Diary digs into decisions behind Paddington Cube developments

Friday, 5th October 2018 — By The Xtra Diary

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Paddington Cube

IT caused a massive stir when the proposals to build what was at first known as the 72-storey

Paddington Pole was announced, and opposition did not lessen when renowned “Starchitect” Renzo Piano tweaked the scheme to create what is now known as the Paddington Cube.

On the site of a rather lovely Edwardian sorting office – in which your correspondent saw the brilliant theatre company Punch Drunk produce a typically off-the-wall show a couple of years back – the £825million Paddington Cube attracted the ire of a range of civic groups, history societies, conservation bodies and residents.

But despite strong arguments against the project – columnist Simon Jenkins said of it “Piano is merely shoving up 38,000 square feet of office space on the most floors he can get away with” – permission was duly granted and an attempt to get the project to build the 72.5-metre high, squat glass building reconsidered by the Secretary of State was dismissed.

Work has now started.

But there is a sliver of a silver lining for those who worked tirelessly to get the project halted, like the brilliant campaigners of the South East Bayswater Residents’ Association.

This week, the Court of Appeal fired a strongly worded broadside at ministers and civil servants, saying they seemed to have forgotten a pledge for greater transparency as to how such decisions are reached.

Judges ruled ministers needed to stick to their own rules and make public the reasons for not “calling-in” projects.

The then communities minister and now Home Secretary Sajid Javid had rejected calls by a raft of groups to look at the proposals – and now his actions have been shown to be wrong by judges.

Sajid Javid

The Court of Appeal ruled ministers must abide by their own rules, which is based on the 2001 Attorney General Lord Falconer stating that as well as giving reasons for calling-in projects for the Communities Minister to look over, from then on, reasons for not calling-in projects would also have to be outlined.

The decision comes too late for those fighting against the Paddington Cube – but gives hope to others.

Save Britain’s Heritage director Henrietta Billings said: “This is a fantastic result that opens up the decision-making process for highly contentious major schemes across the country.

“It literally changes the landscape of decision- making – and is a major victory for openness and transparency.”

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