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National Portrait Gallery to be transformed

National Portrait Gallery to be transformed

Lauren Ayers & Heather Marshall 24 Apr 2019
A culmination of an intensive and exciting period of work for Lichfields proved fruitful at Westminster City Council’s Planning (Major Applications) Sub-Committee, when planning permission and listed building consent were granted for the ‘Inspiring People’ project at the National Portrait Gallery. This £35.5m project, designed by Jamie Fobert Architects working alongside conservation architects Purcell, will transform the Grade I listed Gallery, making it more accessible and welcoming to the public as well as restoring historic features. At its core is a comprehensive redisplay and re-interpretation of the Gallery’s permanent Collection across 40 refurbished galleries, presenting a greater and more diverse selection of portraits; the return of the Gallery’s East Wing to public use as the new Weston Wing, including restoring the original gallery spaces and the creation of new retail and catering facilities; and a new Learning Centre for visitors of all ages with studios, breakout spaces and high quality practical facilities. Externally a new public forecourt is to be created on the northern side of the building leading to a new fully-accessible entrance in the north façade which is more open and welcoming to all and will create a step-change in the quality of the townscape at the southern end of Charing Cross Road. Image credit: Jamie Fobert Architects + Purcell For a high-profile central London site, the application ran particularly smoothly with not a single objection to the project received. The success of the project, while down to the Gallery’s vision and clearly articulated need for the alterations to take place together with the sensitive and inspired response of the architects, also lay in the strong consultative approach the project team took to the planning and listed building consent application. Our pre-application strategy involved working closely with Westminster City Council, neighbours, stakeholders and relevant consultees to ensure any concerns were taken on board and addressed in the design of the scheme. As part of the integrated design team, Lichfields led early engagement with Westminster City Council to establish a positive working relationship with the Council from the outset. In co-ordination with the Gallery and wider design team, we also carried out pre-application public consultation and engaged with statutory consultees including Historic England, the Victorian Society and the 20th Century Society, as well as local consultees such as the Westminster Society and the Irving Society. A series of design workshops were held jointly with Historic England and Westminster City Council to develop the scheme to a design that was supported in principal by all parties prior to the submission of the applications. We entered into a Planning Performance Agreement with the Council which covered the determination period. The committee date of 23rd April was agreed upon by all parties and a collaborative working relationship was established between the applicant team and the Council to ensure that the applications were submitted on time and any concerns and issues were dealt with speedily to enable the applications to be heard on the identified date. We look forward to continuing to work closely with the Council over the coming months to discharge the planning conditions and sign the legal agreement.