Westminster City Council planning committee has unanimously refused plans designed by Allies and Morrison for an 18-storey tower in Paddington
A report prepared by the London authority’s planning officers ahead of last night’s meeting (7 January) claimed the height, size and design of the British Land-backed Five Kingdom Street scheme would harm the ’character and appearance of this part of the city’.
The officers had also warned that the development – the final stage of the masterplan for Paddington Central – could also result in loss of light to properties in Westbourne Terrace Road and Warwick Crescent.
The report was critical, too, of the design of the twisting terracotta-clad block, describing it as ’very challenging’ and adding that its ‘assertiveness’ and ‘scale’ were ‘unsuccessful’ (see longer extract below and attached report).
Historic England had been among the objectors to the 119m-tall office tower and had called for a reduction in height ’to mitigate the harmful impact to the significance of a range of designated heritage assets’.
Speaking after the meeting, councillor Robert Rigby who chaired last night’s planning committee, said: ’We understand the demand to create more space for businesses in the city to thrive but developers need to consider the impact their plans have on the surrounding area.
Developers need to consider the impact their plans have on the surrounding area
’The committee followed officer recommendations and took the decision to reject this application on grounds of design, citing concerns from local residents that the proposed development would harm the character and appearance of the area and restrict light to homes nearby.’
Project backer British Land said it was ‘disappointed’ with Westminster’s decision but would not confirm whether it would now appeal or go back to the drawing board.
A spokesperson said: ’We believe the scheme would deliver much-needed workspace, capitalising on the significant recent investment in Paddington, as well as providing many direct benefits to Westminster and its residents through a mix of employment, leisure, cultural and community uses. We will now consider our options.’
The heritage watchdog said that, as well as being visible ‘from some distance’ including from ‘areas of high significance such as Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens’ its ’very different built form’ would result in a harmful clash of character and appearance with the historic townscape.
The rejected tower is taller than a previously consented scheme for the plot also designed by Allies and Morrison – a reserved matters permission for a 13-storey building on the site in 2010.
Since buying Paddington Central in 2013, British Land has invested nearly £100 million in the wider campus, including completing Four Kingdom Street, an office building also designed by Allies and Morrison, in 2017.
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Extract from planning officers’ report (prepared for 7 January committee meeting)
In many respects it could be argued that the design of the new building has met the project brief, the defined base/podium which extends to a wider footprint is successful and reflects the differing uses to the development.
In terms of the detailed design of the main building, elements such as the multi-faceted plan; dynamic treatment to the façades; and the tonal variation created by the terracotta and the contrasting reveal, are all features which deliver in terms of creating a building with a landmark quality.
So, too, the introduction of a warm-coloured terracotta, as a point of difference from the cold blue/grey of much of Paddington Central has merit. It is evident that considerable attention has been paid to the building’s architecture and unquestionably a dynamic and landmark quality has been the result.
Its assertiveness allied to the scale is unsuccessful
However, the ambitions of the design and the landmark qualities that are the result, are not reconciled with the wider townscape impacts and therein lies the fundamental design concern with the proposal.
The building is very large, both in terms of height and bulk, it has also been designed to be eye-catching and distinct and the result, not surprisingly, is the introduction of a very assertive and discordant new building, visible from long distances, sharply contrasting with surrounding townscape and affecting the setting of numerous designated heritage assets.
The architecture, were it associated with a building of more comfortable height and scale, would probably be seen in a different light, but its assertiveness allied to the scale, is unsuccessful.
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