St Helens letter to Imperial

Below is the text of the latest letter from St Helens Residents Association to members of the Imperial College Council on October 2Oth 2011.   A reply was received on November 4th, This stated, in summary:

  • The College is clear that the development should contain a minimum of two thirds ‘direct College activities’ with the remainder available for other uses.
  • Designs for buildings are being subjected to ongoing review by Peter Stewart (an independent architectural consultant), the Architect Appraisal Panel for both RBKC and LBHF, and CABE.
  • There will continue to be design development as the College moves from the pre-planning process into the more formal application stage.

The letter gives no indication of when a fomal application will be submitted.  Latest advice from Imperial is that the application will be submitted in December 2011.

The Association’s earlier letter to the College Council members read as follows:

Dear Baroness Manningham Buller,

Plans for Imperial West

As you may know, this Association has held two meetings over the summer with John Anderson and the College’s consultancy team, to discuss the impact of plans for Phase 2 of the Imperial West development.

We are an association representing the views of 700 households living in the Oxford Gardens/St Quintins Conservation Area inNorth Kensington.

It will come as no surprise to you and your Council members that the College’s plans for Phase 2 of Imperial West are causing widespread anger and dismay in this part of the Royal Borough, as well as to our neighbours in Hammersmith.

We will not set out in this letter the detail of the planning issues on which we have been corresponding with John Anderson and his team, and with the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham as the planning authority.   All parties involved are well aware of these issues and of the strength of local feeling on this subject, as evidenced by the 150-200 people who came to the October 8th consultation session at our local church.

The purpose of this letter is to ask you, and your fellow council members, to reflect on the decisions taken to date and to ask that you rethink current plans and proposals before they proceed further.

We suggest the following points to consider:

  • We have found few if any people who do not support Imperial as an institution.  All recognise the need for the College to expand, and support the academic uses at Imperial West.
  • Equally, we have found few that are not bewildered that Imperial should be pursuing a development so weighted towards commercial and private residential use.
  • The proposal for a 34 storey residential tower, in a part of inner London hitherto unscathed by very tall buildings and with open skylines to the west, has caused huge shock and anger
  • Some believe this part of the proposals to be a negotiating ploy and that the proposed height will be reduced as ‘a concession’  to objectors.
  • Others believe that the College is being used, by a number of landowners and developers in the White City Opportunity Area (along with their consultants) to establish a bridgehead for further very tall buildings and over-intensive development in this part of Hammersmith.
  • The Phase 2 proposals involve a mix of buildings, designed by different architectural firms, which in their design, siting, and mix of uses will present an incoherent face to the outside world and will reflect badly on the College.
  • Instead of playing to College’s strengths, at the forefront of innovative thinking for a sustainable world, the current proposals reflect the worst in developer-led commercial planning and architecture.  
  • These proposals are being progressed at great speed at a time when the property climate (and predicted investment returns) are uncertain, and against significant local opposition.

For all these reasons, we believe that the College would benefit from a period of pause and reflection.   We are aware that Hammersmith & Fulham Council has been pressing the College to move rapidly to build Phase 2.  The council’s motives for doing so are the subject of much local speculation.  

As a self-proclaimed ‘Borough of Opportunity’ the current council administration appears hell-bent on promoting and approving a series of major planning developments that will change this part of London  for ever.

We respectfully suggest that the College needs to think hard about the part that it wishes to play in this process.   As a highly reputable public body, it is doubtless seen by interested commercial parties (and by the present GLA and Borough Council leadership) as the perfect candidate to test the planning limits of the new developer-oriented White City Opportunity Area Framework.

This is not how Royal Borough residents wish to see the College.  It may not prove to be how future administrations at the GLA and Borough Council would wish to see the College.  And it surely cannot be how the College Council, its partner bodies, and the majority of students and staff wish to see the College.

We ask that you and your colleagues give serious thought to the plans for Imperial West, before proceeding to submit a planning application for further development of the site.

 Yours sincerely,

 Clare Singleton, Chair SHRA

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