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White Cube gets green light for Bermondsey Street gallery

Jay Jopling's White Cube gallery will open its doors on Bermondsey Street after Southwark's planning committee voted in favour of a planning application on Tuesday night.

White Cube gets green light for Bermondsey Street gallery

We reported in December on the plans by the Hoxton and Mayfair based contemporary art gallery to open an SE1 outpost in the former Recall warehouse bounded by Bermondsey Street, Lamb Walk, Morocco Street and Royal Oak Yard.

White Cube has a 15-year lease on the building and plans to use it for a combination of storage and public exhibitions and events.

Broadcaster Tim Marlow – who is White Cube's director of exhibitions – addressed the planning committee to explain the educational, economic and artistic benefits of the gallery's proposed Bermondsey Street operation.

He said that White Cube had, over the last 18 years, become "one of the leading art galleries in the world".

He continued: "Its reputation stems from its artistic programme that many of you will probably be aware included a generation of British artists that include Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Jake & Dinos Chapman and older artists like Antony Gormley and Gilbert & George whose careers have been nurtured internationally.

"The gallery has also brought some of the best international art to London including Doris Salcedo ... Miroslaw Balka and others who have all gone on to have shows at the Tate.

"All our shows are open to the public and all are free of charge.

"We were looking to to expand both abroad and in London and were talking to various bodies, but we were also looking for a warehouse and we happened upon this extraordinary space in Bermondsey and then realised that it was a wonderful opportunity.

"For a start, we could have large top-lit, column-free galleries which give an ambitious nature to our gallery space which we haven't fully achieved.

"It's also in an extraordinarily interesting, culturally growing part of London. We've been in the east, we've been in the west, why not the south?"

The gallery and warehouse will employ the equivalent of 60 full time staff.

The meeting heard from a spokeswoman for residents and businesses in Royal Oak Yard concerned about noise and disturbance from deliveries and servicing via the narrow archway off Bermondsey Street.

Grange ward councillor Mark Gettleson addressed the committee to note his "extreme enthusiasm" for the arrival of White Cube in Bermondsey Street.

He conceded that for occupants of Royal Oak Yard "there will be a loss of amenity" but that "it could be a lot worse" if other types of user had chosen to occupy the former Recall warehouse.

Cllr Nick Stanton noted that the issues about servicing arrangements via Royal Oak Yard – which is not a public highway – were largely a private matter between the owners and tenants and outside the remit of the planning committee.

"We might create a mess tonight but it's not a mess we'll have to sweep up," he said.

Cllr Nick Dolezal said: "I am very excited by the prospect of having another gallery – a prestigious gallery – in the Bermondsey area, building on the arts and cultural identity that we've been trying to create in Southwark for a number of years.

"I think that it is an immense catch and am very excited by it. I am glad that they alighted on a building that they thought was suitable for their needs."

The council received many letters of support for White Cube's application from leading figures on the London arts scene, including Jude Kelly of Southbank Centre, Deyan Sudjic of the Design Museum, Julia Peyton-Jones of the Serpentine Gallery and Sir Norman Rosenthal, formerly of the Royal Academy of Arts.

Members of the planning committee resolved unanimously to grant planning permission for change of use of the building from warehouse to art gallery.

A separate application for conservation area consent to demolish the high brick wall at the front of the warehouse was withdrawn after officers recommended refusal.

English Heritage and the council's conservation officers were concerned that opening up the yard at the front of the warehouse would detract from the historic "canyon-like" street pattern of Bermondsey Street.

White Cube's architects are now working on a new design that retains the line of Bermondsey Street at the same time as improving access to and views across the yard.

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