Paddington pole hacked in half

Paddington-Place-old-plansIrvine Sellar’s controversial 72-storey “Paddington Pole” may be halved in height.

Proposals show the £1bn tower shrinking from 254m to 125m, but fattening by nearly 50% as the 5,500 sq ft floorplates expand to 12,000 sq ft in order to maintain financial viability.

Last week architect Renzo Piano produced fresh sketches for Sellar and his backer, Singaporean billionaire Ong Beng Seng.

The final decision to go from “pole” to a 35-floor “post” will be made only after more extensive soundings. The larger floorplates would allow many of the 330 flats to be replaced by offices, said the developer.

The total size of the scheme will stay broadly the same at close to 500,000 sq ft.

Plans for the original tower were withdrawn in late January after furious Westminster City Council members forced leader Robert Davis to pull his support because of its height.

The withdrawn “pole” plans were due to be decided on 8 March.

Sellar’s latest move comes after a surge of anti-tower sentiment this year following a critical article by ex-National Trust chairman and columnist Sir Simon Jenkins and the Skyline Campaign by architect Barbara Weiss, which claims that plans for 260 towers in the capital means London is at a “watershed moment”.

Further opposition has come from Sir Terry Farrell, the former architect for the Paddington site.

Farrell labelled Piano’s plans “opportunistic” and “piecemeal”. Labour councillors have demanded that the designers “go back to the drawing board”, while a leading Tory councillor said: “[The pole] will never be built during the current cycle.”

However, the initial withdrawal of the previous plans by Sellar have been welcomed by Westminster City Council. Chief executive Charlie Parker wrote to the veteran developer on 29 January thanking him.

“We look forward to working with you to revise the scheme,” he wrote, “ensuring Westminster can benefit by a new gateway for [Paddington] station.”

Any revised plans for the scheme will be submitted in the autumn.

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The proposed scheme will provide £60m towards the cost of a three-level gateway to Paddington Station and create 1.2 acres of new concourses. The current “Pole” plans have the backing of Network Rail, which said the proposals were “a real opportunity to create an enhanced entrance”. Junior transport minister Claire Perry said in a letter to Sellar on 21 December last year that she was “really impressed” by the proposals. A poll of more than 8,000 locals and commuters showed more than 70% in favour of the slender tower, while St Mary’s Hospital, adjacent to the station, also backed the existing plans despite councillors’ opposition.