Renzo Piano’s controversial £775 million Paddington Cube is facing a second High Court challenge – this time over its impact on emergency service access to St Mary’s Hospital
Last week the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust lodged an application for permission to bring a claim for judicial review to quash Westminster City Council’s final planning approval (dated 14 August 2017) for the 54m x 54m x 54m office block.
The move comes hot on the heels of a separate challenge by SAVE Britain’s Heritage. Last month SAVE won the go-ahead for a judicial review of communities secretary Sajid Javid’s decision not to call in the plans. Piano’s proposal would see a 110-year-old former Royal Mail sorting office flattened.
The healthcare trust claims the contentious scheme – a successor to the doomed 72-storey Paddington Pole skyscraper – would adversely affect the ‘safe and efficient operation’ of the St Mary’s Hospital next door.
According to court documents seen by the AJ, the Sellar Property Group-backed development would compromise ‘the operational efficiency’ of the hospital’, which is one of London’s four major trauma centres and the only major public hospital in Westminster.
The trust’s main concern is about the creation of an access road as part of the new development and the ‘introduction of two 90-degree bends’ on the route.
The hospital’s transport adviser AECOM claimed the proposals were ‘inferior to those existing’ and that the ‘shortcomings were of grave concern and could risk the long-term future of the hospital by impacting on its ability to maintain its major trauma centre status and its accident and emergency service’.
AECOM’s review of the plans highlighted issues over visibility for ambulance drivers, potential delays and congestion and an increased risk of collisions.
The trust claims that these concerns, which are shared by the London Ambulance Service, have not been accurately reported or addressed and that the council’s report to the members of the planning committee was misleading.
The basis of the judicial review focuses on the perceived ’failure properly to consider the [the trust’s] objections or the acceptability’ of the new road and that the council had acted irrationally by granting planning pemission for the development ’on the basis of the defective provisions contained in the s106 Agreement’ which fixed the exact route.
Paul Dimoldenberg, a Labour business, planning and public realm spokesperson, said: ‘If the Paddington Cube goes ahead, ambulances heading for St Mary’s Hospital could be delayed with life-threatening consequences for patients.
‘Westminster Council has been negligent giving planning permission to a development which will endanger the lives of hospital patients at St Mary’s.’
A spokesperson at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said: ’We have been continuing to engage with the Council to seek amendments to the section 106 agreement to address our safety concerns.
’But, as the deadline for applying to make a formal legal challenge was Monday 25 September, we felt there was no alternative but to make an application in order to keep all options open. We are still hopeful that we can achieve amendments that address our safety concerns without further legal action.’
The Sellar Property Group and project partner Great Western Developments (GWD) have been approached for comment.
Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage
This separate legal action brought by the NHS Trust shows that there are fundamental issues with the planning permission for the Paddington Cube and the way it was dealt with by Westminster’s planning committee. This re-enforces SAVE’s call for a public inquiry where the proposals would be subject to robust, independent scrutiny.
We continue to believe the Paddington Cube raises alarming issues about Conservation Area protection and decisions taken at local and national level and we await the hearing of our claim for judicial review at the High Court on 1 November.
Daniel Astaire, cabinet member for planning and public realm at Westminster City Council
Safety is of paramount importance in all of the council’s planning decisions. The developer has also given the hospital the option of funding, at the developer’s own cost, the hospital’s own preferred new road.
The City Council, Transport for London, the Mayor for London and The Department for Communities and Local Government have considered all the issues raised but having undertaken transport surveys and assessments do not agree with the hospital’s stance on this matter. We await the outcome of the court proceedings.
A spokesman for developer Sellar Paddington Limited
The access road that forms part of the consented development has been recognised by all public transport authorities, including Westminster City Council’s traffic team, Transport for London, the Mayor’s office and independent consultants, as safe. It will be built to adoptable standards and will be the same width as Praed Street.
Furthermore the new access road is a vast improvement on the existing “blue light” route that utilises London Street which forms part of an incredibly busy traffic and pedestrian junction by the side of Paddington Station, a junction that will become even busier when Cross Rail completes in a little over a year’s time.
This current ‘blue light’ access route to St Mary’s A&E is a disaster as ambulances travelling virtually the full length of the extremely congested Praed Street from Edgware Road already struggle to reach the hospital in good time.
Our route will take a majority of the blue light traffic away from the Praed Street/London Street junction. We believe our new access road along the eastern side the development will be a safer and more efficient route.
By acting as a catalyst for further investment in this part of Paddington we believe our consented development will greatly assist St Mary’s in its long term goal of creating a 21st Century world class medical campus on its site and we look forward to working with the Trust in helping it achieve that objective.