31-storey Waterloo office tower approved after housing dropped from scheme

Plans for the redevelopment of Elizabeth House in Waterloo into a 31-storey office tower have been approved despite the removal of 142 homes from a previous scheme that was consented for the site in 2014.

A visualisation of the Waterloo tower given the go-ahead for the Elizabeth House site. Image by HB Reavis
A visualisation of the Waterloo tower given the go-ahead for the Elizabeth House site. Image by HB Reavis

The London Borough of Lambeth’s planning applications committee this week granted permission for the proposals for 146,000 square metres of offices and 8,900 square metres of flexible floorspace by developer HB Reavis.

The scheme will see the demolition of Elizabeth House, an eight- to 16-storey high 1960s office block next to Waterloo Station in London.

The plans supercede a proposal granted permission in 2014 for 142 new homes and 88,648 square metres of office space.

An officers report that went to the committee said the proposals complied with Lambeth’s local plan which allocates the site for an office-led development.

However, the report said the current London Plan's policy 2.11(a) requires housing to be provided in all proposals to increase office floorspace in London's Central Activities Zone.

But officers justified the decision by referring to a new policy in the emerging London Plan which says "offices and other Central Activities Zone strategic functions should be given greater weight relative to new residential use in the Waterloo Opportunity Area".

"Officers consider that more weight should be given to the emerging policy and therefore a wholly non-residential scheme is considered acceptable," the report said.

It also dismissed an objection by neighbouring Westminster City Council, which said the development would harm the setting and outstanding universal value of the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey, including St Margaret's World Heritage Site (WHS) and protected views from Parliament Square.

Officers pointed out that government advisor Historic England did not object to the scheme because there "would be no further encroachment on the WHS compared to the consented scheme".

They concluded that the ‘less than substantial harm’ to the area of Westminster would be outweighed by benefits including an estimated 11,100 new jobs (of which 9,700 would be full-time equivalent) and improvements to Waterloo Station.

The permission will replace an existing consent, which was approved in 2014 for the second time following a judicial review challenge by Westminster City Council and Historic England’s predecessor body English Heritage.

A statement from the developer after the meeting said that proposed public realm improvements will "provide desperately needed new access routes into Waterloo Station and help to accommodate the 30 per cent projected passenger growth that is predicted over the next five years".

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