Biomedical engineering centre replaces hotel

Imperial College has dropped plans for a 13 storey hotel on the northern part of its landholding at Imperial West (i.e. the former Woodlands site). The College will instead be using this part of the site for the new Michael Uren Biomedical Engineering Research Hub, financed in part from a £40m bequest from former alumnus Michael Uren OBE.

This building will be on that part of the site for which outline approval was granted for a hotel in July 2012 (Building E in the approved masterplan).   The architects are Allies and Morrison (also the architects for Westfield 2).

This is the third set of architects designing buildings for this site, following Aukett Fitzroy Robinson (designers of most of the buildings) and PLP Architecture (designers of the 35 storey tower and technology transfer centre). Difficult to see how this will make for a coherent ‘campus’ but Allies and Morrison are a well respected firm and can hardly make the overall scheme worse than the original proposals (see below).

Visualisation of the completed development

Visualisation of the completed development

Imperial has retained the same PR Consultancy (Quatro) as for the earlier Phase 2 proposals.  There will be a Public Exhibition of the proposals for the Biomedical Engineering Centre on Thursday 20th November (3.00pm-8.00pm) and Friday 21st November (1.00pm-5.00pm) at the Community Hall, Shinfield Street, W12.  We hope to have sight of the plans before then, and will add any information that we can get hold of.

Relocating the hotel to the southern part of the site, nearer White City Underground and Westfield, makes obvious sense.  It will also increase the academic, as opposed to the commercial content, of the Woodlands part of the campus.  We will continue to argue that the 35 storey residential tower should also be moved south of Westway.  Here it would be much less prominent, amongst what look likely to be a group of 28 storey residential towers in the St James development on the former M&S site.

Potential buyers of the apartments in the tower are also more likely to be attracted to a building closer to Westfield and the Central Line, as compared with a very unsatisfactory location right next to the slip road to the Westway elevated roundabout.

The 35 floor Imperial Folly will be competing for sales with nearly 200 other very tall residential towers in the planning pipeline across London – all likely to come onstream at a time when the city’s housing market looks to have peaked.  There are only so many overseas buyers out there.

Imperial College has a new President, and we have written to her suggesting that she has a fresh look at the current proposals and whether they will serve the College well.  You can see our letter here StQW to IC President Sept 2014  No reply, after a month, but we live in hope.

The new Michael Uren building will require a new planning approval.  A planning application is due to be submitted in the New Year.  We feel that this will be a timely moment for the Labour administration at Hammersmith & Fulham Council to review in depth the Imperial West masterplan, and the details of the Section 106 agreement entered into by the previous administration at the Council.

The financial viability of the development has changed significantly since planning approval was granted in July 2012.  The College has subsequently received a £35m grant from HEFCE towards cost of the buildings, and now a £45m donation from Michael Uren.. The public have a right to know how the overall deal now stacks up, and whether the scale of community benefits from the scheme (including key worker housing) remains sufficient.