Theatre industry heavyweights have waded in to object to redevelopment plans for Riverside Studios just days before Hammersmith and Fulham council decides its fate.
Stars of the creative world have joined the founding director, Peter Gill, 74, in supporting residents who feel replacing the famous arts complex with a much larger centre will be an eyesore on the Thames and that the height, massing and design will affect the character of the area.
Those backing the objectors, who support the studios as a whole, include director Sir Richard Eyre, an Olivier Lifetime Achievement Award winner, and multiple Golden Globe and Grammy Awards winner, composer George Fenton, who is best known for his musical score on the BBC’s The Blue Planet and Planet Earth.
Mr Gill, who was artistic director when Riverside opened in 1976, said the development was being rushed through without proper public consultation. He said: “This plan is a pedestrian building, a great big block which has no grandeur, yet this is a very important part of the Thames. I think the bluff should be called.”
Playwright Stephen Poliakoff, actress Francesca Annis, and artist Sir Peter Blake - most famous for The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Londonly Hearts Club Band cover - are among the host of names who have written to Hammersmith and Fulham Council expressing their ‘strong objection’ to the proposals.
The plans seek to demolish the famous studios and build a seven-storey complex including 165 homes with balconies and roof terraces and 8,633 sq m of commercial space for television and film recording studios, theatre, cinema, dressing rooms, offices and a cafe/bar.
The group, also including award-winning architect, Will Alsop and actress Dame Harriet Walter, have said the building’s design is not of a high enough architectural and social quality for a key site on the Thames, next to the listed Hammersmith Bridge.
They also stated there has been no opportunity for the local and wider cultural community of London to understand and comment on the proposal for a world class arts centre, promised as the community benefit of the development.
Their letter, handed in last Thursday (December 5), asked the council to extend the period of consultation, which finished on Friday, so that the issues can be addressed in a more thoroughly informed and constructive way.
William Burdett-Coutts, Riverside’s current artistic director, said they need to build high to pay for running the arts centre, while Riverside Studios and developer Mount Anvil have denied a lack of consultation, saying they have met residents’ groups and individuals a total of 14 times.
However, members of the Crisp Road Residents’ Association have been worried since the plans came to fruition about the lack of consultation and when they held their own meeting on November 18, reported in the Chronicle , it was a major theme.
Clive Fenton, chief executive of Mount Anvil said: “As a result of consultations, amendments to the scheme were made in response to feedback to address any concerns. Given the extensiveness of the consultation process we have undertaken and that the planning application has been submitted, we feel it is appropriate for the council to consider the scheme on its merits.”
Several comedians, including Bill Bailey, Jack Dee, Jo Brand and Alistair McGowan have expressed their support for the plans.
The application for the Riverside Studios scheme is set to be decided at a specially arranged meeting of the council’s planning committee next Thursday (December 19), prompting residents and opposition Labour politicians alike to speculate the day, six days before Christmas, has been chosen to restrict the numbers of objectors likely to attend.