Why are Liverpool Street station’s redevelopment plans so controversial?

Some of London’s train stations, like St Pancras or Paddington, are spectacular and beautiful. Others aren’t so nice. That’s why last year it was announced that Liverpool Street station was going to get a £1.5 billion makeover, including building an enormous 21-storey tower on top of it. 

Designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the renovation plan is a joint effort from Sellar (the people behind the Shard), Network Rail and MTR – the company that runs the Elizabeth line. They are still waiting for the City of London to grant approval. 

However, the Liverpool Street reno plans have been controversial ever since they were first announced. Members of the public, local authorities and celebrities aren’t happy about the planned glow-up, which has received 2,100 objections. 

Historic England, Westminster City Council, The Victorian Society, Stephen Fry and Tracey Emin are among the groups and notable figures calling for the redevelopment to be canned. People are unhappy as the plans would involve partly rebuilding the neighbouring Grade II-listed Victorian hotel, the Andaz (formerly known as the Great Eastern Hotel). Sellar wants to sever the link between the Victorian station and hotel and cantilever a 21-storey tower above both the buildings. Westminster Council added that the new tower could block views of St Paul’s Cathedral, disrupting London’s iconic skyline. 

The new tower would make up a mixture of offices and the new Andaz hotel. The plans currently include a publicly accessible roof garden with a café and even a rooftop swimming poolBut in May conservationists and public figures penned an open letter to Michael Gove calling the development of the 21-storey tower block, including the public pool, ‘grossly opportunistic’.

‘I cannot believe that we have had to put a national monument, a great railway station, a part of the story of London and the City on to our list of endangered buildings,’ said Griff Rhys Jones, president of the Victorian Society. 

‘The Society won the fight to save Liverpool Street Station in the 1970s, and it saved St Pancras Station too. We have to win this time because all listed buildings are at stake if the proposals to build so cavalierly on top of the station and hotel go through,’ he added. 

James Sellar, chief executive at Sellar, said: ‘Throughout the application process we have worked closely with the City of London Corporation and will continue to do so in the current determination period. In the context of the number of objections received, these should be balanced against the circa 130 million passenger journeys that would be improved should these essential upgrades to Liverpool Street station be approved.

‘These proposals will help London to maintain its status as a world-class city – at no cost to passengers or the taxpayer. Our entire approach prioritises protecting and enhancing the historic elements of both the Great Eastern Hotel and of the station itself. The original Victorian railway sheds at Liverpool Street station will not be touched but will be celebrated by opening up new views to and through them.’

More renovations on Time Out 

Waterloo and South Kensington stations are also up for redevelopment. You can read about the former here and the latter here

Listen to Time Out’s brilliant podcast ‘Love Thy Neighbourhood’: the newest episode with Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen in Greenwich is out now.

Stay in the loop: sign up for our free Time Out London newsletter for the best of the city, straight to your inbox.