The St James Market block comprised; 1-3 St James’ Market – a Georgian red brick building, Bush House – a 1920s neo-Classical Portland stone office and the Captain’s Cabin, a 1920s Edwardian pub.
Together, the buildings formed an important part of the Haymarket Conservation Area in central London.
The St James Block on the right, looking south down Haymarket in 2012. Source: Google Streetview
In 2012, owners the Crown Estates, formed a joint venture with Oxford properties, a shell company of the Ontario Pension Plan to demolish and redevelop the site.
Assessing the application, Westminster Case officer Sue Brown acknowledged all buildings made a positive contribution to the Haymarket conservation area.
‘Their loss both individually and as a building block, she advised will cause harm to the [other] listed buildings and conservation area.
The Captain's Cabin Pub and 1-3 St James Market, the red building to the left in 2012. Both were demolished in 2013.
Disturbingly though, she accepted the developer's argument that the loss would be outweighed by a major public realm improvement - better pedestrian access through the Opera arcade.
As the footprint of the new building overlapped with the existing ones, improved pedestrianization could simply have been achieved by paving over St James Street.
Looking south down Haymarket in 2012 with Bush House still standing (top) and 2019 bottom (2019) Source: Google Streetview.
Yet Crown Estates insisted in their planning submission this could only be achieved by ‘the removal of the four buildings on the Haymarket’.
More controversially, two of the four councilors on the decision committee: Robert Davis and Alastair Moss, acknowledged their close 'personal friendship' with a number of Directors and employees of Crown Estates and Make architects, the firm behind the redesign.
The Captain's Cabin as viewed from Norris Street in 2012, shortly before its demolition. Source: Google Streetview
Davies and Moss had even received hospitality from Crown Estates and attended meetings with Directors and agents regarding the site.
Unsurprisingly they approved the redevelopment, greenlighting the demolition on the block in 2013.