Proposal to demolish hideous “Landmark House” – and replace with something even worse

landmarkhouseA planning application has been sent in to Hammersmith and Fulham Council to demolish Landmark House (right), the hideous 18 storey office block in Black’s Road.

But before you all cheer too loudly the proposal is to replace it with something just as ugly and even taller – 28 storeys (left).  The new scheme has been been designed by the architects Rogers Stirk Harbour – so it is hardly a surprise that it should be so awful.

If you wish to register your objection with the Council you have until February 28th – and can do so here.

The proposal should be seen in the context of plans by the Council and the Mayor of London to clutter the skyline with appalling new tower blocks in the Hammersmith Town Centre.

landmark_house_artists_impressionYet all this would seem to be quite in line with the Labour Council’s planning policy. A briefing from the Hammersmith Society says:

Site context:
Planning: current LBHF Core Strategy planning policy provides general guidance for the site development, seeking (Policy HTC) ‘…to encourage the regeneration of the town centre and riverside. …. to build on the centre’s major locational advantages for office development and to secure more modern accommodation…. to continually improve the environment and public realm, and to improve access between the town centre and the Thames… ‘. These general policy ambitions for the town centre appear to be reflected in the development proposals – subject to justification of the hotel use proposed. However the emerging LBHF Local Plan, due for adoption in summer 2018, refers to potential comprehensive changes to the town centre: a tunnel to replace the A4 flyover, improvements in the connection between the city centre and the river, the redesign of Hammersmith gyratory. Hammersmith Society is aware of an emerging masterplan for the town centre, with a valuable and radical vision for the future, which will be included in the new Local Plan. The Landmark House development could be a very significant first step in realising this vision, and it is essential that the application design is developed, and assessed, in the context of the future Local Plan…

Town centre: further design information is needed to understand how the development will relate to the immediate and general surroundings of Hammersmith. The division of the buildings into separate blocks, the evident modulation of the façade designs, and the open spaces around the buildings would together help to diminish the perceived bulk of this sizeable development. The impact on daylight and sunshine in King Street needs to be assessed. The lesser scale of the west side facing Angel Walk is welcome, but nevertheless the existing terrace will be dwarfed by the development. Angel Walk is in the King Street East conservation area: whilst there is no conservation area profile, common to all conservation areas is concern for the immediate context of the area, referring to the impact of adjacent development on the character of the area; on this count the proposals would fail.

Height: current LBHF Core Strategy planning policy BE1 identifies the town centre as ‘…an area where tall buildings may be appropriate but …not all parts of the town centre will be suitable. Any proposals for tall buildings will need to respect/enhance the historic context, make a positive contribution to the skyline emphasising a point of civic or visual significance…’.

A number of verified views of the development were shown at our meeting with the project team but do not appear to be included in the website information. Besides being visible in long views from King Street, the impact of the development on the Hammersmith skyline viewed from the river and the bridge is a critical consideration. The importance and sensitivity of these views is highlighted in ‘Thames Strategy – Kew to Chelsea’, a policy document endorsed by LBHF and The London Plan, where the Hammersmith river skyline is included in the listing of ‘Important Local Views’. A tall building is unwelcome, a tall building whose location is likely to appear random in the skyline context is more unwelcome, and a tall building which appears to have no locational or design relationship with future tall buildings on the Broadway site would be unacceptable. The development design has to be progressed in parallel with the emerging Local Plan, and with a specific LBHF policy which is needed for the town centre skyline.”

So lots of scope to object even within the constraints of the Council’s planning policy. But the fundamental problem is that the policy is at odds with the wishes of residents. For new development to be popular it must be beautiful, traditional and sympathetic.

Save Empress Place

empressplacewithempressstatebldgRedevelopment proposals will only be popular if what is provided is more beautiful than what was there before. Capco’s scheme for the Earls Court and West Kensington Opportunity Area must be judged on that basis. That must include not just more homes, and replacement homes for those who live in the area, but better homes.

Knocking on doors in the tower blocks of the West Ken estate – Fairburn, Churchward, Desborough, Lickey and Sharnbrook – residents often tell me they don’t like living there. There are still lots of concerns about what the alternative offer will be. What will it look like? Among leaseholders particularly whether they will be able to afford it. How long it will take? How disruptive the process will be? There is generally a wish to continue to live locally. But most people living in tower blocks would rather they were not living in tower blocks.

