Monday, 11 March 2013

Shard tower to dominate the Bush

Poor Man's Shard: set to dominate W12
Our Council's infamous Planning Committee will rubber stamp controversial new plans for a 35 storey skyscraper to be built as part of the Imperial West development in White City on Tuesday.

The development includes a proposed 35 storey tower, of mainly private housing, christened last year by the Evening Standard as the ‘Poor man’s Shard’. The building, residents fear, will destroy sky-lines across West London and quite literally cast a long shadow over much of the area. As predicted, one tower leads to another, and developers Helical Bar are due to get planning approval next week to a second 32 storey tower, on their next door site on Wood Lane.

Projected shadow cast by skyscraper over W12 & K&C
These two towers will be as tall as Trellick Tower, and in an area of West London which currently has nothing approaching this height.

A long campaign by local residents failed to stop approval by Hammersmith & Fulham council to the Imperial West development, or even to reduce its height. Since the council approved the planning application, the College has received a £35m government grant of extra public money for the scheme.

The College has not answered questions on how this extra public money will be used, and why it cannot lead to more affordable housing or reduced building heights inn the scheme. Nor will it reveal what profit the College is making from the development as a whole.

View from Oxford Gardens
Hammersmith & Fulham Council has pushed through a series of planning decisions on major developments in White City, before there has been statutory public consultation on the White City Opportunity Area Framework. So far, Boris Johnson has endorsed these decisions, and property developers seem very keen to get their schemes through the system in what they see as a favourable political environment. The forthcoming London local elections, next year, may result in a change of Council leadership.

Chair of the St Helens Residents Association Henry Peterson says:
"Short of a successful legal challenge, the twin towers are coming to White City. A once in a lifetime opportunity to rebuild this part of London on a more human and sustainable scale will have been lost. Residential land values continue to drive the greed of developers.

It is not even that these towers will provide many real homes. Estate agents Savills estimate that with new build apartments in this part of London, 37% are used as a second home and 27% for investment purposes and not lived in. Up to 70% go to overseas buyers, so great are the current distortions in the London property market.
These towers will destroy the skyline and stand as monuments to a planning system and housing market which is doing nothing to meet the needs of ordinary Londoners"
Andy Slaughter MP is backing the residents and says this:
“I’m delighted that people across the borough are fighting back and I will do all I can to support Shepherds Bush, Hammersmith and West Kensington residents against the wreckers in the Town Hall.”
This news comes hot on the heels of the decision by the Council to forcibly evict the shopkeepers of the Goldhawk Road, serving them with compulsory purchase orders in support of their approach to assist property developers Orion to construct luxury flats on top of Shepherd's Bush Market. The approach was ruled illegal in the High Court last year and the shopkeepers gave their account of our Council's tactics here.

It seems every major scheme like this is set to be rushed through before polling day 2014...


  1. I would say that it simply fantastic news that people are finally prepared to invest vast sums of money in schemes that will transform this rather dowdy area for the better. Still, some people will always oppose the new.

  2. H - you work for the council, and I claim my £10.

  3. I do not work for the council. Why don't you pay me £10?

  4. H - you must therefore woek for Helical Bar and I claim my £20.

  5. consistently pro-council, posting behind a pseudonym. hmm.

    Chris, have you been noting IP's through google analytics?

  6. I do not work for Helical Bar and I claim my £20.

    The case in favour of, e.g., the Imperial College quite is quite straightforward. IC is one of Britain's few world class institutions; it is proposing to concentrate its post-graduates on a site in the north of the borough. This will go some way towards filling the gap left by the departure of the BBC and will strengthen the higher education sector, which is one of the jewels in the crown. In addition, it will strengthen Hammersmith Hospital, which is IC's chosen partner for medical education. Do I also need to point out that, at a time when the economy is flat on its back, the construction itself will generate jobs and tax revenues, with only a minimal call on the public purse? Or that the proposed site is no rare beauty spot?

