Westminster City Council’s planning officers have recommended refusal for a proposed 18-storey tower in Paddington designed by Allies and Morrison
A report prepared for this Tuesday’s planning committee (7 January) claims the height, size and design of the British Land-backed Five Kingdom Street scheme would harm the ’character and appearance of this part of the city’.
In their conclusions, the officers warned that the development – the final stage of the masterplan for Paddington Central – could also result in the loss of light to properties in Westbourne Terrace Road and Warwick Crescent.
The report is critical, too, of the design of the twisting terracotta-clad block, describing it as ’very challenging’ and adding that its ‘assertiveness’ and ‘scale’ were ‘unsuccessful’ (see longer extract below and attached report).
Among the 61 objectors to the scheme is Historic England, which also called for a reduction in height ’to mitigate the harmful impact to the significance of a range of designated heritage assets’.
The heritage watchdog said that, as well as being visible ‘for some distance’ including from ‘areas of high significance such as Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens’ its ’very different built form’ would result in a ’harmful clash of character and appearance’ with the historic townscape.
The current proposal is taller than a previously consented scheme for the plot also designed by Allies and Morrison – a reserved matters permission for a 13-storey building on the site in 2010.
The new 119m-tall office tower, if approved, would also include 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 next to the Westway include new outdoor terraces at basement level, and a new pedestrian and cycle link between Harrow Road and Kingdom Street.
Since buying 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 earlier 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 predated 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 an earlier 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.’
The design team refused to comment on the officers’ recommendation to refuse.
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Extract from planning officers’ report (prepared for 7 January committee meeting)
In many respects it could be argued that the design of the new building has met the project brief, the defined base/podium which extends to a wider footprint is successful and reflects the differing uses to the development.
In terms of the detailed design of the main building, elements such as the multi-faceted plan; dynamic treatment to the façades; and the tonal variation created by the terracotta and the contrasting reveal, are all features which deliver in terms of creating a building with a landmark quality.
So too the introduction of a warm coloured terracotta, as a point of difference from the cold blue/grey of much of Paddington Central has merit. It is evident that considerable attention has been paid to the building’s architecture and unquestionably a dynamic and landmark quality has been the result.
Its assertiveness allied to the scale is unsuccessful
However, the ambitions of the design and the landmark qualities that are the result, are not reconciled with the wider townscape impacts and therein lies the fundamental design concern with the proposal.
The building is very large, both in terms of height and bulk, it has also been designed to be eye-catching and distinct and the result, not surprisingly, is the introduction of a very assertive and discordant new building, visible from long distances, sharply contrasting with surrounding townscape and affecting the setting of numerous designated heritage assets.
The architecture, were it associated with a building of more comfortable height and scale, would probably be seen in a different light, but its assertiveness allied to the scale, is unsuccessful.
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