Heritage group flags concerns over damage to ‘historic character’ of the area

Historic England is still objecting to designs by Renzo Piano for a new building next to Paddington station because of the impact it will have on nearby listed buildings.

The original plan to build a 72-storey resi tower – dubbed the Paddington Pole – was ripped up earlier this year after a string of objections from heritage groups, politicians and local people.

Piano was sent back to the drawing board by Sellar Property and Great Western Developments and in the summer came back with a 14-storey office block called the Cube which will be home to 3,500 workers.

But Historic England (HE) has written to planning authority Westminster council and said the design is at odds with the character of the area, which includes the Bayswater Conservation Area, and 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.

HE chief executive Duncan Wilson said: “We acknowledge that the new proposal for Paddington will have a less far-reaching impact on the historic environment than the former plans for a very tall building.

“However the proposed glass and steel cube building would be fundamentally at odds with the historic character and appearance of this part of the Bayswater Conservation Area and Paddington, and would erase the sense of consistency of late Victorian and early 20th century buildings that make this area of London special.”


CGI of the public realm at Sellar and Piano's Paddington Cube - view from Paddington Station

The developer says the planned public realm will ‘enhance’ the station


In a letter sent two weeks ago on behalf of Great Western Developments, the scheme’s heritage architect said it “had difficulty” understanding some of HE’s objections.

In his letter to Westminster’s operational director for planning, John Walker, Ettwein Bridges partner Nick Bridges said: “We have difficulty understanding how HE can state that the ‘…the new building will have a detrimental impact on the setting of the grade 1 listed Paddington Station’.”

He told Walker that “the setting of Paddington Station has limited aesthetic relationships due to its introspective character” and that the station’s grade I listing “lies in its interior engineering and architecture where these are fully displayed”.

And he added: “Whilst we acknowledge that HE consider that the proposals will cause harm, the fundamental point is that they have concluded that it would not cause substantial harm.”

The revised scheme, known as Paddington Quarter, was sent in to planners at Westminster council in September with a planning meeting pencilled in for December 6.

The scheme’s commercial director Caroline Sellar said the revised scheme had strong support, including from local residents, and added: “Paddington Quarter will provide a wide range of public benefits for those living, working and visiting the area…this is an investment which is years overdue yet one no one else has been willing to provide.”

Plans also include a new public plaza which Bridges said will “enhance” the setting of the station. The 33,500sq m building will sit 12m above 0.5ha of new public realm which will include the plaza created through the pedestrianisation of London Street.

The scheme will also include 8,000sq m of retail and restaurant space over four levels including a rooftop restaurant. The work on the site of the former Royal Mail sorting office will also include a new station for the Bakerloo underground line.