Stephen Fry joins campaign against Liverpool Street station development

Broadcaster Stephen Fry and artist Tracey Emin are among dozens of public figures and conservationists urging the Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove to prevent a “grossly opportunistic” development of a major London railway station.

In a letter published in The Times, they called on Mr Gove to intervene in proposals by developer Sellar to build offices, shops and a hotel above Liverpool Street station.

Other signatories include comedian Griff Rhys Jones, who is president of the Victorian Society, and representatives of other heritage groups.

The station is used for mainline train connections to destinations across Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk, as well as Elizabeth line and London Underground services.

Sellar says its proposals involve more than £1.5 billion of private investment, including £450 million to double the size of the station concourse and add more lifts and escalators.

The station “suffers from significant overcrowding” as well as “poor pedestrian accessibility and connectivity”, according to the company.

The plan would involve partly rebuilding the neighbouring Grade II listed Andaz hotel, which opened as the Great Eastern hotel in 1884.

Additions to the hotel made in the 1980s would be removed, while Victoria features will be restored and made more accessible.

Network Rail, which owns the station, and transport company MTR are partnering with Sellar in developing the project.

In their letter, opponents to the plans wrote: “The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities must call in the planning application for Liverpool Street Station and its terminus hotel.

“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.”

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.”

In October last year, Network Rail group property director Robin Dobson said the plans would “deliver a world-class transport interchange alongside new workspace with a new 24/7 leisure district at its heart”.

A campaign to preserve the station against development was first launched in the 1970s by Sir John Betjeman, then poet laureate.