Imperial College is due to restart construction on the Imperial West site within the next few months. The building involved is the Research and Translation Hub, for which the College has been granted £35m from HEFCE for towards the cost.
No timetable has yet emerged for the building of the 35 storey residential tower. The financing of this project, and how its construction date will align with the ups and downs of the London housing market, must be exercising the minds of the College Council.
The Financial Times reported earlier this year that more than 150 high end residential towers are planned for Central London. These include very large developments at Battersea, Vauxhall and Kings Cross. There are growing voices warning of a glut of supply, and that new developments in non-traditional areas will be the first to suffer from falling prices.
An apartment overlooking the Westway elevated roundabout, with its entrance adjoining the ramp to the roundabout and at a desolate spot on Wood Lane, unsafe at night, is not the dream home of every offshore investor. Yet it is these investors on whom the Central London housing market now relies, to keep prices way above what many economists see as the true value of residential property.
We would again urge the College to rethink the location of the tower in the light of its additional landholdings south of Westway. This southern part of their combined 22 acre site is closer to Westfield, the Central Line at White City, and the new housing development now being planned by St James. It would be a more salubrious location, with better shops and facilities nearby. And it would place the tower amongst what will inevitably be other very tall buildings, within the St James and Westfield 2 developments.
Until the Imperial Folly starts rising out of the ground, residents of North Kensington live in hope that the College Council will think again — and that this blight on the horizon will never be built as currently approved.