By Jacob Phillips, Local Democracy Reporter
The National Gallery could have a massive makeover to celebrate its 200th birthday.
The world-famous gallery hopes to reinvent itself with a new entrance to its Grade-I listed building, complete with new paving, benches and bollards, in time for the big occasion in 2024.
But the changes to the historic site have been opposed by Historic England as well as the Twentieth Century Society and the Victorian Society.
If the plans are given the green light by Westminster City Council, some of the gallery’s Egyptian-style columns could be moved and put in a new bookshop in the ground floor lobby.
There will also be a new entrance in Trafalgar Square to the Research Centre and Members Rooms and an underground link could be added between the main building and the Sainsbury Wing of the gallery.
The gallery hopes to bring in the changes to make it easier for people to enter the building and to make it easier to handle security checks.
A planning report said: “In 2018, the National Gallery changed their operations and the Sainsbury Wing entrance became the only main entrance – and this remains the case today.
“This was in large part because of the limitations at the Wilkins Building entrance which the Gallery have found to become ill-suited for its original purpose.
Interior revamp: A CGI image of how the National Gallery might look (Picture: Westminster City Council)
“The Sainsbury Wing has better capacity to handle security checks and it is accessible to all visitors. The portico entrance includes steps and space is more limited within the entrance lobby.
“An aim of the alterations to the Sainsbury Wing therefore is to improve this entrance in terms of functionality and in terms of visitor experience so it can better serve as the principal entrance to the National Gallery.”
But the plans have been opposed by historic groups, who are worried about the impact the changes will have on the protected buildings. Historic England objected to the plans.
The group wrote: “The Sainsbury Wing is one of the most special, celebrated and individual buildings of post-war London.
“It and the Wilkins Building are the principal parts of the National Gallery. They are each of outstanding heritage significance and together form a vital cultural asset.”
Other objectors complained the new design will mean the gallery’s restaurant will have to be moved and people will no longer be able to enjoy views of Trafalgar Square, and that the changes would make the inside of the building more boring.
Westminster City Council is set to decide the future of the gallery at its planning committee on November 29.
Pictured top: CGI shots of the proposed changes to the National Gallery (Picture: Westminster City Council)