Stephen Fry leads campaign against Liverpool Street redevelopment

  • london
  • May 9, 2023
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Stephen Fry is among the big names backing a campaign to stop a ‘grossly opportunistic’ development of a major London railway station.

Fry, as well as artist Tracey Emin and top heritage groups, are calling on Michael Gove to stop offices, shops and a hotel being built on top of Liverpool Street.

Sellar, known for its glass-panelled projects such as the Shard, hopes to spend some £1,500,000,000 to ease the east London station’s ‘overcrowding issues’.

This includes £450,000,000 to double the size of the station concourse, add more lifts and escalators and rebuild the Grade II listed Andaz hotel, it said last year.

But in a letter published in The Times today, Fry and other signatories said the proposals would ‘plonk 15 storeys of insensitively-designed tower’ on the century-old hotel.

The signatories, including comedian and president of the Victorian Society, Griff Rhys Jones, want the historic station – opened in 1874 – to stay exactly how it is.

‘The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities must call in the planning application for Liverpool Street Station and its terminus hotel,’ they wrote.

‘To plonk 15 storeys of insensitively-designed tower directly on top of the Grade II listed former Great Eastern hotel, thus partially demolishing the listed station and overwhelming the Victorian train sheds, is grossly opportunistic and wrong.

‘The claim that a cantilevered building directly on top of a heritage asset somehow “preserves” that asset is nonsense, and sets a dangerous precedent.’

The property developer Sellar has partnered with Network Rail, which owns Liverpool Street, and transit company MTR for the project.

In October, Network Rail group property director Robin Dobson said Sellar’s plans would create a ’24/7 leisure district’.

While Sellar stressed at the time: ‘The historic elements and façade of the Grade II listed Andaz hotel, which originally opened as the Great Eastern Hotel in 1884, will be sensitively restored.’

Liverpool Street is a key commuter hub, connecting to Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk as well as to all corners of London with Tube and Elizabeth Line services.

The station is by Bishopsgate and Spitalfields, a patchwork of glass towers and old brick townhouses, and only half a mile from the city’s financial district.

A Sellar spokesman said: ‘Our proposals aim to deliver the vital upgrades needed at Liverpool Street station to address significant overcrowding and access issues, while protecting and celebrating its remaining Victorian elements.

‘We would hope that Mr Gove or anyone involved in the decision-making process would assess our proposals in full, and balance the impact of building over and removing less than half of a 1980s concourse roof against the £450 million of privately funded public benefits delivered at no cost to the taxpayer.

‘Our proposals allow Network Rail to invest in other much-needed infrastructure improvements elsewhere in the country while transforming Liverpool Street station into the accessible, future-fit transport hub that the City of London, as a global centre of business and tourism, deserves.’

The Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities declined to comment.

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