Heritage group takes Westminster bigwig to task over Paddington Cube decision

Save says council’s deputy leader had already made his mind up over Piano building

Save Britain’s Heritage has said that Westminster’s deputy leader Robert Davis should never have been allowed to take part in last week’s planning decision which gave Renzo Piano’s Paddington Cube the green light because he was biased in favour of it.

The conservation body was among a number of heritage groups to oppose the redrawn plans with Historic England and the Victorian Society also objecting to the proposal.

Announcing that it has asked communities secretary Sajid Javid to hold a public inquiry into the decision to give the scheme planning, the group accused Davis, who is also the council’s cabinet member for the built environment, of behaving in a “partisan one-sided manner to the other three committee members, disregarding significant objections”.

It added that Davis, who following the decision called Piano “one the great architects of our time”, had “previously spoken publicly in the media about his support for the scheme and Save believes this shows he had predetermined his position and should not have taken part in deciding this application”.

The group added: “The conduct of Cllr Davis and the handling of the application is also of concern and Save therefore believes a call in is necessary and justified.”

But a spokesman for the council said: “The application was determined at a public meeting of the Planning Applications Committee and in accordance with Westminster’s planning policies. The committee, as they always would, listened carefully to objectors concerns before making their decision.

“Members considered the scheme’s impact very carefully, but concluded the enormous regeneration benefits outweighed the heritage objections on this occasion.

“Significantly, there were no objections to the scheme from committee members and permission was granted subject to the formal views of the mayor of London and the completion of a legal agreement. The ultimate decision will now rest with the secretary of state, who can decide whether or not to call in the application but Westminster City Council believes that its recommendation is in accordance with its adopted policies and central government guidance.”

 

 

Save director Henrietta Billings said demolishing a former Royal Mail sorting office, built in 1907, to make way for its 54m high replacement would cause “substantial harm” to the Bayswater Conservation Area.

Heritage groups argued that Piano’s design was at odds with the character of the area, which includes the grade I listed Paddington station as well as the grade II St Mary’s Hospital and another nearby grade II listed building, the Great Western Hotel.

Billings added: “The Paddington Cube throws the whole question of this protection into disarray – what is the use of Conservation Areas if mega blocks like this, next to grade I listed buildings, can be nodded through planning committees?”

The £775 million scheme, which is being developed by Sellar Property and Great Western Developments, replaced Piano’s earlier plans for a 72-storey pole filled with luxury apartments, which was later withdrawn by the developer earlier this year.

Known as Paddington Quarter, the scheme includes the main Piano building – a 14-storey, 33,500 sq m office block that will sit 12m above new public realm – along with new public plaza, complete with £2 million worth of public art, around 7,500sq m of retail and restaurant space over five levels including a rooftop restaurant and a new station for the Bakerloo underground line.

 

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