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Farrell protests over Piano's Paddington Pole

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Leading architect and masterplanner writes to Westminster Council calling 254m proposed skyscraper plan ‘opportunistic’ and ‘piecemeal’

Terry Farrell has attacked Renzo Piano’s proposed Paddington Pole skyscraper as an ‘opportunistic’ and ‘piecemeal’ scheme which fails to make the most of a significant opportunity for regeneration in the area.

In a strongly worded 1,500 word letter to planning authority Westminster Council commenting on the wider scheme, officially known as Paddington Place, Farrell said he had supported Piano’s Shard at London Bridge but said the 70 storey tower planned at Paddington was a ‘much more sensitive site’, given the proximity of Royal Parks, listed buildings and residential conservation areas.

Farrell, who previously acted for the scheme’s developer Sellar Property Group in masterplanning the area around Paddington Station, said there was a ‘real need for a comprehensive wider scheme that doesn’t miss this opportunity to make a greater substantial difference’ adding that his firm had produced a detailed plan which would achieve this.

In the letter, sent last Friday (8 January) to case officer Sarah Whitnall, he wrote: ‘I have been a local resident for 15 years and have had my office here at the same local address for 30 years. I feel passionate about improving our local mainline station and its environment in a much more comprehensive way than is shown in these proposals.’

Farrell added that Paddington was ‘one of the few remaining mainline stations without a comprehensive plan’, adding: ‘In particular, our scheme and feasibility studies established that a viable scheme of medium rise (maximum 18 storeys, 55 metres) would be achieved for these developers with far more development area than the super tower’ and provided a chart demonstrating his calculations.

The architect, who has designed several tall buildings including the tallest in China by a British architect at Shenzen, argued that the ‘first route’ for the local authority should be to explore a lower-rise answer.

‘I feel particularly strongly as a local resident…as well as professionally. I have always been committed to thoughtful urban design and planning as the basis for good architecture, which this planning application is not,’ he concluded.

Meanwhile, an online petition against the proposals has attracted more than 1,000 signatures. In addition, Westminster Council has also received more than 280 comments on the application, the vast majority of them hostile.

Architect Barbara Weiss, co-founder of the Skyline Campaign which posted the petition, said: ’This application goes against the council’s own planning policy, which only allows for one tall building, and that has already been granted elsewhere [Robin Partington Architects’ Merchant Square scheme].

’The feeling is there must have some sort of deal done between the developer and Westminster – otherwise they wouldn’t waste so much money submitting the application.’

Weiss also criticised a separate application by Squire and Partners, which has submitted plans for a 38 storey tower just to the north of Paddington Basin on behalf of Berkeley Homes.

Historic England has claimed the 254m Paddington Pole, would have a ‘seriously detrimental impact’ on the surrounding historic built environment while Weiss previously predicted that it could usher in a raft of similar new towers across the capital (AJ 10.12.15).

The joint venture developing the huge mixed-use scheme - Sellar Property Group with Great Western Developments, a subsidiary of Singaporean company Hotel Properties - has said the redevelopment of the former Royal Mail sorting office at 31 London Street would ‘dramatically transform’ the area, delivering more than ’an acre of new public realm’ next to the station, a sky garden and 5,000m² of ’high-quality retail and leisure space’ in Praed Street.

A spokesperson for Sellar Property Group on behalf of Great Western Developments said:Sir Terry Farrell’s firm worked with Sellar Property Group for two years on various master planned scheme concepts for the Paddington area, however, there is no comparison between the deliverable proposals that we have brought forward for 31 London Street and the work which he carried out.

’A fundamental driver of our proposed scheme is a comprehensive upgrade to the transport hub at Paddington station in preparation for the arrival of Crossrail at the end of 2018, which the submitted scheme will enable.

’Sir Terry Farrell’s proposal, which was premised on a much larger redevelopment area within Paddington, was not economically viable, nor could it have been delivered within this timescale.

’Following its purchase of the site, Great Western Developments, in conjunction with Sellar, undertook a review of architectural options and it was decided not to pursue the Farrells proposals. Renzo Piano Building Workshop was instead appointed to deliver a master plan that enables £1 billion of private investment into the area including transport infrastructure and new public amenities. As such, the two schemes cannot be compared on a like-for-like basis.’

The Paddington Place scheme include 691 homes, plus offices, shops and leisure space including a cinema. The scheme is set to go before the council’s March planning applications committee.

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