So there is a case for change. But it was never intended that the redevelopment should include demolition of the attractive cottages in Empress Place. Yet this now seems to be threatened. An online petition says:

“Designate Empress Place and the Prince of Wales pub as local Buildings of Merit and add them to the Council’s Local Register. Reject developer Capco’s application to include Empress Place in the Earls Court and West Kensington Opportunity Area.

Why is this important?

Empress Place (1864-5) is one of the few remaining, visible buildings by noted architect John Young. These Victorian workers cottages with their gardens are highly desirable homes left empty at a time of housing shortage. Capco’s plan is to replace them with luxury flats. The Prince of Wales pub which has been made an Asset of Community Value thanks to local residents campaigning to save it, now stands boarded up and empty. Furthermore, the ACV protects the use of the building not the building itself, which Capco wants to demolish and rebuild. We are losing London’s architectural heritage and replacing it with bland, characterless environments that do not meet the housing and social needs of our communities.”

I have asked the Council for a response.

Bureaucratic delays mean site remains vacant in Lillie Road

lillieroadResidents have been wondering what is happening to this vacant site in Lillie Road next to the Fitness Centre.

Laurence O’Keeffe, the Council’s Team Leader (South Team), Development Management Planning and Development says:

“The site is listed as MacKenzie Trench House, 363 Lillie Road.

Planning committee resolved to grant permission for the demolition of existing buildings on the site and erection of a part 4/5 storey block of 30 flats (Class C3) comprising of 10 x 1 bed, 15 x 2 bed and 5 x 3 bed together with a basement car park for 15 cars in April 2015. This was subject to a legal agreement which was signed in August 2015.

A number of pre commencement conditions need to be discharged prior to the commencement of development.”

He adds:

“I have done a quick search and it appears that two applications to discharge conditions were submitted in January and February of this year. However, they did not contain correct information or fee so were never validated, despite officers contacting them.

“Other than the normal condition that commencement take place within three years of consent I am unable to tell you when it may start.”

What will it look like if it does eventually get built?  The planning application promises “contemporary flats set in an aesthetic suited to the present”. It will be “providing an exciting new element” this will mean “giving relief to the bland” to the neighbouring Victorian shops and terraced houses. Yes, yes – we are familiar with the planners/architect code: It will be hideous. All reflecting Labour’s planning policies which make ugliness a requirement for new development.

Virginia Ironside: New threat to the Shepherd’s Bush Palladium

pallshepVirginia Ironside writes:

We are faced with another threat to Shepherds Bush Common and Conservation area:

Dorsett Hotels, who did a sympathetic conversion of “Odeon I” (on the right, below), failed in their bid to demolish the Shepherd’s Bush Palladium next door.

They have now submitted a new application to build 7 storeys of “serviced apartments” which would retain only the Palladium’s façade and top it with a red brick “Gotham City” tower with fins which bears no relation to the style and character of the original Edwardian building.

The top-heavy tower appears to be trying to squash the original theatre into the ground! The Palladium has huge historical value: it was the second cinema theatre built in London.  It was built to stand alone, not to serve as the foundations of a monstrous tower.

A sympathetic renovation, with the gaudy paint removed, would restore the Palladium and the West side of Shepherds Bush Common to its former glory.

The Palladium is a locally listed “Building of Merit”.  It forms a vital link in the chain of older buildings on the West side of the Green, with the locally listed Bush Hotel and Grade II listed Empire to the South and the re-vamped Odeon 1 to the North.  Together these buildings form a distinctive and unique townscape which should be protected.

The Conservation Area Character Profile is at

https://www.lbhf.gov.uk/planning/urban-design-and-conservation/conservation-areas/shepherds-bush

The Palladium is in “pages 5-9” para 5.11. The proposed tower’s effect on the Empire Theatre (5.10) and the Bush Hotel (5.14) as well as the revamped Odeon I (5.12) would be disastrous.

If you agree that this abuse of a loved and historic building should not be allowed, could you write and state that you OBJECT to the application in the strongest possible terms and forward to any groups or individuals who would be interested?

Objections have to be in by October 25th.

This link takes you to the planning application page where you can object with the “make a comment” button:

http://public-access.lbhf.gov.uk/online-applications/applicationDetails.do?activeTab=makeComment&keyVal=ODE8MZBI04F00

H&F Council fail to disclose Chelsea FC meeting

chelseafcHammersmith and Fulham Council is breaking its obligations on transparency. Much of the information in that section of the website is out of date – in breach of the requirements of the Government’s Local Government Transparency Code.