    The residents, as reported here, object. I don't criticise them for that - I might well object too in their position. But it is also fair to point out that the whole purpose of residents' associations IS TO OBJECT. It shouldn't come as a surprise that residents put their views, their sunlight and their property values ahead of wider considerations. It doesn't make them bad people, but you should take what they say with a pinch of salt.

    As a final point, I have absolutely no financial interest in the outcome whatsoever (unlike the residents). The fact that the commenters here can only perceive differing views from their own as the results of bad faith speaks volumes about their own integrity.

  7. for my part "H" is perfectly entitled to his/her views, and it's good to have a local debate which is only possible when there are differences!

    And no, I don't check IP addresses (how would I find the time) but approve comments instead, which means any abusive/spam ones don't get through anyway. Much better system!

  8. Many thanks to Chris for his kind words. I am a frequent visitor to this blog and think the way it plugs the gaps in local news coverage is superb.

    Incidentally, I meant the "Imperial College development", of course. Fingers and brain not in sync.

  9. "Schemes that will transform this rather dowdy area for the better"...are you joking?

    It looks absolutely revolting and is purely driven by greed

  10. I guess looks are a matter of taste - I personally quite like the IC proposals. And the word dowdy is, if anything, flattering.

    On the greed question, I admit to not having your level of insight into the motives of others, but am not aware of greed being a valid planning objection. If Imperial College, which is a charity, finds itself in a better financial position in order to pursue its function as an institution of learning and research (including medical research), that would be a good thing, wouldn't it?

  11. You like ugly tower blocks defacing the skyline?

    Remember the uproar which led to LBHF having to change its plans for the King St so-called 'development'.

    As for greed, have you actually read the piece you are commenting on? And by the way is Helical Bar a charity too? (In any case, I'm not that convinced by IC's charitable status. War on Want, Shelter etc...yes...Imperial College, less so)

    PS: re 'dowdy', is that how you describe ordinary London streets built on a human scale for people to live in? If that's the case give me 'dowdy' any day rather than a cold city of steel and glass.

  12. For that matter, the ordinary London streets you are so keen on were also largely built by people driven by pure greed. You seem quite happy with the results.

    Take your rose tinted spectacles off and go and have a look a look at the actual site. Crumbling buildings, both old and relatively new, bisected by a four/six lane motorway, with patches already cleared. This is London, not Cheltenham. It needs development.

  13. PS. I do indeed remember the King Street proposals. As I recall, a group of local residents succeeded in preserving a tatty old cinema and a hideous 70s excrescence. Still, no doubt there were people complaining about the new mud huts spoiling the view from their caves.

  14. If the cinema is currently 'tatty' it's only because the owners - Tesco - let it become so so that they can demolish it and replace it with...cue fanfare...a supermarket! (just what Hammersmith needs, isn't it?)

    And, as you well know, the campaign was not about preserving a '70s excrescence.' It was about preventing the creation of a 21st century excrescence - and thank God it was successful.

    As for the IC proposals, why does 'development' have to mean 35-floor tower blocks?

  15. If we don't need supermarkets, how come we shop in them? Who made you the King of King Street?

    That might not have been what the campaign said it was about, but that is exactly what it has achieved.

    Because we're not living in the dark ages any more? Because, sometimes, adults have to choose between two things which both have drawbacks?

  16. Helping you, H, to understand yourself:

    I think "If we don't need supermarkets, how come we shop in them?" probably falls under 'State a False Syllogism'

    As for "Who made you the King of King Street?" 'Diversions' would possibly fit the bill, and that's being charitable....

  17. Well, you've got me there. Time to admit defeat, I guess. King Street has never looked better.

    1. "King Street has never looked better"

      That one falls under any number of categories:

      'Use Seemingly Absurd Propositions'
      'Generalize the Matter, Then Argue Against it'
      'Draw Conclusions Yourself'
      'Exaggerate his Statement'
      'State a False Syllogism'

      Whichever, it suggests that there was no alternative to the LBHF's plans (which, by the way, were struck down by the Mayor of London, who is generally in favour of such schemes) and that is just absurd, isn't it?

