The House of Fraser department store on Victoria Street is likely to close next summer as plans to redevelop the building into offices is likely to be approved.

A planning application to demolish the building was filed last year by its owners, and a report for Westminster Council, due to be debated on Tuesday, is recommending approval.

The store opened originally as the Army & Navy Co-operative Society, which was founded in 1871, but quickly outgrew its original site and in 1876 bought a store on the location of the current department store. By 1881 they had bought the entire block, and in 1922 rebuilt the site as a single store.

In 1973 the store was bought by House of Fraser, and they redeveloped the site into the current building. Although the ground floor is lined with shop windows and entrances, the building manages to seem rather fortress-like above, and while not entirely unappealing, it’s forbidding, and certainly needed a refurbishment.

The Army and Navy brand was dropped in 2005 in favour of House of Fraser.

There are also upper levels, the brown clad cluster of offices that sit above the store and seem more of an afterthought than part of the original design.

Rather than refurbishment, the site owners, BentallGreenOak, have decided to go for demolition, as they argue that the layout of the floors makes it difficult to repurpose the building for modern usage requirements.

One advantage of the new building is that the pavement will be widened by recessing the replacement ground floor shops deeper under the upper floors, and there will be a large open “square” running under the centre of the building giving north/south access for the first time.

The existing covered walkway will be retained as a concept, although with the ceiling raised so it’s a little less forbidding, if also then less likely to protect from the rain.

The upper floors are fairly generic office slabs, with stepped back terraces that will be planted and open to the office staff. As is increasingly popular with new offices, substantial cycle racks will be included in the basement, along with showers and lockers. Slightly unusual is that the cycle access is not hidden in a rear service delivery door, but will be a bit of a focal point of the public space in the middle of the building.

The main objections to the scheme stem from the more bulky size of the replacement building, and the impacts on neighbouring buildings.

The planning officer report which has been submitted to the Councillors is recommending the development goes ahead, with some caveats. Some provision of low-cost office space and access to a community space for local schools, but also a requirement that the open square space on the ground floor comes with an agreement to ensure public access. There is a suggestion in the planning application that it could be closed at times.

The report states that while “the proposal will impact on the amenity of neighbouring residents and harm will be caused in terms of design, townscape and heritage impacts, it is considered that while finely balanced the benefits of the scheme outweigh the level of harm identified.”

According to the planning report, House of Fraser is currently not paying rent on the site — presumably as a result of the lockdown. The next break clause in the retail lease comes up in 2022, which aligns with the lease breaks and expires in the offices as well.

Westminster Council is due to decide on the application tomorrow evening, but it looks very likely that House of Fraser will be leaving Victoria Street some 150 years after the original store opened.


Be the first to know what's on in London, and the latest news published on ianVisits.

You can unsubscribe at any time from my weekly emails.

Tagged with:

This website has been running now for over a decade, and while advertising revenue contributes to funding the website, it doesn't cover the costs. That is why I have set up a facility with DonorBox where you can contribute to the costs of the website and time invested in writing and research for the news articles.

It's very similar to the way The Guardian and many smaller websites are now seeking to generate an income in the face of rising costs and declining advertising.

Whether it's a one-off donation or a regular giver, every additional support goes a long way to covering the running costs of this website, and keeping you regularly topped up doses of Londony news and facts.

If you like what you read on here, then please support the website here.

Thank you

  1. Sue Ball says:

    It appears the writer has reproduced a verbatim extract from the developer’s press release. Why is it claimed that the application is ‘likely to be approved’? I trust that nobody in the Council has provided such assurances.
    We were not notified that the application was to be considered by a Planning Sub-Committee when on grounds of physical size, extensive 66-page Officer’s Report and and considerable and detailed public objections, it should surely be treated as a ‘major application’.

    The Thorney Island Society

    • ianVisits says:

      The developer has not been in touch with me, and I wasn’t aware that they have issued a press release.

      If you read the planning inspector’s report, which I cited in the article and you can find on the council planning portal, you will come to the same conclusion that I did, that the planning application is likely to be approved.

      It’s quite rare for councillors to disagree with a planning inspector after all.

    • ChrisC says:

      The recommendation of the planning officer as listed right at the start of the freely available committee papers is

      “1. Grant conditional permission, subject to the views of the Mayor and the completion of a S106 legal agreement”

      If you have issues with how the council is dealing with the application then contact the council.

  2. Mae says:

    Personally I don’t like their new proposal, it’s all over the place, and a bit over laid in my opinion 💁🏽‍♀️💁🏽‍♀️🤷🏽‍♀️🤷🏽‍♀️; there’s already a Mall type shopping area nearer the station, are they wanting to compete?? Times are changing, so I’d think more residential would be more appealing, it

  3. MilesT says:

    Redeveloping House of Fraser would mean that only three pre-2000 buildings along the that end of Victoria street will remain (excluding the cathedral):
    * Westminster Country council tower @64 (opposite House of Fraser, recently refurbished),
    * the pair of similar buildings: 123 Victoria street (mixed occupants including John Lewis head office staff) and 171 Victoria Street (John Lewis head office). 123 has been refurbished recently (exterior not altered but nice inside), 171 is still largely “as built” (maintained but not internally refurbished)

    The latter two are not especially attractive, in the current context, and a redevelopment could squeeze extra rentable space. Only a matter of time, I think.

    This is in a broader context of significant redevelopment near to Victoria station (Nova, Bressenden place)

    • ianVisits says:

      The Albert pub will remain.

    • Robert Woolley says:

      My understanding is that LandSec was keen to develop 64 Victoria Street some years ago, but wasn’t able to come to suitable terms with Westminster City Council for a lease surrender.

      The lease on 64 must be coming to an end soon; I’d put money on that building coming down. It’s a 1960s building and is obsolete.

  4. Chris Rogers says:

    A link to the planning app would be handy – a search of the portal under various combos of name and address finds nothing

  5. tops says:

    Happy memories of watching the classic Bristow/Deller final in the AV department at Army & Navy on my way home from a computer fair at the Royal Horticultural Hall.

  6. Garry Sheen says:

    My aunt worked for the Army and Navy store in Victoria Street for 25 years, spanning the 1950s, 60s and early 70s. Sadly, another ‘Are you being served’ store, that gradually ‘bit the dust’ during the past few decades.

Home >> News >> Architecture