About Imperial’s Folly

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The St Helens Residents Association in North Kensington has been campaigning over the past 18 months to change the plans of Imperial College for a major development at its Imperial West site (formerly known as Woodlands), in Wood Lane London W12.

We are not opposed to the range of academic and medical uses proposed for the site. But Imperial insists that their plans can only be financed through other commercial uses. These include a 35 storey tower of residential apartments and a hotel.   A block plan of the proposals is here.

The St Helens Residents Association represents households living in or near the St Quintins Estate in North Kensington.   This is an estate of early 20th century terraced housing, and was designated as the Oxford Gardens Conservation Area in 1979, by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.  The Association has a Gold Standard award from the Royal Borough for excellence in representing residents.

After an 18 month campaign, Imperial’s development proposals have changed little.  Some modifications have been made to plans for buildings directly facing our conservation area.  The proposed tower has increased from 34 storeys to 35.

We believe that these commercial buildings will prove to be ’Imperial’s Folly’ and will be remembered for many years for destroying the western skyline for all those living in this part of London.  Overall, the plans involve:

  • a site density greater than Paddington Basin
  • a tower taller than Trellick Tower
  • well over a million square feet of new floorspace
  • an extra 2,000 people in the area
  • a serious impact on local traffic

The planning authority for the development is the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham.   The site borders the eastern boundary of the borough, and is only 120 metres distant from the Oxford Gardens Conservation Area, across a railway line.

Our ‘Fight the Height’ campaign is about protecting the western skyline of this area of London, for those living in a much wider area.   Although relatively central, this part of North Kensington and North Hammersmith has been largely spared from high rise development.   The western skyline provides long distance views.  There is the large open space of Wormwood Scrubs.   There are a couple of medium height buildings (parts of the BBC and Hammersmith Hospital).  But these are a third of the height of the residential tower proposed.

We fear that where one very tall building is permitted others will follow.  There are already advanced plans for a tower of 32 storeys on the Helical Bar/Aviva site just south of Westway.  The Hammersmith & Fulham Core Strategy (the council’s main development plan) has been crafted to favour a cluster of new tall buildings along this part of Westway.  Planners talk of these forming a ‘gateway’ to London.  There is no evidence of any public support for such an idea.

Please help up to protect this part of West London.  The planning application for Imperial West Phase 2 was approved by Hammersmith & Fulham Council on July 25th 2012, after a series of postponements resulting from our campaign.  This decision remains subject to endorsement by the Mayor of London and our lobbying efforts are now focused on asking Boris Johnson to intervene and halt the present proposals.

St Helens Residents Association is one of several groups and organisations of local people working to prevent overdevelopment of this part of London.  Other campaigns at Earls Court and Shepherds Bush Market involve legal challenges against the council, and we are heading in that direction also.  Nothing else seems to have any impact on the planners or the politicians in charge at the Borough.

Thanks for your aupport,

St Helens Residents Association

One thought on “About Imperial’s Folly

  1. White City and Imperial College is like chalk and cheese !
    The college should stick to central London. The glamour and expense of South Kensington is what I like about Imperial. Somewhere like Boomsbury would be more appropriate. I once went for an interview at Hammersmith Hospital, Imperial College; I didn’t like the area; with all those 6 foot something young “head cases” making their way to the tube station from the prison.

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