Tuesday22 August 2017

Another heritage group wades into Paddington Pole row

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Victorian Society says plan to demolish sorting office will wreck station’s setting

The Victorian Society has steamed into the row over Renzo Piano’s Paddington Pole by objecting to the demolition of the Royal Mail sorting office which has occupied the site for 125 years.

Designed in the baroque style by Sir Henry Tanner and built in 1892 with a 1907 extension by Jasper Wager, the now-empty building has an important place in views of – and from – grade I-listed Paddington station, it argues.

“We strongly object to these proposals,” said James Hughes, senior conservation adviser at the Victorian Society.

“Demolishing this high-quality building would harm the setting of the grade I-listed Paddington station, other listed buildings and the Bayswater Conservation Area itself.

“Although unlisted, this building is important in understanding Paddington station’s relationship with the city.”

It could easily be retained and redeveloped as part of a more contextual scheme, he said.

The Bayswater Conservation Area was extended in 2010 to include the former sorting and delivery office and other surrounding buildings.

Any development in the area should focus on the large eastern portion of the site which has been identified by Westminster council as having a negative influence on the conservation area, added Hughes.

The society also objects to the tower itself on the grounds that, whatever its quality, a building of 72 storeys would be a “huge departure from the surrounding low-rise buildings”, would affect views for miles around and set a precedent.


1,600 sign anti-tower petition

A petition set up by the Skyline Campaign has been backed by more than 1,600 people.

Signatories include former ODA design adviser and architect Kay Hughes who wrote: “Bringing more towers to this area of London will undermine its strong contextual heritage. A quick look at Lancaster gate for a reminder of past mistakes might energise the debate.”

John Tusa, chairman of the British Architecture Trust and the former head of the World Service, wrote: “This development is the wrong building in the wrong place for the wrong reasons. Have we lost all sense of scale, of proportion, of community? Stop it!”

Architect Francis Terry wrote: “As a chartered architect I feel that the tower does not respect the scale of a historic area and will have an adverse effect on the neighbourhood. Due to it being so over-scaled it will ruin a very charming part of London. This seems completely against Westminster’s own planning policies and the needs of the local people.”

Writer and historian Gavin Stamp wrote: “The wrong building for the wrong site, which will do immense damage to west London.”

Engineer Jane Wernick wrote: “This isn’t the way to fund our council’s funding gap. Buildings over 20 storeys high use far more carbon and energy to build and run per useable square metre of space. They also dominate our skyline. We rarely see honest CGI images. These buildings can be seen from so many places that they completely transform the unique quality of our city. Also, high rise buildings are poor places for normal communities to live and form good esprit, they cause large shadows and produce unpleasant high winds at street level. This project is merely a ‘cash box’ for wealthy, probably overseas, investors, and will give nothing back to London.”

Architecture writer and west London councillor Emma Dent Coad wrote: “There is no evidence that we need such a tower, there is no justification, and it will ruin an historic part of London forever.”

Others who have signed include the historian John Julius Norwich, filmmaker Roger Graef, and actress Maureen Lipman.



Readers' comments (14)

  • Luckily we don't live in Victorian times.

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  • Yes, we are lucky not to live in Victorian times for lots of reasons. But those of us who care about our environment can appreciate that the Victorians were able to create coherent, civilized townscape over vast areas, which we have been wrecking for the last seventy years or so.

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  • I remember when I was a student of architecture always being told that my designs should demonstrate architectural good manners. That is to say be in scale with the surroundings, create a sense of place and reflect a human scale. It seems to be a lesson that has been forgotten in this country. Too many modern buildings in the UK appear to want to sweep away our cities and show no manners at all. This tower is out of scale. Shows no deference to its location and certainly doesn't create a sense of place.

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  • Thank you BD for keeping up the pressure. This campaign affects the whole of London, and will affect many future generations if it goes through. We must be bold enough to say NO. Not, in Paddington, not in historic Central London. Not without a public debate, or a comprehensive, well-thought through masterplan. This is sheer speculative madness.
    Barbara Weiss Skyline Campaign

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  • Seymour Alexander

    The developers looking at the devastation they have wrought around what was once a lovely interesting and walkable Victoria Street can't wait to get their greedy hands on that little bit of old London left at Paddington. Their ultimate target is obviously St Mary's Hospital - the tower will be their foot in the door; once built nothing will stop them turning Praed Street into another Victorian nightmare (in the Victoria Street sense).

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  • Seymour -- I don't love the new buildings on Victoria Street, either, but they're certainly no worse than the 1960s blocks they replaced. I can't see any way in which it's less "walkable", either.

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  • Carbuncle.

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  • I have read through a good chunk of the submitted application documents and recommend any interested party to (within reason) do the same. You can find them all here:
    In particular, the Design and Access and the Heritage and Townscape Statements - read 'em and weap!
    There is not even the slightest perception of the need to make the case for a 72 storey tower in this location, no comparative density study with previous approved schemes, no case made for ramming the site like this even from a viability perspective (the viability assessment is of course largely redacted but the chapter headings let you see how they've set out their stall).
    And just look at Section 9.6 of the D&E - "Affordable Provision". It says everything you need to know about this scheme and the contempt with which it's author's hold the UK Planning System.
    If I were a Planner getting these volumes and volumes of obfuscating nonsense across my desk, I would want to throw it all back at them.

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  • Sorry, I meant D&A meaning "Design and Access". And of course "weep" - too busy foaming at the mouth to correct my typos.

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  • Seymour Alexander

    Graham - I go back to the 1950s I'm afraid; I remember nice human scale, interesting and varied high street type shops plus of course the Army and Navy Department store ... Not a sandwich shop in sight. No windy skyscrapers either. I attend a human rights' demonstration outside 105 Victoria Street every other Friday and am convinced it is the coldest, wettest, windiest and most boring spot in the whole of the British Isles.

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