Robert Davis stepping down as chair for new role at culture and heritage
The Westminster councillor taken to task by conservationists over his role in Renzo Piano’s Paddington Cube being given the green light last month is stepping down as chair of its planning committee.
Robert Davis has been head of the committee for 17 years and has spent close to 15 years as cabinet member for planning.
The move comes as incoming council leader Nickie Aiken – who is taking over from Baroness Couttie – finalises details of her first cabinet, with the appointments due to be confirmed later this month when Aiken is sworn in as leader.
Davis will remain as overall deputy leader but added: “I have felt for some time that it was time for a new challenge. So, in anticipation of [Aiken’s] election as leader of the city council at the council meeting on the 25th January, I have agreed with her that I should take on a number of new council responsibilities as cabinet member for business, culture and heritage.”
Davis will continue to be the council’s lead on major public realm schemes such as Bond Street and Oxford Street while he will also continue to chair the Westminster World Heritage Site committee.
Speaking about his time at planning, Davis added: “Working effectively together with landowners and developers and keeping a high benchmark on design standards has seen Westminster at the forefront of development and design.”
Last month Save called for communities secretary Sajid Javid to hold a public inquiry into the decision to give the Paddington Cube planning, accusing Davis 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 of 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”.
Save director Henrietta Billings later added: “We are very concerned about [the Cube’s] impact on the historic streetscape and the way the proposals were handled before and during the planning committee discussions.”
But a spokesman for the council said: “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.”
Westminster’s new cabinet member for planning and public realm is Daniel Astaire while the chairman of its planning committee is now Richard Beddoe.