Historic England is urging Westminster City Council to seek a reduction in the height of a proposed 18-storey tower in Paddington designed by Allies and Morrison
The practice is seeking planning approval for its design for the British Land-backed Five Kingdom Street, the final stage of the masterplan for Paddington Central.
The council granted reserved matters permission for a 13-storey building on the site in 2010.
However, a new proposal features an 18-storey office building, along with business, retail, leisure, community and cultural space, including a 250-seat auditorium within the former ‘Crossrail Box’ three floors below Kingdom Street (The Box).
Other elements of the mixed-use development include new outdoor terraces adjacent to the railway at basement level, and a new pedestrian and cycle link between Harrow Road and Kingdom Street.
Historic England is urging the council ‘to seek a reduction in the height of the proposal so that it is closer in height to the earlier scheme’.
In a letter to the authority, Matthew Cooper, Inspector of Historic Buildings and Areas at Historic England, said the heritage body had recommended a reduction in height in pre-application advice to British Land so as ‘to mitigate against harmful impacts to the significance derived through the setting of Kensington Gardens […] and a range of other designated heritage assets’.
Historic England is particularly concerned about the relationship between the proposed development and Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park, both Grade I-registered parks.
Hyde Park ward councillors Antonia Cox, Ian Adams and Heather Acton also object to the proposed increase in height, saying the block will be a ‘dominant presence at close quarters’.
‘The building will appear as a significant and tall one, clearly rising above the tree line in the otherwise broadly unspoilt view from the Serpentine Bridge,’ they said in a joint comment on the application.
Since acquiring Paddington Central in 2013, British Land has invested nearly £100 million in the campus, including completing Four Kingdom Street, another office building designed by Allies and Morrison, in 2017.
In the planning statement for the new design for Five Kingdom Street, British Land said that the extant permission was ‘a product of its time architecturally’ and did not allow for the new pedestrian and cycle link or space within The Box.
It also said that the earlier permission pre-dated the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and so would have delivered £1.3 million in Section 106 contributions to Westminster, rather than potentially more than £22 million of mayoral Westminster CIL with the new scheme.
In a joint statement to the AJ, British Land and Allies and Morrison said the planning application for Five Kingdom Street ‘followed one of the most extensive and wide-reaching community consultations British Land has ever carried out for a single development’.
They added that the responses influenced the design, including the inclusion of the new pedestrian and cycle link to reconnect north and south Westminster, currently separated by the Westway.
‘The mixed-use building will provide an eco-system of employment spaces that meet a range of occupational needs from highly flexible low-cost work space for local start-ups, growing scale-ups and space for established global businesses,’ the statement added.
‘In The Box we have committed to providing dedicated space for community and educational spaces as well as the potential for leisure, culture and food and beverage offers.
‘We believe this vibrant combination of uses will provide strong benefit to local people and make Paddington Central a truly mixed-used destination appealing to a broad range of visitors at different times of the day and week.’
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