Paddington Basin student accommodation bloc

Proposals to build a student block near Paddington Basin were met with almost universal condemnation as they were rejected by councillors on Tuesday evening.

The 20 storey, 768-bed building on Baltic Wharf was described as ‘monolithic’ as an avalanche of objections from the local and wider community were lodged on Tuesday night from the height and bulk to the loss of light over the canal.

The project, Unite Students’ second collaboration with builders merchants Travis Perkins after it acquired the site in 2019, met 116 objections including from residents associations and the Metropolitan Police.

Bruce Blair, acting chairman of Sheldon Square Residents’ Association said: “This is a monolithic structure which would cause very great harm and loss of amenity to residents.

“The applicants disingenuously claim to have carried out an extensive consultation and to have listened thus significantly to address our concerns.

“With no disrespect this is irrefutably untrue.”

The application attracted unusually substantial objections from politicians not representing the area, including in writing from MP for Huntingdon Jonathan Djanogly and three councillors from outside the Little Venice ward and was rejected unanimously by the planning sub committee, although the final decision will rest with the Sadiq Khan, after the applicants requested it to be called up to the Mayor’s office.

Image: Travis Perkins Paddington is the last remaining builders merchants in Central London. Credit: Ryan Prosser.

Councillor Susie Burbidge, Deputy Cabinet Member for Housing as well as a local resident described the proposals as “pure madness” and “an overdevelopment in a full area.

She said: “When does an area become full?

“How can I expand more on my words when I say on behalf of residents: Please, no more. We are absolutely full.”

She added that the local facilities would not cope combined with the impact of an already approved nearby hotel.

“The doctors surgeries are already full, the playing fields are already crowded.

“This area is full. There is no green open space left.”

Concerns were also raised from the gallery over the possibility of antisocial behaviour and loss of privacy of facing buildings.

Both Travis Perkins and Unite Students both defended the project, pointing to changes to the scheme including a reduction of up to 80 beds, a public canal path as well as committing to bringing the commencement forward to Autumn 2024.

But committee chairman Councillor Robert Rigby described the alterations as a ‘box ticking exercise’ and blamed the applicants’ ignoring residents’ views for the ‘avalanche’ of objections.

“The applicant must understand that this second bite of the cherry is not good enough.

“The engagement has effectively been a box ticking exercise which is quite disappointing.

“When you engage with residents you need to listen to those residents, and I suspect and I feel that the listening has not taken place, it’s gone in one ear and out the other.

Main image credit: Unite Students.

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