Karen Buck MP (Westminster North) and Murad Qureshi, Member of the London Assembly, have joined distinguished architects Terry Farrell and Ed Jones, local residents’ group SEBRA (South East Bayswater Residents’ Association) and Westminster’s Labour Councillors to oppose the plans for the 72 storey ‘Paddington Shard’ which Westminster Conservatives plan to ‘rubber stamp’ at the Planning Committee meeting on 8th March.
“I believe we need more time to consider the scheme, which will dominate the skyline for miles around. I am also concerned that there is no affordable housing on site; only a small housing contribution overall- 15% of the planned 329-349 units in the tower- and the main benefits from the scheme (while welcome) are for improvements to Paddington Station, which will benefit commuters more than local residents. The scheme has also been criticised by Heritage England.”
“I write to object to the “Paddington Tower” proposal (15/11219/FULL) for 31 London Street, W2. The proposed development represents poor urban design, will have a negative impact on light and shadow in nearby neighbourhoods, and fails to take advantage of potential transport connectivity and public spaces.
The City of Westminster has not done a very good job managing the skyline in the past so it needs to get this one right. The designs of towers allowed previously have a negative impact on both the character of their local communities and of the skyline of London. You just have to look at the towers around the Marylebone flyover, a gateway into Central London, to appreciate the impact of getting it wrong. The four towers represent the worst architecture from the 1970’s and 1980’s with their cladding and grey finishes; each tower has been clearly dealt with separately, without oversight for the location.
Unfortunately the glass and steel formation of the Paddington Tower repeats these mistakes. The 72 storey tower utterly fails to meet Westminster’s standards on design. It looks like a light torch. It has been christened the “Paddington Pole”, and that is not a compliment.
The failure to meet good design standards is grounds for refusal (Policy S28 Design).
The proposal fails to take into account the character and context of the surrounding area. The existing context is a neighbourhood of predominantly four- to- five-storey buildings. Instead of complementing this context, the design of the Pole is too piecemeal and opportunistic, concerned only with land which the developer owns rather than a holistic approach over the whole area. The area around Paddington station is sensitive and deserves better. For example its proximity to the Royal Parks and the canal network has been poorly worked out. This, along with its close proximity to a protected residential area with listed buildings, seems to have been completely ignored.
Any development needs to be part of an overall vision for Paddington which clearly this proposal is not, and subsequently sticks out like a sore thumb. Indeed over the years much master-planning work has been undertaken for Paddington station and its immediate surroundings but the application appears to make a point of not complying with this at all. Council planning policy is clear that development should primarily consist of “medium height large floorplate buildings in keeping with the larger buildings in the surrounding townscape” (Policy S3 Paddington Opportunity Area). It does not that there is scope for a “landmark” tall building, which is seen as an exception; this exception is the permitted Merchant Square scheme takes this place, and therefore the Paddington Pole should be refused.
Light pollution and shadow
Local residents have raised concern that the proposal would cause light pollution and a shadow across the whole of West London and in particular neighbourhoods like Bayswater and Maida Vale. An environmental impact study must address the impact of both the light and shadow caused to local neighbourhoods. If the developer’s other tower in London, the Shard in London Bridge, is anything to go by its lighting will be on all night even when it’s largely empty – overall it consumes the same amount of energy as the whole of Colchester. These are very real impacts, ones of which require serious consideration and the application does not address these concerns.
Transport connectivity and open spaces
Since the Westway was pushed through Paddington in the 1960’s, it has not had a centre to speak off. Furthermore today it has not sufficient space for the huge demands made on it as a location, particularly with the mass of tourists passing through the railway station increasing exponentially. So transport connectivity and public space concerns are critical. The development fails to integrate with the transport interchange. The convergence of commuter rail lines, several tube lines, Crossrail and links to Heathrow offer an opportunity which is not grasped by this proposal. The development should exploit this transport connectivity by extending the concourse of Paddington station, but the Paddington Pole does not. In this respect it does not compare well against previous proposals which have include a public square that increases the existing stations concourse by some 40 per cent.
This is London’s western gateway and we need to put the heart back into Paddington, so a comprehensive vision is required. This empty monument to luxury market speculation in the middle of Paddington just won’t do. I urge the Council to refuse this proposal and go back to the previous understanding of a medium rise development, therefore acquiring more residential and commercial space, transport connectivity and public realm than the 72 storey pole could ever get.
Paddington and the rest of West London deserves much better. “
Terry Farrell made his objections in a letter posted on the planning website for Westminster City Council. In the letter he wrote: “I have been a local resident for 15 years and have had my office here at the same local address for over 30 years. I feel passionately about improving our local mainline station and its environment in a much more comprehensive way than is shown in these proposals.”
Dixon Jones co-founder Ed Jones said the building would cause “substantial harm” to its immediate surroundings, branding it a “blight” and adding: “The building, if permitted, will become a precedent for further inappropriate tall buildings in the area.”
“The type of expensive flats in the tower are not needed in this area and the owners and occupiers will contribute little to the local economy.”
He dismissed a planned shopping mall as “unnecessary” and complained the developers behind the project were attempting to speed up a decision – an accusation made by Historic England who said the scheme is at risk of being rushed through planning while Boris Johnson is still mayor before he steps down this May.
Jones said: “There is a distinct lack of due process and public faith in the manner in which this is being rushed through with inadequate exposure, discussion and debate. This is a major scheme of wider than local significance.”
And he said if the scheme were allowed, it would be another example of London’s skyline being ruined by “the indiscriminate imposition of tall buildings” and that the capital was “being mistaken for Manhattan. This is not to say that tall buildings should be excluded but rather that London should have a policy of where to put them.”