They believe that the Doon Street development would cause serious damage to the 18th century courtyard of Somerset House, the iconic view of Whitehall seen from the bridge over the lake in St James’ Park as well as overwhelming the grade ll* National Theatre and the setting of the grade l listed Royal Festival Hall.
The Secretary of State, Hazel Blears, overturned advice from her advisors English Heritage and the independent planning inspector in August this year to refuse the building planning permission, following a public inquiry. She said that she considered the community benefits outweighed harm to the historic environment. The new development would include a new community swimming pool and leisure centre and headquarters for a dance company which would in turm provide dance workshops for the local community.
"English Heritage believes that the advice of the Planning Inspector to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Hazel Blears, was clear," said English Heritage chief executive Simon Thurley. "This scheme would cause serious harm to London's historic environment. The Secretary of State took the view that this harm was outweighed by the proposed community benefits.
"In reaching that view the Secretary of State did not consider if the community benefits could be delivered in a less harmful scheme. We urge the Secretary of State to respond positively to this challenge and to look again at the ways in which this scheme can be delivered which avoids harm to one of London's greatest assets - its heritage."
Coin Street Community Builders group director Iain Tuckett said "The news that English Heritage and Westminster Council are challenging the Secretary of State’s decision to grant consent for our Doon Street development will not affect our decision to proceed with its detailed design.
"The Secretary of State’s decision letter clearly demonstrates that she took full account of both heritage impacts and benefits to the wider community. She decided that on balance the proposals should be supported. That was also the view of Lambeth Council, the Greater London Authority and the locally-elected Member of Parliament. English Heritage is very liberal with spending taxpayers’ money on legal fees: it should spend the resources we give it on restoring historic buildings rather than challenging elected authorities."