    2. I plead guilty to the use of false syllogisms, exaggerations, ludicrous generalisations and ask for 32 other offences to be taken into consideration. I apologise.

      My main point in posting here is to state:
      a) there are good (as well as bad!) arguments in favour of the various development schemes that have been promoted in H&F over the last couple of years. I happen to think that the Imperial West scheme has a lot going for it and would end up being an asset we would be mad to miss out on.
      b) many of the opponents of development are quite as self-interested as the supporters.
      c) sometimes it might be worth accepting a less than perfect change rather than creating a 'planning blight'. Consider the history of Hammersmith Broadway, which (iirc) looked like a bomb site for what felt like 20+ years.

  18. A few council flats would be nice. Throw us a bone here, someone.

    1. This is absolutely right. There is a housing shortage, the economy is flat and the government can borrow virtually free of charge. Whether you call them council flats or something else, the time for building flats and houses available at reasonable rents is now. As a side benefit, it would be a golden opportunity to train up skilled tradesmen.

  19. "Whether you call them council flats or something else" ....???

    Social housing or not social housing?

    1. What's the point of your question? Housing might not belong to the council and yet be available at below market rates. If that is the definition of social, then it's social. I think you're a bit hung up on definitions, Mr. Syllogism.

    2. No, I think it matters....promises are made then dollar signs appear and the 'below market rate' properties vanish whereas council flats are council flats....well until the Tories sell them....

  20. Seriously, sometimes I think all the commenters on this blog are anti anything changing in the bush.
    It's being built next to the westway and will bring a well respected university into the bush.
    It may not be to everyone's taste, but frankly most of the council housing is more of a scar on the bush.

    1. Certainly, they do seem to think that everything is already perfect (other than the shortage of social/council housing).

  21. Who are 'they?'

    And why again this banal construct of equating criticism of over development with suggesting that nothing should change.

    There are alternatives, you know.

    Come on, debate like an adult - not like a child throwing its toys out of its pram.

    1. They know who they are!

      It might sound dogmatic to suggest that there are no alternatives, but part of the problem with the alternatives is that they are not very likely to materialise under the current circumstances, or not for a long time anyway.

      So you are left in the position of choosing between an improvement which doesn't please everyone - and, let's face it, there are few changes which please everyone - or an improvement which may never happen and leaves the area blighted. Consider the history of Hammersmith Broadway, for example.

      My own view is that where the need is pressing, development should be viewed favourably in general.

  22. What do you mean by "under the current circumstances?"....circumstances are always current, aren't they, but what is so special about those pertaining now?

    Are you sure you are using the word 'blight' correctly? Blight exists when a person can't sell their property because of plans for the surrounding area so it's actually these monstrous developments that cause blight.

    As for your last sentence you must work for Tory Central Office because that is more or less the proposed planning policy which has had Tory voters in the shires and the Daily and Sunday Telegraph up in arms.

    PS: given your views you are probably delighted with this too:

    1. I have already explained what I think is special about 'current' circumstances, hence my characterisation of them as current. Without repeating myself too much, we are clearly no longer in the good years.

      You allude to one aspect of blight. Another would be where the various interested parties cannot agree what would happen to a particular site, so nothing happens. Hammersmith Broadway was a good example of this, or so I think.

      I don't work for Tory Central Office. The fact that a policy is opposed by the same kind of self interested resident in the shires as it is London is a tedious manifestation of the truism that all politics are local and not otherwise interesting. But your ad hominem accusation does make your plea that I should 'debate like an adult' seem rather insincere. It is possible for rational, honest people to see the local interest differently from you, believe it or not. Incidentally, it seems to me that by that same logic you must be a Tory voter.

      PS I know nothing about the development you link to.