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Denham torpedoes Foster and HKR £500 million Ealing scheme

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Foster + Partners and HKR Architects controversial Ealing Arcadia scheme in West London has been rejected by Communities Secretary John Denham

The decision follows a public inquiry earlier this year into the high-rise £500 million project backed by developer Glenkerrin which would have created 567 homes.

The Secretary of State agreed with the planning inspector that the development of the 1.7ha plot would have had a ‘dominant and overbearing impact’ on the area and ‘seriously detract from [its] distinctiveness and identity’.

In coming to his decision, Denham said that he had taken full account of the views of CABE support for the project, which features a 26-storey tower, but went on to criticise the commission for not considering the ‘way in which the scheme would relate to its wider surroundings’. He felt that was a key design objective of PPS1 (click here for the full decision document).

The move is the latest twist in saga stretching back almost three years (see below). Originally masterminded by HKR and John Pardey, the developer decided to parachute in Foster + Partners to design a landmark tower at the centre of the scheme in 2007. Initial designs for a leaf-shaped high-rise were revised after coming in from heavy criticism from CABE.

After winning the Mayor of London’s backing earlier this year, the whole project was called in by previous Communities Secretary Hazel Blears.

Speaking to the AJ, Sean O’Gorman from Glenkerrin said: ‘We are bitterly disappointed after spending £10 million on fees and three years in a planning process.

‘We canvassed local opinion….amended the scheme on several occasions taking on board all the stakeholders reasonable comments, had as many people supporting the scheme as those apposed, obtained CABE approval for our design and masterplan, were supported by Transport for London, had a 9-1 majority vote in favour at Ealing’s planning committee [and] had the Mayor’s sign off. Yet the Secretary of State ignored all this and turned the scheme down.’

Glenkerrin has until until January 18 to launch a legal appeal against Denham’s decision.

John Denham’s conclusions in full

The Secretary of State considers that, although the application proposal is broadly in compliance with the development plan in many respects, there are significant areas of conflict, most particularly in relation to design principles and conservation. He also considers that the proposal does not fully accord with national policy in PPS1 and PPG15 in these respects. He has therefore gone on to consider whether there are material considerations of sufficient weight to overcome these.

He acknowledges that the proposed scheme would deliver a number of substantial benefits and fulfil some important objectives of development plan policy by contributing strongly to the Council’s regeneration objectives including reinforcing the status of Ealing as a Metropolitan Centre. The scheme would include, among other benefits, a landmark tower of high quality design and attractive pedestrian streets and spaces which would improve the permeability of the site. It would also deliver a significant volume of housing. Against these benefits, however, the Secretary of State considers that the bulk, massing and certain aspects of the design of the scheme would be inappropriate in its surroundings. It would fail to preserve or enhance the character and appearance of the Town Centre conservation area and the setting of the Haven Green conservation area, as well as harming the setting of the Grade II* listed Church of Christ the Saviour.

In coming to his decision, the Secretary of State has taken full account of the views of CABE in their support for the quality of the proposed buildings and streetscape improvements that the proposed scheme would deliver. However, he notes that CABE’s views did not include consideration of the way in which the scheme would relate to its wider surroundings, and he regards that as a key design objective of PPS1. He sees it as essential for the design qualities of the proposal to be considered in context, and he considers that its dominant and overbearing impact would seriously detract from the distinctiveness and identity of Ealing Town Centre and the Haven Green area.

Overall, therefore, the Secretary of State concludes that, although the scheme would comply with some specific development plan policies relating to the regeneration of Ealing Town Centre and would bring many benefits to the area, these are of insufficient weight to determine the application other than in accordance with those national and development plan policies relating to conservation and design in order to ensure that the distinctive existing character of the area is maintained.


Previous story 29.01.09

Foster and HKR’s Arcadia collaboration given go ahead

London mayor Boris Johnson has given the final thumbs up to Foster + Partners and HKR Architects’ £500m Arcadia Centre redevelopment in Ealing

The 1.7 ha scheme in West London, for developer Glenkerrin had been met with local opposition and had undergone a number of major revisions before the London borough approved the planning application last month.

The 24-storey tower at the heart of the retail-led project is the brainchild of Foster + Partners – the firm was unexpectedly parachuted on to the project in August 2007 (AJ 16.08.07) – while the six lower units have been drawn up by overall masterplanners HKR Architects.

The skyscraper was originally conceived as a 40-storey leaf-shaped structure but was significantly revised after coming in from heavy criticism from CABE last February. Meanwhile John Pardey Architects, which had collaborated on the early stages of the project to create 567 flats and 20,000m² of shops close to Ealing Broadway station, is understood to have left the scheme.

Mayor Johnson applauded the final designs, saying: ‘Urban design and architecture of this quality will make a real difference to the residents of, businesses in, and visitors to Ealing.’

David King-Smith, director and head of design at HKR added: ‘The regeneration of Ealing is long overdue and naturally we’re pleased at the outcome.’

Despite the green light, work is not expected to start on site until 2012.

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