That’s the question asked by respected transport blogger Daniel Wright as English Heritage refuses an application by The Vauxhall Society to list Vauxhall Bus Station as a building worthy of protected status, a refusal upheld on appeal to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.
Vauxhall Bus Station, ten years old this year, is under threat from a coalition of Lambeth Council and Transport for London. They are vigorously opposed by The Vauxhall Society and the Save Vauxhall Bus Station community group’s online petition. Transport commentator Wright ridicules English Heritage’s judgement that the bus station’s ‘prominence and visual impact is compromised… by poor visual integration with its immediate surroundings’.
EH also asserts that ‘the external hard landscaping, designed by others, is utilitarian and relates poorly to the architecture’, affecting the bus station’s ability to’ act as a catalyst for regeneration’.
If so, that’s hardly down to the bus station, argues Daniel Wright. ‘The poor landscaping around Vauxhall Bus Station is the fault of Lambeth Council and TfL.’ The Vauxhall Society appealed against EH’s decision to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, which then weighed in to ‘catch Vauxhall Bus Station in a trap’, ruling that ‘the bus station has failed to be a catalyst for regeneration, and the proof is that Lambeth Council wants to demolish it.’ In other words, Lambeth Council wanting to demolish the bus station is proof that the bus station deserves to be demolished. Doh!
Yet the poor surroundings don’t affect the inherent quality of the bus station, and EH overlooked its green credentials as an early example of solar voltaic cells being fully integrated into the design rather than added on later.
And as for ‘failure’ to catalyze ‘regeneration’, Daniel Wright points out that The Times (30 December 2014) ran an artist’s impression of all the ‘regeneration’ (skyscrapers) that are planned for Vauxhall–Nine Elms. And in the middle of all this pictured ‘regeneration’ we see… Vauxhall Bus Station. What’s more, The Nine Elms Vauxhall ‘public/private partnership’ promptly pounced on The Times picture for its website, Vauxhall Bus Station and all.
And who is a member and financial supporter of ‘Vauxhall Nine Elms’ (which is quietly dropping the ‘Vauxhall’ in its name)? Why, Lambeth Council of course.
The problem for the ten-year-old Vauxhall Bus Station, Daniel Wright says, is that the inherent quality of a building may not be apparent for decades after it is built. St Pancras Station (1888), he points out, was once nearly demolished in its early days – and look at it now.