I have the following objections to the revised Travis Perkins/Unite Students proposals, as follows:
Gross Overdevelopment of the site
The defining feature of the Paddington Basin area is the Canal and the development of new buildings along the Canal should respect this clear and defining context.
The only justification put forward by the Applicants for a building of 20 storeys is that there are already buildings of that size in the close vicinity. The Applicants cite buildings of around 20 storeys in evidence in their favour, rather than the more important and much lower Sheldon Square residential buildings immediately opposite the Baltic Wharf site.
In addition, the Applicants make much of the need for additional student accommodation, but they make no compelling justification for 768 student rooms.
The proposed ‘stepped’ 6–20 storey proposal is a contrived design which inherently admits that it is inappropriate for such an important and sensitive site. The sheer wall at the 20-storey end looks particularly out of scale.
In short, the proposed building is far too massive and far too tall. It is the wrong building in the wrong place.
Out of scale with the low-rise residential Little Venice section of the Canal
The proposed 20 storey building would ruin the current pleasant Little Venice section of the Canal environment which is characterised by a collection of modern low and mid-rise developments.
This lower-rise section of the Canal is clearly apparent from the Bishops Bridge Road bridge which creates a strong divide between the low-rise part of the canal at Little Venice and the taller office buildings (such as the Brunel building) associated with the Paddington Station area. In this respect, the high-rise Brunel Building should be the last 20+ storey building at the west end of the Canal.
Creating an overbearing ‘Canyon’ effect
Because of the proposed gross overdevelopment of the Travis Perkins site, the resulting development would create an overbearing and depressing ‘Canyon’ along this part of the Canal. The canal side walkways, cafes and bars would become less enjoyable to visit. The moored barges would be dwarfed and totally overwhelmed by the towering 20 storey building.
The Applicants have already admitted that the lower residential floors of the Sheldon Square buildings would be detrimentally impacted by their proposals. The Applicants claim that these detrimental impacts on residents should be accepted because of the wider ‘regeneration benefits’.
Why should Sheldon Square residents have to bear the brunt of the damaging impacts when they get none of the ‘benefits’? Moreover, these detrimental impacts go beyond the loss of residential amenity and will affect existing Canal side Sheldon Square businesses, as well as Canal walkway visitors.
The wrong use for the site
While there is support for the retention of Travis Perkins, no justification is made for the proposed major student accommodation development, beyond the general need for London. Moreover, there is no certainty that the predicted need for more student accommodation will materialise. There are serious questions about whether overseas students will still want to travel to the UK for their degrees, whether the government will reduce funding higher education, and whether online learning will encourage more students to save money and stay at home.
There may well turn out to be a need for additional student accommodation in London, but the overwhelming residential need in Westminster is for more homes for those who need to rent of buy a home locally. The site could provide the opportunity for more homes and it is of real surprise that this opportunity is not being taken.
So in summary l have four objections to the revised Travis Perkins/Unite Students proposals, as follows:
- It is a gross overdevelopment of the site
- It is out of scale with the low-rise residential Little Venice section of the Canal
- The proposals will create an overbearing ‘Canyon’ effect
- It is the wrong use for the site
I urge Westminster City Council’s Planning Committee to refuse planning permission for the revised proposals.
Please write in your objections to the above revised planning application at www.westminster.gov.uk/planning on the application reference 21/04536/FULL