We learnt today that The Department of Culture Media and Sport has decided not to list Sir Basil Spence’s Hyde Park Barracks (completed in 1970). This decision overrides the advice given to Government by Historic England, which had recommended listing, following a rigorous submission made by the C20 Society.
The Barracks stands on the edge of Hyde Park, in Knightsbridge, and it is no secret that the Ministry of Defence has been investigating how much it could sell the prestigious site for, if the Barracks could be demolished and the land could be redeveloped for luxury housing. We understand that the MOD has lobbied strongly against listing, and employed private consultants to make a rival assessment to Historic England’s. The only legally admissible criteria for making a listing decision are the architectural and historic interest of the building. Neither issues such as the potential wider social benefit of a replacement, nor economic factors are allowed to have any influence.
The Barracks is a major work by a leading post war architect, several of whose less significant buildings are already protected by listing. We feel that DCMS has failed to do its job, when faced with inappropriate pressure from another government department.
Director Catherine Croft says “There is no doubt that if the Barracks had been listed then the value of the site would have been greatly reduced. This is an outrageous example of a government department failing to do its job.”