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Anger at Paddington demolition

Conservationists have reacted with horror to Westminster council's decision that it is minded to support Grimshaw's plans to demolish one of Paddington Station's celebrated sheds.

Both English Heritage and SAVE Britain's Heritage have called for a new design that retains the historic fourth arch.

SAVE's director Adam Wilkinson said the existing scheme would represent the 'biggest and most important demolition of a Grade I building since the current planning system began'.

The designs, if allowed to go ahead, would see the modernisation of the station and its concourses, and the construction of a massive mixed-use development overhead.

The scheme requires that the fourth span is knocked down.

The client, Network Rail, justified the move by arguing that it was not part of the original Brunel building, as it was added in 1913-15.

However, Pevsner praised the addition, describing it as 'sensitive', and said it was almost impossible to tell from the original three spans.

Wilkinson said he was astonished that the council was on the verge of supporting the project.

'Like all historic buildings, the fourth span is a precious part of a finite asset, and it is a powerful reminder of the work, industry and the way of life of earlier generations.

'It is also an asset in terms of embodied energy and so its demolition would be a great waste in terms of materials and labour, 'Wilkinson added.

'In the long term, the loss of this part of the station would be greatly regretted'.

English Heritage, although a little more muted in its criticism, agreed, saying it was disappointed with Westminster's decision to approve a 'speculative office development that requires the demolition of the structure'.

'We hope to liaise with Network Rail on the options for providing significant benefits for the operation of the station while retaining the elegant structure of the fourth span, ' a statement said.

A spokeswoman for Network Rail said the situation was finely balanced. 'It is difficult for us to comment before English Heritage makes an official decision, ' she said. 'We understand EH's concerns and that its job is to protect the country's architectural heritage.

'However, we believe the quality of the design and its future contribution to the station will hold sway.'

Grimshaw refused to comment on the decision.

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