Major proposals for most of the underused land in the White City Opportunity Area are being pushed forward rapidly. Land holders are exploiting a planning climate in which Hammersmith & Fulham Council is encouraging aggressive commercial development.
Westfield Phase 2
An outline application has been submitted by Westfield for a development that will extend northwards from the existing shopping centre up to where the Hammersmith and City Line crosses the site. The proposed development includes 50,000 sq.m of retail floorspace, 1600 residential units, and more restaurants/cafes and leisure facilities. This application was approved by the Council in early 2012.
Much of the development will be built on a deck raised above the existing access routes in and out of Westfield. This will add to the overall height of buildings, which include a 20 storey tower and a series of tall blocks along the West Cross route.
Details of the outline application are at this link
Borough of Opportunity – opportunity for whom?
The combined impact of the Westfield, Helical Bar, and Imperial developments will change for ever this part of inner west London. Views of skylines and a low-rise residential heritage will disappear. The impact on infrastructure (additional traffic, public transport demand, water supply, sewer and waste water) will be enormous.
Although each developer is required to submit an Environmental Impact Statement as part of the planning application process, there is little sign that the cumulative impact of all three developments (i.e. the above two and Imperial West) is being considered in depth. It is hard to see how Wood Lane, which will provide the access and egress for all three developments, will not be gridlocked at all times.
Meanwhile the revised version of the White City Opportunity Area Planning Framework has yet to be published, after consultation and feedback from the public on the initial draft circulated in 2011. This document is meant to set a coherent planning framework for the area. It could be (if the Borough Council and GLA wished it to be) a planning tool that held the line against over-aggressive development and destruction of skylines and local heritage.
But there is no sign of the Borough Council and the GLA wishing the OAPF to play this role. And no sign of a willingness to wait until the revised draft has even been consulted on, as required by law, before adoption as Supplementary Planning Guidance (not due to happen until mid 2012).
The Borough seems more than happy to be making a series of major planning decisions in advance of adoption of the OAPF, and before the public have had a chance to have their say. Developers are making the most of this opportunity.
The one thing that may yet save the area from becoming another version of Croydon centre is the growing threat of a further and lengthy recession. The current state of the White City sites stand as a testament to the UK’s ability to go from boom to bust, in repeated cycles. The last coherent attempt to make good use of this key part of inner London, and to bring pleasure and enlightenment to Londoners, was the Franco British Exhibition of 1908.
Development of what is now Westfield took decades, and several abortive attempts from a range of landowners, before it happened. The fluctuations of the property market meant that ambitious schemes reached the planning stage, and were sometimes approved, but not then built. Does London at this moment need or want another 50,000 sq. metres of retail floorspace next to Westfield (or a 35 storey tower of expensive residential flats at Imperial West for that matter?).