Paddington deserves much better than the Pole


An alternative vision for Paddington from Farrells Associates

An alternative vision for Paddington from Farrells Associates

Please find below the contents of my letter of objection to the planners, which l sent in today.

I write to object to the “Paddington Tower” proposal (15/11219/FULL) for 31 London Street, W2. The proposed development represents poor urban design, will have a negative impact on light and shadow in nearby neighbourhoods, and fails to take advantage of potential transport connectivity and public spaces.

Urban design

The City of Westminster has not done a very good job managing the skyline in the past so it needs to get this one right. The designs of towers allowed previously have a negative impact on both the character of their local communities and of the skyline of London. You just have to look at the towers around the Marylebone flyover, a gateway into Central London, to appreciate the impact of getting it wrong. The four towers represent the worst architecture from the 1970’s and 1980’s with their cladding and grey finishes; each tower has been clearly dealt with separately, without oversight for the location.

Unfortunately the glass and steel formation of the Paddington Tower repeats these mistakes.  The 72 storey tower utterly fails to meet Westminster’s standards on design. It looks like a light torch. It has been christened the “Paddington Pole”, and that is not a compliment.

The failure to meet good design standards is grounds for refusal (Policy S28 Design).

The proposal fails to take into account the character and context of the surrounding area. The existing context is a neighbourhood of predominantly four- to- five-storey buildings. Instead of complementing this context, the design of the Pole is too piecemeal and opportunistic, concerned only with land which the developer owns rather than a holistic approach over the whole area. The area around Paddington station is sensitive and deserves better. For example its proximity to the Royal Parks and the canal network has been poorly worked out. This, along with its close proximity to a protected residential area with listed buildings, seems to have been completely ignored.

Any development needs to be part of an overall vision for Paddington which clearly this proposal is not, and subsequently sticks out like a sore thumb. Indeed over the years much master-planning work has been undertaken for Paddington station and its immediate surroundings but the application appears to make a point of not complying with this at all. Council planning policy is clear that development should primarily consist of “medium height large floorplate buildings in keeping with the larger buildings in the surrounding townscape” (Policy S3 Paddington Opportunity Area). It does not that there is scope for a “landmark” tall building, which is seen as an exception; this exception is the permitted Merchant Square scheme takes this place, and therefore the Paddington Pole should be refused.

Light pollution and shadow

Local residents have raised concern that the proposal would cause light pollution and a shadow across the whole of West London and in particular neighbourhoods like Bayswater and Maida Vale. An environmental impact study must address the impact of both the light and shadow caused to local neighbourhoods. If the developer’s other tower in London, the Shard in London Bridge, is anything to go by its lighting will be on all night even when it’s largely empty – overall it consumes the same amount of energy as the whole of Colchester. These are very real impacts, ones of which require serious consideration and the application does not address these concerns.

Transport connectivity and open spaces

Since the Westway was pushed through Paddington in the 1960’s, it has not had a centre to speak off. Furthermore today it has not sufficient space for the huge demands made on it as a location, particularly with the mass of tourists passing through the railway station increasing exponentially. So transport connectivity and public space concerns are critical. The development fails to integrate with the transport interchange. The convergence of commuter rail lines, several tube lines, Crossrail and links to Heathrow offer an opportunity which is not grasped by this proposal. The development should exploit this transport connectivity by extending the concourse of Paddington station, but the Paddington Pole does not.  In this respect it does not compare well against previous proposals which have include a public square that increases the existing stations concourse by some 40 per cent.

This is London’s western gateway and we need to put the heart back into Paddington, so a comprehensive vision is required.  This empty monument to luxury market speculation in the middle of Paddington just won’t do.  I urge the Council to refuse this proposal and go back to the previous understanding of a medium rise development, therefore acquiring more residential and commercial space, transport connectivity and public realm than the 72 storey pole could ever get.

Paddington and the rest of West London deserves much better.

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