The new owners of the former offices of the Financial Times newspaper on the south side of Southwark Bridge have been given the go-ahead to begin a major refurbishment of the building, despite criticism from heritage campaigners.
One Southwark Bridge Road, a 1989 building held by the FT until 2019, is now owned by media and advertising giant WPP. It has been vacant since 2019.
WPP submitted plans to add an extra storey, extend the building “enhance” the façade by adding a double glazing system and external fins to help with shading. The company will also open up the area around the building to give people passing by on the Thames path greater access.
The plans were approved by Southwark Council’s planning committee last week (September 7).
But campaign group the Twentieth Century society said in an letter objecting to the planning application that it “objects to the application which will cause substantial harm to what should be considered a non-designated heritage asset. We would welcome a scheme which seeks to preserve more of the existing building’s overall form and character.”
The letter added that the society “feels the proposed rooftop and infill extensions will drastically alter the character and appearance of the building. The building’s proportions will be completely changed, its defining external features eliminated, and its overall size and bulkiness will increase.”
The society added: “We consider the existing building to be distinguished and that it responds well to its historic environment, establishing a striking riverfront elevation while respecting the scale of its neighbouring buildings. While we are not opposed to refurbishing the existing building, [we] object to the scheme in its current form.”
A report by Southwark Council planning officers submitted ahead of the meeting last week said: “The proposal would make efficient use of a substantial under-utilised site to deliver a high quality and sustainable development that accords with the Council’s aspirations for the area.”