Westminster City Council Planning Department
I write to enter an objection to the proposed development on the former Royal Mail Sorting Office site (31 London Street/128-142 Praed Street) known as the ‘Paddington Shard’. Although I accept the need for our growing city to provide new homes, infrastructure, amenities and economic/business capacity, and have no aesthetic objection to tall buildings (rather the reverse), major schemes such as this must still be considered on their merits and must be considered in the context of proper consultation and a strategic policy.
My objection is based on the following grounds:
1) The ‘Paddington Shard’ would represent a clear departure from Westminster Council’s tall buildings policy, without that policy having been amended after full consultation. The policy currently states that a single tall building- the 42 storey tower proposed for 1 Merchant Square, be approved within the Paddington Opportunity Area. As my colleagues from Westminster Labour Group have stated in their objection,
“The proposed design of a single, narrow but extremely tall, tower has a massive impact on the skyline but is not a particularly effective use of the space available. Westminster Labour would have preferred to have seen a design for the site that delivered a similar or greater number of housing units at a much lower height, entirely possible given the space available as shown clearly in the planning objection put forward by Terry Farrell”
Therefore, not only does the building have an unprecedented impact upon the Westminster skyline, the application is not being considered within a revised tall buildings policy which can be explained and justified to Westminster residents and others.
2) Given this fact, the specific application for 31 London Street has proceeded exceptionally quickly, from outline proposal in the autumn to planning application over Christmas- and potentially, a decision by March. This is despite the high level of controversy locally, and the concerns being expressed by Heritage England and the Skyline campaign.
3) The proposed benefits offered by the developer- including the ‘Sky Gardens’ and Paddington Bakerloo station upgrade, whilst welcome in themselves, are likely to be primarily of benefit to commuters/users of Paddington station rather than residents, whose outlook will be fundamentally and irrevocably altered by this construction. Wider public realm benefits are also welcome, but would also potentially drive up rents for businesses in and around Praed St . If the scheme is approved in any form, commitments regarding employment and apprenticeships should be transparent and measurable..
4) The development proposes 330 luxury housing units. There is no affordable housing on site, and the affordable housing offer is unacceptably small at 15%- well below Westminster Council’s own – already inadequate- guidelines of 30%. Of this, the main proposal is to rebuild and expand the Almshouses in St John’s Wood Road- a project which needs to be undertaken but where there are currently not transparent allocations procedure for nominations from Westminster Council so as to ensure those in housing need can benefit.
I would be grateful if this objection could be noted.
Karen Buck MP