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LSE demolition plans under fire

An Edwardian hospital building which has offered healthcare in central London for more than 100 years must be saved from demolition, according to the Victorian Society.

The St Philip's building on Sheffield Street is owned by the London School of Economics, which plans to demolish it and build a seven storey student centre, including a café, pub, careers library and a roof terrace.

The former hospital lies inside a conservation area, which under Government planning guidelines should offer it protection from demolition. But LSE is arguing that the St Philip's building has little merit and should be knocked down.

'This is entirely wrong; the distinctive appearance of St Philip's and its fascinating history add character to the myriad of small streets which distinguish this part of London,' said Heloise Brown, Conservation Adviser for the Victorian Society. 'It's because of buildings like St Philip's that areas such as this are given protection from insensitive planning.'

The 1904 building, originally built as a workhouse infirmary, has been threatened and condemned before. Ten years ago Westminster Council granted consent for demolition for a similar plan. The Society believes that such a decision must not be repeated.

'Things have changed in ten years; now we have a more sustainable approach to development and a growing appreciation of the value of Edwardian buildings. Knocking down St Philip's would be inexcusably wasteful when it could easily be adapted to a new use.'

At the moment the building houses offices, teaching space and an NHS GP surgery serving 8000 patients from LSE and the local area.

History

The Strand Union Workhouse infirmary was built in 1904-5 by the architect, A.A. Kekwich. In 1913 the site was bought by the Metropolitan Asylums Board. During the First World War it became an observation hospital for war refugees. In 1919 it became known as the Sheffield Street hospital and specialised in the treatment of venereal diseases. London County Council took over responsibility for the buildings in 1929 until in 1952 it transferred to the NHS and was renamed St Philip's Hospital. LSE bought the site and its buildings in 1991 and it has since been used for teaching and as a health centre.

Thursday 22 April, 2010

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