Satirical magazine Private Eye has had its say on the controversy surrounding the demolition of Marlborough School.
It has criticised John Lewis’s role in the project, which is seeing the replacing of the Victorian building with a new Marlborough School which includes office and retail space.
Demolition work began in September, despite the council not having all the required planning permission in place.
The intervention of the magazine, edited by Ian Hislop, comes as campaigner Jane Solomon wrote an open letter to John Lewis chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield, calling on him to “stop the destruction of this historic Chelsea landmark”.
However, John Lewisclaims the letter and article in Private Eye has inaccuracies and defends its actions.
In her letter, Ms Solomon states a conflict of interest, which is also the bone of contention in the Private Eye snippet.
She writes: “Since the planning permission is in the name of John Lewis Plc, and since it is also John Lewis that is funding the demolition and redevelopment, we hold your company directly responsible.
“In addition, it has been revealed that John Lewis, in collusion with the council, pressured English Heritage not to list Marlborough when The Victorian Society put in their application. Since John Lewis are Corporate Members of English Heritage, this represents a grave conflict of interest.”
And turning her attention to the consultation, which she has previously described as “a sham”, she writes: “Parents and residents are both shocked and angry that they are only now being asked to participate in a consultation over the disposal of playground. Moreover, this consultation is happening alongside the demolition works, which is wholly undemocratic because it will be too late for their objections to count.”
In its article, Private Eye writes: “Notable in this whole shabby business is the behaviour of “Never Knowingly Undersold” John Lewis... Back in 2013, John Lewis strenuously lobbied English Heritage - of which it was a corporate member - not to list the handsome board school.
“And then, the moment the council gave planning permission for the development, it sold the Clearings site to Mike Ashley, owner of Sports Direct and Newcastle FC - for a reported fee of £128m. No wonder there have been hostile demonstrations outside Peter Jones store, the John Lewis store in Chelsea.”
In reply to Ms Solomon’s letter, John Lewis property director Jeremy Collins said the public was fully aware of proposals. He wrote: “In partnership with the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (RBKC) John Lewis consulted the community extensively over a period of several years.”
He said 4,000 households and businesses were contacted and there were three well-attended consultation events, both at Clearings and the school.
In his letter he writes: “I appreciate that you have strong views with regards to preserving the architecture of the existing building,” before speaking of the benefits the new school will bring, listing extra school places and specialist autism centre.
“The benefit of a new school was widely supported by the community when we engaged with parents and local residents during the consultation process,” he says.
And Mr Collins defends the letter to Historic England, formerly English Heritage, saying it “accepted and appropriate” and “undertaken entirely separately from our corporate membership” before adding: “It is also important to note that although John Lewis did submit the planning application, the decision to redevelop the site was one made by RBKC at their discretion.
A 2,000-name Petition Against Demolition of Marlborough Schoool will be handed over to K&C at 6.30pm before a full council meeting on October 14.