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Manser hotel design too good to be extended - even by him

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RIBA past president Michael Manser has been prevented from extending his own award-winning Heathrow hotel by planners who ruled that it would devalue the original 'world-class' structure and 'detract' from its design quality.

BAA Lynton appealed against a rejected planning application to extend Manser's six-storey, 400-bedroom, Hilton Hotel building near Terminal 4 with 76 additional bedrooms and conference facilities. The extension, connected by bridge, would have cost in the region of £7 million.

But the planning inspector, A J Bingham, dismissed the appeal because it would result in the 'overdevelopment' of the 3ha site, and, in his view, would have fallen short of the design quality of the original 1990 building, which won awards from the riba and Civic Trust. Bingham said he was worried about the volume of the proposed extension and the site coverage resulting from proposed parking areas, compared with the open land around. He was also concerned that there might not be room for an acceptable landscaping scheme, although he praised the parallelogram-plan hotel which he considered 'monumental, novel and an ingenious concept'.

'Alarmingly,' said Manser, 'when the client first heard of the rejection at planning he laughed and said: 'We don't want any more listed buildings then, do we?' If a successful building is treated as unchangeable then no one's going to want one.'

Manser Associates has completed three buildings for baa, the other two being Southampton International Airport and another Heathrow vip lounge building. In a statement to the aj, baa said that the Hilton is full most of the year, has the highest occupancy in the Heathrow area and provides a direct pedestrian link to Terminal 4. The firm had been 'keen to ensure that a proposed extension complemented and improved the existing building' and for that reason had gone to Manser. Now it is looking at 'alternative options' and will be submitting altered plans to Hillingdon council. It is not clear whether Manser will be involved.

'It's now gone to an extraordinary length if they think the building's so good that not even we're good enough to alter it,' said Manser of the planners. 'It's very depressing, and even more so because it's the claustrophobic instinct of the planning system being applied to something they like.'

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