Westbourne’s Labour Councillors and Karen Buck MP have spoken out about controversial plans for a 16 storey tower on the Hathaway House site on Woodfield Road. Building on long standing concerns that they have raised with the developers and the council, they have been working with local residents to identify the key concerns about the proposed scheme, calling on the council to reject the application unless it is dramatically revised. Please see the objection letters below.
Full objection by Cllr Adam Hug and Karen Buck MP on behalf of the Westbourne Ward Cllrs, Westminster Labour Group and the Member of Parliament for Westminster North (May 30th 2016)
Westbourne’s Labour Councillors (Cllr Adam Hug, Cllr David Boothroyd and Cllr Papya Qureshi) and Karen Buck MP are writing to make a further objection about the proposed plans for the redevelopment of Hathaway House on Woodfield Road. Building on the initial objection submitted on our behalf by Cllr David Boothroyd in April and following past discussions with the developer and the council, there are a number of concerns about the scheme that have not been addressed and mean that we do not believe the planned scheme should proceed.
At its heart, the ward councillors believe the currently proposed scheme is too tall for the area in which it is proposed, that the current scheme does not deliver enough or the right mix of affordable housing and could undermine residential and environmental amenity.
At 16 stories high (G+15) this proposal is dramatically higher than the surrounding area. While the north of the site on Woodfield Road would be slightly higher and bulkier than the surrounding properties and the tower would dominate the local skyline, potentially blocking light to the neighbouring Athlone House care home and reducing the residential amenity for people living in Grand Union Close and other lower rise housing and offices on Woodfield Road, including the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) and new development of the Harrow Road police station. The developers’ contention that the presence of towers on Alfred Road/Torquay Street and the Trellick Tower in Kensington should facilitate this development shows a fundamental lack of understanding about the local geography with both examples a significant walk from the Hathaway House site. As Cllr Boothroyd has also pointed out previously, Council policy DES 3 and its stated approach to planning are not to take precedence from the other tall buildings in the (much wider) area as the applicant currently seeks to do. If the scheme was to receive planning permission it should be revised to reduce the height of the tower significantly, potentially providing the space elsewhere on the site.
While it is welcome that the scheme proposes to build the affordable housing on site, at 19% by unit type (15 properties) the proposed development falls far short of the Council’s already low affordable housing targets (35% in sites outside of the Central Activity Zone such as Woodfield Road, and 30% overall). Westminster Labour cannot support a scheme that does not deliver at least a policy compliant level of affordable housing. The proposed rent levels and size mix are also not to be supported. We would want to see an affordable component that includes a significant provision of social housing to help tackle Westminster’s chronic waiting lists and overcrowding problems, and ensured that any intermediate housing products are both for rent and are genuinely affordable to households earning below £40k per year, the demand for which has been identified in the council’s draft Housing Strategy. The size mix of the affordable housing should also include at least some 3 bed family units.
The provision of office space may potentially add some benefits in terms of supporting local food and drink outlets. However as the scheme plans to use the new office space to replace the existing CNWL offices in central London this is not directly creating new jobs, beyond potential cleaning and security jobs that are not restricted to the proposed use of the space. Any new offices should include a significant proportion of the floor space to be used by local small businesses and startups to provide new jobs and opportunities for local people.
A number of local residents have passionately made the case that by proposing to build on the car park area it removes the only potential site for accessible public, and potentially green, space on the north side of the canal between Little Venice and the Ha’Penny Steps. We support residents’ desire for part of this scheme to be used for public access green space, a garden only accessible to residents and users of the new development would not meet public need.
Woodfield Road also experiences a high level of traffic as it forms cut through going from Harrow Road south to Great Western Road. Therefore we would ask the Council to reconsider the requirement for parking provision for 64 parking spaces, looking to reduce this number, potentially making the residential scheme car free given the proximity to public transport routes. The local area is experiencing a wave of redevelopment, further adding to the pressures on Woodfield Road, any building traffic would need to be carefully and strictly managed if the scheme was to proceed. The canal itself could be explored as a potential alternative route for the provision of building materials to/removal of spoil from the site.
At a strategic level the scheme has the potential to prejudice the slowly emerging Harrow Road Management Plan that would seek to place this site within a more cohesive and integrated planning framework for the area. There is a strong case to delay any development on this site so that any new buildings meet the wider objectives of local residents and the council that will be identified over the coming months.
For all these reasons identified the Westbourne ward councillors, Westminster Labour Group and Karen Buck MP call for the rejection of these current plans for the redevelopment of Hathaway House.
Initial objection by Cllr David Boothroyd on behalf of Westbourne Ward Cllrs from 24th April 2016
Ward councillors welcome redevelopment of Hathaway House in principle. The site is underused, and the existing buildings are close to being eyesores. We accept that they are at the end of their lifespan.
We accept the principle that this site should be a mixed use development. It is currently an employment site and we would like to keep an employment use there. In the event that CNWL do not wish to take up the space designed for them, it would be preferable to see something for small businesses and startups.
However we feel that the tower as designed relates poorly to the townscape. There has been a palpable shift in the public mood against taller buildings, especially point blocks. The applicant seeks to justify the height by reference to other tall buildings but this approach is contrary to policy DES 3 which states that other tall buildings in the area are not a justification.
The northern part of the building appears somewhat bulky in the streetscape context. It means that the development as a whole has a harmful effect on light to Athlone House care home. It would have been a good move to provide some green space and public access to the canal.
While providing housing on the site is acceptable, the density as proposed is clearly on the high side in this area and possibly excessive.
The affordable proportion proposed is too low. It is particularly disappointing that all of the affordable element is in the form of intermediate housing. If this is so then it would be better to have some larger affordable flats. Any intermediate housing must be intermediate rent because intermediate sale doesn’t work in Westminster. Intermediate rent barely works so it is essential to stick to rent levels indicated by the Head of Affordable and Private Sector Housing.