The Council has also been secretive over its dealings with property developers. Despite a manifesto pledge to provide minutes or all meetings with property developers that has not applied to their cosy dealing with Charlie Napier.

Often when “minutes” have been produced – such as those for meetings with Capco – they have been absurdly uninformative. Now the Council seems to have stopped bothering altogether with the failure to publish any record on a meeting with Chelsea Football Club which I discovered took place on May 3rd.

John Finlayson, Head of Planning Regeneration, responds:

“I have looked at the transparency section of the website and found that for the months of April and May there are no meeting records. A number of meetings took place during these months including the Chelsea May 3rd meeting. Planning officers have re-sent the meeting records to the relevant officers in the Council’s web team for publication on the website. I apologise for any inconvenience caused by this oversight.”

Let us be charitable and assume that the Council is genuinely anxious to meet its transparency requirements. That would leave us with the only alternative explanation of staggering incompetence. When Labour councillors were in opposition they will full of conspiracy theories about property developers and insisted that they would be completely open about their dealings. They stressed how imperative this was. For whatever reason they have failed to deliver.

An update on Shepherd’s Bush Market

shepmarkFurther this post last month I have been given an update by Matt Butler, Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s Head of Policy & Spatial Planning.

He says:

“We have recently been approached by U+I who advise us that they are now taking over from Orion.

“U+I advise that they aim to resolve current matters with the market tenants before consulting and discussing any new proposals that may come forward.”

A note of the meeting with the Council and the Shepherds Bush Market Tenants Association says that Richard Upton of U+I..

“…advised that he would send a letter to all the market tenants introducing U+I and updating them on the current situation. He would also send a letter in both legal and layperson terms setting out how U+I intends to resolve all the outstanding issues with the tenants, as documented by the SBMTA, which will be followed by a meeting in September with the SBMTA. The aim being to resolve all issues before the end of September.  In the meantime U+I will review market issues including management , increasing appropriate diversity and footfall for the benefit of all.”

That’s fine so far as it goes.

But according to a report in the Evening Standard the number of customers has been falling rapidly. We need to crack on with an attractive, sympathetic regeneration scheme – which means a design brief specifying that traditional architecture must be used.

I would expect that new homes will be needed for a viable long term solution. It is important to get on with it – not go back to square one.

Khan approves 26 storey tower blocks by Old Oak Common

Sadiq_KhanThe Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has approved blocks as high as 26 storeys for the Old Oak Park Royal Development Corporation scheme on the west side of Old Oak Common. A range of 8-11 storeys was promised.

The Hammersmith Society strongly opposed the plan.

The Society’s Chairman Tom Ryland says:

“The scheme is the first major application within the OPDC area to be considered, and it is therefore important as a precedent to all future applications.

“The scheme neither complies with the spirit nor the actual policies of the OPDC Draft Plan nor the OAPF which preceded it, in terms of height, density or design quality. This site is on the fringe of the OPDC area where medium densities and heights (8 – 11 storeys) were promised.

“The scheme is not in compliance with the London Plan in terms of density and height, in that the maximum densities are massively exceeded.

“The towers in the scheme – up to 26 storeys – are not only considerably higher than the masterplan heights, but sit on an area of high ground, and are of particular concern to residents of Shaftesbury Gardens and Midland Terrace which are immediately adjacent and to the west.

“The heights will also impact on Wormword Scrubs, the neighbouring Conservation Areas, and the Grand Union canal Conservation Area.

“As part of the excellent and comprehensive OPDC draft Local Plan consultation, officers promised that where proposed schemes were in excess of the draft Masterplan guidelines – as this scheme is – it would have to be justified on the basis of ‘exceptional design quality’ : It is universally agreed by all the local groups and nearby residents that the design of this scheme – on which there was minimal public consultation as compared with say the Car Giant site – can only be regarded as dismal.”

It is most unfortunate that Zac Goldsmith lost – as he had a very different policy on tower blocks. But that’s democracy.

To their credit Hammersmith and Fulham Council has opposed the decision taken by the Mayor. But the opposition is very quiet and mild due to the obvious political constraints. There have been plenty of press releases from the Council attacking the Conservative Government – but not a word of criticism of Mayor Khan on this or anything else.