The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

The former Birds Eye HQ

Join our campaign to save Grade II Birds Eye HQ

The Twentieth Century Society is objecting to plans to demolish the Grade II listed former Birds Eye HQ and build 375 homes plus commercial units on the six hectare site in Walton, Surrey.

Broadway Malyan has devised the plans on behalf of developers Crest A2D.  We are objecting in the strongest terms and are urging our members and the wider public to both sign our on line petition and to lodge an objection with the council.

Designed by the highly influential and long standing British practice Sir John Burnet, Tait and Partners, it was one of the first corporate headquarters to be built outside London.  It was listed at Grade II in 1995.

The three storey building is arranged around two internal courtyards. Most striking are the facades, made up of plate glass curtain walling, blue vitreous enamelled panels and repeating half-hexagonal aluminium sections attached to thin aluminium mullions. This early example of 1960s op-art (optical art) inspired architecture was a clear expression of optimism in technology, something that was central to the Birds Eye frozen food brand.

Landscaping was designed by artist Philip Hicks who set the main building elevation back across a lawn and behind a long rectangular pool which runs its length.  The pool reflects the geometric shapes that rise above it, and the curtain walling reflects the water below. It is this contrast between the bold and experimental on one hand, and the elegant and tranquil on the other that makes Walton Court so striking.

Hicks also oversaw the landscaping of the two internal courtyards, one of which contains concrete menhirs by the artist Alan Collins which are arranged around rectangular pools. A standalone of sculpture depicting rising birds by the artist John McCarthy stands next to the pool at the site’s entrance and is listed independently at Grade II (the development plans include its relocation).

C20 Conservation Advisor Tess Pinto says that demolition of a Grade II listed building is only justifiable under exceptional circumstances and that the developers had fallen ‘significantly short’ of making a case for this.

Tess said: “The Society is wholly unconvinced of the ‘benefit’ of bringing the site back into use through demolition not only for the above reasons, but because the proposals are for a housing development which we consider to be underwhelming in its architectural quality and which would be a major over development of the site in both scale and density.

“The Society urges Elmbridge Borough Council to refuse planning consent.  The alternative would result in the loss of an outstanding C20 building and set a devastating precedent.”

You can read our full letter of objection here.

We need your support in our campaign.

Sign our online petition here, and object to the application by either visiting the planning website and submitting a comment here, or by emailing quoting reference 2017/0928 in the subject matter.

For the full planning application visit the planning website here.