By Grainne Cuffe, local democracy reporter
A Southwark Home Office Immigration centre is set to be bulldozed to make space for new offices, a park and a gym.
Plans to demolish the immigration centre and transform it into a 27-storey office block were approved by a Southwark planning bosses on July 19.
Dutch developer Edge will now knock down the existing Becket House on St Thomas St. The new block is set to be known as Edge London Bridge.
In its place they’ll build a new 1,183 square metre ‘pocket park’, more than double the size of the gardens currently on site, a gym, coffee shop, and cycle parking.
The Home Office was originally going to move to Newham’s Royal Docks but the controversial plans fell through – it is unclear why but locals strongly objected to the proposals.
They said the area was multi-cultural and they would feel less safe having an immigration centre – which would include a holding facility – near their homes.
The Home Office put in a late objection to the office block plans after its own plans fell through, leading to a deferral on the decision.
But it withdrew the objection after Edge agreed to give it more time to find a new site.
The application before the planning committee received 75 objections, mainly focused on the height and scale of the proposed building, heritage issues, and concerns about post-Covid office demand.
The planning officer presenting the application, which was recommended by officers, said: “Having reviewed the objections in detail, officers consider that the various issues raised are not so significant to warrant refusal of planning permission […]”
He added that the benefits of the scheme include the redevelopment of a brownfield central London site, a high level of sustainability, and the provision of new “high quality” office space, 11 per cent of which will be affordable.
Objectors speaking at the meeting asked that the decision be deferred until the New Southwark Plan, currently in development, is in place to give “coherence” in the area.
They also said that the building would harm the nearby Conservation Area, trees, was too tall, and questioned whether in the wake of the pandemic there was a demand for office space.
Toby O’Connor, from the Old Bermondsey Neighbourhood Forum, said: “We invite questions on inappropriate scale, height and massing, harm to heritage and loss of local character, overbearing and incongruous appearance, overdevelopment in relation to local capacity, loss of open space, non-viability regarding office provision in a pandemic situation, inadequate and misleading consultation and engagement, lack of consideration of alternatives including retention of existing fabric, and lack of policy basis and lack of regard for emerging policy.”
A representative for Edge highlighted the sustainability of the build.
The building, designed by architect firm Pilbrow & Partners, is set to be “highly energy efficient” and rated ‘outstanding’ in terms of sustainability.
According to Edge it will be the first office block in London to achieve both two of the top 10 green building rating systems in the world.
The developer will have to wait for the Home Office to find a new base before it can begin work.
Edge have been contacted for comment.
Please make cheques payable to “MSI Media Limited” and send by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing recently: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online.