Paintbrushes at dawn: Portrait Gallery against National Gallery's plans

National Gallery’s scheme ‘will impact Portrait Restaurant’

Friday, 11th August 2017

The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square is a Grade I listed building [Photo: Diego Delso]

THEY are neighbours united in their pursuit of sharing art with the world. But the National Portrait Gallery has objected to plans by its Trafalgar Square neighbour, the National Gallery, which wants to do works on the Grade I listed institution.

The National Portrait Gallery said it is not supportive of the scheme as it stands, as it would impact views from the top-floor Portrait Restaurant, which currently looks out over Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column.

The plans aim to create more floorspace by filling in two lightwells, but the extension and associated plant would be visible from the National Portrait Gallery’s rooftop restaurant.

In a comment on the plans lodged with Westminster Council, the National Portrait Gallery said: “The scheme as proposed has significant impact on views from the Portrait Restaurant and we would like this to be addressed.”

It added: “The National Portrait Gallery is not currently supportive of the scheme, but could be supportive if alterations were made to the infill to the Sunley lightwell to reduce the height of the office infill and the impact of the rooftop plant room on the National Portrait Gallery.

“We have not received a briefing on the scheme from the National Gallery, but would welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively with them to address our concerns.”

The National Gallery wants to remove structures within the Sunley and Belvedere internal light-wells and infill with extensions to provide more floorspace. The goal is to create an “accommodation hub” which would provide new modern office and meeting spaces for the gallery’s employees and make better use its existing buildings.

Nimax Theatres Limited, who run the nearby Garrick Theatre where recent shows have included Gangsta Granny and Horrible Histories – More Best of Barmy Britain, have also lodged a comment. While they said they “do not object… per se”, they want assurances that construction noise won’t disturb their performances and that demolition noise won’t be heard inside the auditorium during shows.

Yesterday (Thursday) the galleries issued a joint statement that said: “The National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery are working together to find a mutually satisfying solution, following a planning application made by the National Gallery to undertake some building works at the rear of its building in order to create additional office space.”

Westminster Council approved the plans this week.

The council’s planning chairman Cllr Richard Beddoe said: “Westminster is home to some of the finest galleries in the world. We have to balance the protection of these historic institutions with the need to modernise and upgrade.

“Committee members believe these works will improve back-of-house facilities to the overall benefit of the National Gallery while still preserving the special architecture and historic interest of this listed building.”

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