The redevelopment site covers numbers 16 to 26 Park Crescent, plus two adjacent buildings in Portland Place. Prince Charles, a well-known champion of traditional architecture, has become involved because it has emerged that the new development will include free space for his charity, Business in the Community, which encourages responsible business practices.
Locals say they will suffer years of disruption, that the new homes will be sold to absentee investors, and that their views will be marred by the new properties. Conservation groups have voiced their alarm at the demolition of the terrace. The London and Middlesex Architectural Society says it objects “strongly” to any tampering with the white stucco buildings.
Sir Stuart Lipton, a director of PWC Property Holdings, says of the crescent: “It was damaged in the Second World War and completely rebuilt in the Sixties and although it is Grade I-listed, it is not faithful to its origins. Our proposal puts it back to Mr Nash’s design.”
Sir Stuart adds that many of the residents who originally objected to the proposal have been mollified by offers of “very substantial” cash compensation as well as offers to install double glazing to shield them from building noise. “They are pretty happy chaps,” he says.
However, Carlo Seidel, 52, an IT entrepreneur who has lived in the area since 2004, claims residents have not been offered compensation for the inevitable noise and disruption they would endure. He also believes that the new building is “absolutely not” faithful to Nash’s original drawings, saying: “It is too wide, too deep and too tall to be an accurate historical depiction of the original Nash plans.”
A spokeswoman for Business in the Community says that the charity would like to use the space for mentoring training, networking events, exhibitions and speaker events, but declined to comment on the controversy over the proposals.
A report by Westminster council’s planning department concludes the redevelopment is acceptable in principle, although it objects to the addition of an extra storey to the terrace.
If approved, the development will become one of London’s leading trophy addresses. A similar redevelopment at nearby Cornwall Crescent saw houses changing hands at around £100 million.