The battle over Studio Egret West’s 32-storey Chiswick Curve in west London will go before a planning appeal inquiry starting today (12 June)
Developer Starbones is appealing against the London Borough of Hounslow’s decision to refuse the scheme in January last year.
Planning and design experts will be lined up for both sides at the inquiry and have submitted radically differing views on the merits of the scheme, which would provide up to 327 homes and 5,882m² of office space at the site next to Chiswick Roundabout.
In written evidence to the inquiry, submitted on behalf of the council, Philip Grover, director of planning consultancy Grover Lewis, said: ‘[I am] of the view that by virtue of its location, scale and design, the appeal proposal would cause harm to a range of designated heritage assets including the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew World Heritage Site, the Grade II*-listed registered Gunnersbury, a number of conservation areas and individual listed buildings within them through harm to their settings.’
In a letter sent in April to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Mechtild Rössler, director of UNESCO’s Division for Heritage and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, welcomed the council’s decision to refuse the proposals.
Rössler said: ‘I note that the impact of the proposal on the property’s heritage values was measured carefully and that it took into consideration the adverse effect of the proposal to the World Heritage property and to the significance of the Kew Green.’
And, while evidence submitted to the inquiry by Historic England concluded that the level of harm caused to Kew Gardens would be ‘less than substantial’, the heritage organisation warned there would be substantial harm to the nearby Kew Green and Strand on the Green conservation areas.
In her evidence, Barbara Weiss, co-founder of the anti-high-rise Skyline Campaign and an objector to Studio Egret West’s scheme, said: ‘It would be a real tragedy if this area of London became yet another Nine Elms, Greenwich or Tower Hamlets.
’Even one new super-tall building could make redemption impossible’
‘We must analyse what has gone wrong, and design better and longer-lasting urban and architectural solutions. Even just one new super-tall building such as the Curve could make redemption impossible.’
Ew1602 pp chiswick updates illustrative driving on m4
Source: Studio Egret West
However, writing on behalf of the developer in support of the scheme, architecture and heritage consultant Richard Coleman said that the council’s refusal was due to a misunderstanding of the legal position in relation to ‘substantial harm’.
He also said the proposal was ‘demonstrably of the highest architectural design quality, has been so designed taking account of its visibility from all significant receptors and would not cause harm to the character of the wider area around the site or the skyline, as a result of the care which has been taken in its design’.
Defending his scheme in a lengthy written submission in advance of the inquiry, Studio Egret West founding director Christophe Egret said: ‘I strongly believe that the proposed development is a design driven by the local and wider context, of the highest quality for a deserving location, and considers the settings of local conservation areas, Kew WHS and other designated and non-designed heritage assets.
‘It will also contribute to significant public benefits in terms of affordable and private homes, employment space, active ground floor uses and a high-quality public realm.’
Original developer London & Bath worked on numerous schemes for the plot, including a 26-storey office tower known as the Pinnacle by LOM Architecture and Design, which was withdrawn in 2000 after being called in by the secretary of state. The Citadel, a 13-storey commercial development by the same practice was finally approved in 2008, but although construction work started, the project later ground to a halt.
In 2011, Make Architects won planning permission for the so-called Chiswick Octopus, a 50m-tall ‘part building, part sculpture’ cloaked in an LED shroud, but these plans were later scrapped.
The current inquiry will continue until 29 June, after which communities secretary James Brokenshire will consider the inspector’s report and make a final decision.
Location Land at Chiswick Roundabout, Great West Road, Chiswick, W4
Type of project Mixed-use
Architect Studio Egret West
Landscape architect Studio Egret West
Planning consultant DP9
M&E consultant XCO2 Energy
Quantity surveyor RLB
Gross internal floor area 40,445m²