The Belgravia Society

 Planning, Development


We are seeing more and more tall buildings in London. The tower at Vauxhall into which a helicopter crashed, can be seen from Belgravia. The Shard can be seen from Victoria. Have any of you walked through Victoria Square lately? This beautiful Square is now overlooked by a large modern, and, dare we say it, unsightly building. The whole vista is totally out of keeping with the area and a blot on Victoria’s Square and the whole process which allowed it to be built which is at odds with the heritage of the area. It is difficult to see how this was allowed under Westminster’s policy (UDP DES 3 (A) 2)) which is specifically designed to prevent a Square suchas that being affected as it has been

This is not a case of “not in my backyard”, but one of speaking against planning and architectural vandalism of the worst kind. Generally,  we have no objection to the buildings in Victoria Street, as some taller buildings are appropriate to the area. We are, however, seriously disturbed that the developers are now trying to reduce the number of affordable homes.

Most of you will know about the planning application for a 72 story tower near Paddington station, which is being strongly opposed locally. The Berkeley Group already has permission for a 22 story tower and has applied to build a 38 story building in the Edgware Road.

Westminster’s planning guidelines state “Westminster is not generally appropriate for tall buildings”. But with perhaps with an eye on future revenue, Westminster is now looking again at its policy.

It is all about commerce and not about communities. Money speaks and in some instances, we should not listen

Some politicians point to Manhattan and cannot see any difference between that and London. There is a huge difference. Manhattan is an island and the tall buildings are carefully planned within a design for the area which is the southern part of Manhattan Island.

This contrasts hugely with what is beginning to happen in London. We are quite accustomed to tall buildings in the City and the views of St Paul’s and other vistas are protected. We have watched the building of the Gherkin, Shard, the Cheese Grater and other tall buildings including those at Canary Wharf. Do we really want them sprinkled around central London visually damaging the landscape and dominating everything near them?

New London Architecture informs us on their News page that the “latest tall buildings figures revealed: 263 towers planned”. They also say 14,800 new homes are under construction – hopefully not in towers.

The arguments in favour of the Paddington Tower by a spokesman for Sellar, its developers, who also developed the Shard (quoted in the Times) revolve around preventing urban sprawl, protecting the greenbelt and releasing space and aids regeneration”.

London has evolved with its own character and image, with its landscapes and individuality. The case to resist the continual onslaught of applications for tall buildings is very strong.

Tall buildings should not be built where they change the character or have a significant impact on the environment. If a building is not in the right place, its size and widespread visibility can harm the qualities that people value. In conservation areas and locations of special interest, tourist areas et cetera where there are historic buildings, the general character can be severely affected. Thousands of homes will be overshadowed and they will no longer have direct sunlight. Pollution in Hong Kong is now being attributed to the tall buildings taking up the space where it would normally disperse. These are the arguments against the general proliferation of tall buildings.

 What is a tall building is also open to discussion. In some areas, seven or 10 stories might be unsuitable but in others, 20 might be acceptable. A prime example of this is in Victoria Square already mentioned. Unfortunately, we are not merely seeing applications at 20 storey buildings but 70 plus.

 You may well think that Belgravia would be immune to the risk. However, we can already see tall buildings along the skyline. The Shard and Vauxhall Tower are visible. We have seen Victoria Square suffer the adverse impact of the new building rising high above it. We will probably see the Paddington Tower if permission is given to build it and worse still if Westminster changes its policy we may well have many more tall buildings on our doorstep. On the southern edge of Belgravia, we will see Belgrave House demolished if the current Crossrail 2 plan goes ahead unchanged. What will it be ultimately replaced with? Not with seven stories as it is now, but perhaps 20 stories or even more. We simply cannot allow that to happen. This site and all that part of Belgravia fronting onto Buckingham Palace Road is in the Victoria Area Planning Brief area and is vulnerable to the building of tall buildings.

 So what does the future hold for Westminster? The answer is... It depends on you. The sooner all of us share our views and make them known to the WCC, the sooner those who take decisions about them will understand that Westminster’s current policy should not change.

 What you can do is write to your local Councillors and send a copy to Councillor Robert Davies, at 64 Victoria Street SW1E 6QP – email: r.davies@Westminster.gov.uk

who is Westminster’s cabinet member for the built environment

 Write to object to the Paddington Tower and the towers generally. State that there must be no change in policy (which should be adhered to). The consultation will be this year. Obviously, we need to respond to the consultations, but in the meantime, you can object to the unpopular Paddington Tower proposals.

 We want to ensure that individual residents write letters about this matter so that the strength of feeling can be measured – and remember it is your elected representatives who will make the decisions. You may have to write more than one letter in order to make your voice heard and taken into account. We will update you and inform you when you need to act.

 Start today

Westminster approves policy-busting Squire towers