A proposed development near Hampton Court Palace has exercised the ire of one of our foremost historians. David Starkey, considered something of an expert on Tudor times by dint of his copious books and television series on the subject, has thrown his chalice in with heritage groups who oppose the construction of a four-story hotel and flats complex opposite the Palace.
The development would include 66 homes, a hotel, shops, and a new care home for service veterans charity the Royal Star & Garter, a move supported by renowned Falklands vet Simon Weston. But Starkey is unmoved by such malarkey. Speaking to the Times, the historian said: "Anything that gratuitously damages it isn't a national scandal but an international scandal".
Leaving aside the point that its previous occupant was all too happy to provoke international scandals, Starkey's argument that "one of the three most important palace complexes to have survived in Europe" should remain unmolested is a sound one. But then again, is the proposed development really an example of "gratuitous damage"? It's hardly like Daniel Libeskind has been asked to throw up a fourteen-story ziggurat for the south side. The argument against disrupting "historic views" is a specious one, difficult to countenance in the palimpsest that is modern, chaotic London.
English Heritage will not oppose the scheme, but Historic Royal Palaces (they of the Hampton Court dig) is demanding a public inquiry. However, it may be in vain, as Elmbridge Council green-lighted it last week. Appeals to the Mayor's sensibilities may not work either - much to the dismay of the Evening Standard, Boris Johnson has been known to approve controversial projects if the mood takes him.