The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

C20 Society urges call-in for GII* Wood Street Police Station proposals

The Twentieth Century Society is urging that the application to extend and alter the Grade II* listed Wood Street Police Station is called in by the Secretary of State, after harmful plans to extend it were approved by the City of London on Tuesday 25th July. It is the only listed post-war police station in the country and was built to the designs of the practice McMorran and Whitby, a post-war practice that worked in a classical idiom. Wood Street is recognised as their finest building.

The police station has been studied in the Twentieth Century Society monograph publication by Edward Denison where it is described as ‘the greatest success of McMorran’s lifetime’, of Italianate composition but rooted firmly in Britain and the twentieth century.

The building is made up of two distinct elements; a four-storey courtyard range and a tower, which originally housed an extraordinary number of spaces including offices, flats, stables, Turkish baths, cells, a tailor and a small museum. These are all configured behind beautifully composed yet austere facades, which give little away as to the quality and variety of what is inside.

The City of London Police Force is selling its assets, and intends to consolidate all operations within Wood Street, which in its current form cannot accommodate requirements. As a result a number of proposals have been submitted, the most damaging of these being an extension to the existing tower by a glazed link at each level, marring the original’s north elevation and undermining the careful balance and legibility of the built ensemble. Other proposals include the infilling of the courtyard, the replacement of all external windows and the conversion of the tower to open plan offices. Taken together, the Society considers that these constitute substantial harm in planning terms and objected in the strongest terms. Historic England have also expressed concern and have described the harm as ‘serious’.

Given this advice from the two relevant heritage bodies, the Society are dismayed that the recommendation made to the planning committee was that the application was of ‘less than substantial harm’. This assessment has a material impact on how planning policy is interpreted; there is a very strong presumption against consent where harm is substantial.

Tess Pinto, Conservation Adviser for the Society said ‘Wood Street Police Station is of outstanding architectural quality and its enduring street presence in an area of the City that has been subject to large-scale and rapid change is of major significance.

It’s appalling that this application has been granted permission, and on an unjustified recommendation of less than substantial harm. This is in direct opposition to our own advice and that of Historic England, who described the harm as serious.

Decisions like the completely undermine the purpose of the national listing system, and we urge the Secretary of State to call in this application for his determination.’


For press enquiries:

Tess Pinto, Conservation Adviser, Twentieth Century Society

020 7250 3857