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Stop the ‘Paddington Pole’!

The Victorian Society is strongly objecting to plans to demolish the former Royal Mail sorting office to build the 72 storey ‘Paddington pole’. The proposals entail the complete loss of the existing handsome building and would cause ‘substantial harm’ to the setting of nearby listed buildings and the conservation area.

Former Royal Mail sorting and delivery office as seen from Paddington Station

The Victorian Society is strongly objecting to plans to demolish the former Royal Mail sorting office to build the 72 storey ‘Paddington pole’. The proposals entail the complete loss of the existing handsome building and would cause ‘substantial harm’ to the setting of nearby listed buildings and the conservation area.  Locating a 72 storey tower in this low rise area would have a negative impact on large parts of West London, changing their nature forever. The Society is urging people to object to the proposals before the end of January.

The impressive baroque style former Royal Mail sorting and delivery office was built in 1892 by Sir Henry Tanner, and extended in 1907 by Jasper Wager. The building sits alongside Grade I-listed Paddington station and features prominently in views both of, and within, the station. The Bayswater Conservation Area was extended in 2010 to include the former Royal Mail building and other surrounding buildings such as the Grade II-listed 1851-3 Great Western Hotel by P. C. Hardwick, Railway Offices and the 1878 former multi-storey stables. All were built as a result of Paddington Station’s development – one of Britain’s earliest surviving and most significant major railway termini. The loss of the former sorting office would cause significant harm to the Bayswater Conservation Area and be detrimental to the setting of numerous listed buildings, most significantly Paddington Station – making its history and impact on this area of the city harder to understand.

However, it is not just the loss of the former sorting office which concerns the Victorian Society. A 72 storey tower would be a huge departure from the surrounding low rise buildings. The Society supports Historic England’s view that ‘whatever its detailing, a building of this scale will have a seriously detrimental impact on the character and heritage assets of this part of London’. Improvements to Paddington station and its interchange with the Underground proposed by Great Western Developments Ltd as part of the scheme are not sufficient to justify the tower’s harm. These improvements could be achieved as part of more sympathetic redevelopment scheme incorporating the former sorting and delivery office. Any new development should focus on the large eastern portion of the site identified by Westminster Council as a negative contributor to the Conservation Area.

Senior Victorian Society Conservation Adviser, James Hughes, said: ‘We strongly object to these proposals. Demolishing this high quality building would harm the setting of the Grade I listed Paddington Station, other listed buildings and the Bayswater Conservation Area itself. Although unlisted, this building is important in understanding Paddington Station’s relationship with the city. Any development of the site should focus on the later buildings of no architectural value. The Paddington Pole’s 72 storeys would affect views across west London and pave the way for similar towers in the future. Westminster Council must reject this application and instead explore other options to achieve the same benefits for passengers.’

Historic England, SAVE Britain’s Heritage and many others have also objected to the application which can be commented on until the end of January. A petition against the scheme started by the Skyline Campaign now has over 1,500 signatures.

Friday 22 January, 2016

More recent item: Extension plans for listed Louisa Ryland House opposed
Earlier item: Historic London buildings set for demolition under Crossrail 2 plans

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