100 years.
“It will provide 230 new residential flats, including 57 on-site affordable housing units, with 23 for social rent, comprehensive refurbishment of the existing estate, extension of the Thames River Path, enhanced leisure and retail facilities, together with extended gardens accessible to the public.”
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse published its findings on February 25 saying it found “no evidence to support the most sensational of the various allegations of child sex abuse made over recent years that there has been a powerful paedophile network operating within Westminster”.
However, the inquiry said there had been a “significant problem” of deference towards people of public prominence.
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