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No justification for knocking down part of Borough High Street

King’s College’s plans would destroy part of this important conservation area

127-143 Borough High Street ©Benedict O’Looney

The Victorian Society has objected to plans to knock down several buildings on Borough High Street and to replace them with a new hotel and student block.

King’s College London, the owner and developer of the site, has conceded that the demolition of 129-143 Borough High Street will cause substantial harm to the Borough High Street Conservation Area.  These buildings form an important stretch of Borough High Street, reflecting the combination of Victorian commercial and warehouse buildings that has long characterised its historic streetscape. 

King’s proposal to demolish these buildings and replace them with bland new facades will impoverish Borough High Street.  There is a real risk of losing the very feature that distinguishes this unique area from every other high street.

Local residents’ groups, English Heritage, the Georgian Group, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and the Ancient Monuments Society have also objected.

During the Medieval period Borough High Street was one of only two roads into the City of London and became particularly known for its coaching inns.  An inn stood on the site of 129 Borough High Street, now proposed for demolition, since at least 1542.   A half-timbered wall of that building at the entrance to Spur Inn Yard shows evidence of earlier construction. 

The buildings under threat from King’s demolition plans also include two former hop warehouses.  The hop trade was an important part of Southwark's commercial life until the early 1970s.  Hop merchants’ offices and warehouses lined Borough High Street trading the hops brought up from Kent to the breweries of Southwark.  That connection continued up to the late 1960s when many local families still spent working holidays picking bines in Kentish hop gardens each autumn.  

The successful regeneration of the area has been built on the  attractive mix of historic and commercial buildings around the market and high street.  We are disappointed that King’s College, an educational charity at the heart of the area, is prioritising financial returns over the character of one of the most distinctive and historic streets in London.

Tuesday 26 November, 2013

More recent item: Victorian Society & SAVE submit planning application for Smithfield General Market and Annex
Earlier item: Revealed: top ten endangered Victorian and Edwardian buildings 2013

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