Yesterday, The Rt Hon Robert Jenrick, MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities, and Local Government, ‘called in’ the planning application for the site of the London Fire Brigade’s headquarters for a public inquiry. This is great news. To the many friends of the Museum who wrote to the Minister to ask for a ‘call in’ a huge thank you. What was impressive was not just the number of letters but the expertise, and eloquence expressed with such personal conviction.
What next? In effect, the Minister is over-ruling the decision taken by Lambeth Council’s Planning Committee in December 2019, and asking an independent planning inspector to assess the evidence afresh. That Inspector will hold an inquiry and then make a recommendation to the Minister on whether or not to grant planning permission to developer U+I’s plan to build skyscrapers of luxury flats on the site of the Fire Brigade’s Workshop and convert its iconic riverside Headquarters into a hotel.
It is a David and Goliath struggle. At the inquiry we and the residents of Lambeth Village – joined by partners including the London Parks and Gardens Trust and the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association – will be up against a commercial developer with £500 million at stake.
But, for now, this is news to celebrate – and in Old Paradise Gardens, the historic green space at risk from the development, to enjoy the meadow our Head Gardener Matt Collins planted with our neighbours on the Whitgift Estate.