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Studio Egret West loses Chiswick Curve appeal

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The communities secretary has overruled a planning inspector to refuse consent for Studio Egret West’s 32-storey Chiswick Curve in west London

James Brokenshire rejected the appeal by developer Starbones, a subsidiary of Galliard Homes, against Hounslow Council’s 2017 decision to throw out the 327-home scheme.

Councillors had ruled that Studio Egret West’s proposals would harm heritage assets including the Royal Botanic Kew Gardens World Heritage Site.

Planning inspector Paul Griffiths urged Brokenshire to overturn the local authority’s refusal, insisting that the ‘extensive public benefits’ of the proposal for the 0.28ha site next to Chiswick roundabout would outweigh any negatives. 

But the minister disagreed, saying the planning balance was ‘not favourable’.

‘Overall, the secretary of state disagrees with the inspector and finds that the moderate weight to be attached to the benefits of the appeal scheme in terms of housing provision, workspace provision and economic benefits are not collectively sufficient to outweigh the great weight attached to the identified less-than-substantial harm to the significance of heritage assets,’ said a decision letter.

The minister and planning inspector clashed over design quality.

Griffiths described Studio Egret West’s proposals as ‘a very attractive proposition’ and ‘a quite brilliant response to the difficult problems presented by the immediate context of the site’ – but Brokenshire challenged these descriptions.

‘He does not find the proposal to be of such high quality as to be a brilliant response to its immediate context,’ said the decision letter. ‘He finds the scale and massing of the proposal to be such that the proposal does not relate to its immediate surrounding.

‘He considers the design to be a thoughtful attempt to respond to the challenges and opportunities of the site but, due to its scale, he disagrees with the inspector that it is a significant benefit of the scheme.’

Barbara Weiss, co-founder of the anti-high-rise Skyline Campaign, said she was ‘delighted’ Brokenshire had rejected the plans.

’This building would have been seen from Kew Gardens and many other wonderful London greens,’ she said. ‘It would have stuck out like a sore thumb.

‘I have 30 years of experience of residential design behind me and this scheme was not of exceptional enough quality to justify harm to the heritage assets.’

Weiss said Brokenshire’s refusal of Studio Egret West’s proposals and London mayor Sadiq Khan’s rejection of Foster + Partners’ Tulip tower had left her ’smiling ever since’. 

’These are two of the most extreme building suggestions in recent years from a design perspective,’ she said. ‘At Skyline we believe many planning approvals are undermining London’s DNA – but for every victory I am grateful.’ 

Historic England also backed Brokenshire’s decision.

Regional director Emily Gee said: ’This building would have had a serious impact on areas in West London whose historic character has remained largely untouched for centuries.

’The very tall building would have loomed into views and dominated precious historic places such as Kew World Heritage Site. Some views, such as of Kew Green and Strand on the Green, were captured by painters like Turner, and would have been harmed by a building that was alien to the historic, architectural and cultural interest of these special places that are so important to London.’

But Galliard Homes said it was ‘very disappointed’ by the decision to reject its scheme. ’We are reviewing the detail of the decision and considering the next appropriate action,’ said a spokesperson.

The 40,445m² Chiswick Curve – which would also include office and retail space – is the latest in a series of unrealised and rejected plans for the site next to the M4 over the last couple of decades.

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.

A 13-storey commercial development by the same practice, titled The Citadel, 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. These plans were later scrapped.

Studio Egret West declined to comment on the decision to reject the appeal.

Project data

Location Land at Chiswick Roundabout, Great West Road, Chiswick, W4
Type of project Mixed-use
Client Starbones
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

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