42-storey tower approved for second time – along with ’wholly redesigned’ sister block

Westminster city council has granted planning permission to a reconfigured version of Robin Partington & Partners’ 42-storey “Paddington Cucumber” tower more than seven years after the scheme originally won outline consent.

The latest incarnation of the project, which is part of the west London neighbourhood’s Merchant Square redevelopment, is externally identical to the earlier scheme but drops the originally-planned hotel element for more homes.

However a sister block that forms part of the same application is completely different to the originally approved scheme for the plot that Partington & Partners – which last year rebranded as “Apt” – designed for the plot to the north of Paddington Basin.

Robin Partington & Partners' Paddington Cucumber tower with its 21-storey sister block

Robin Partington & Partners’ Paddington Cucumber tower with its 21-storey sister block

That structure, known as “Building 6” in the Merchant Square masterplan, has increased in height from 15 to 21 storeys. Both buildings will share the same 0.63ha development site and a three-storey basement as planned in the earlier incarnation of the scheme.

In total, both towers will deliver 426 new homes, up from the 341 proposed in the earlier version of the scheme for Merchant Square developer European Land & Property. While the Paddington Cucumber’s originally-planned seven-floor hotel element is omitted, proposals for a two-storey sky bar remain.

Recommending the revised scheme for approval, Westminster planning officers said work on the original consents was accepted to have lawfully begun. But they noted that the scale of the scheme and its “wholly redesigned” 21-storey element introduced new issues that needed councillors’ consideration.

Robin Partington & Partners' 21-storey sister block to the practice's Paddington Cucumber tower

Robin Partington & Partners’ 21-storey sister block to the practice’s Paddington Cucumber tower

Officers said that while the detailed design of the taller building had been “amended to allow for the omission of the hotel” from the second to eighth floors, “the architectural concept, prevailing form and design and palette of materials for the building remains as per the extant scheme approved in 2011”.

They noted that the form of Building 6 had “a more vertical emphasis” following its increase in height from 15 to 21 storeys, however they also remarked that the building’s footprint had been reduced in a way that opened up its surrounding public realm “more successfully”.

Their report said that although Building 6 had increased in height from 48m to 67m the change was not significant in comparison with its setting, where neighbouring blocks were of a similar height.

“Although the [new] building is significantly higher than previously approved, the building now proposed is considered to be more appropriately designed in terms of the context of the site,” they said.

Model of the Paddington Basin area

Model of the Paddington Basin area

They added that Mayor of London Sadiq Khan had not raised any concerns about the new design of Building 6 or its impact on nearby heritage assets – which include the grade II*-listed St Mary’s Church and Paddington Green Conservation Area – in his Stage 1 response to Westminster.

The two towers will deliver 67 “affordable” homes, all of which will be in the lower building. Planning officers said that although the level was “below the quantum expected by adopted and emerging development plan policies” it was considered to be “the maximum provision that can viably be achieved”.

The figure equates to 16% by habitable room. The report said that Westminster had set a fixed target of 25% for the Paddington Opportunity Area, where the development site is located.

Because of the scheme’s size, Westminster’s latest approval still requires the final endorsement of Mayor Khan.

The Paddington Cucumber and its sister block as originally approved

The Paddington Cucumber and its sister block as originally approved