Groups and businesses ‘horrified’ by 10-storey homes plan

‘Regeneration must mean more than simply providing new housing’

Friday, 3rd September 2021 — By Tom Foot

Rachael Robathan

The leader of the council, Cllr Rachael Robathan, has offered to meet with objectors to the Church Street scheme

A COALITION of more than 20 groups and businesses from north Westminster has written to the city council saying they are “horrified” by a plan to introduce a row of tall buildings in Church Street.

The voluntary, community, faith, educational institutions and businesses signing the letter include St Paul’s Church Reverend Clare Dowding, the Cockpit Theatre, the Middle East Women and Society, the Paddington Development Trust, Ash Rahman Pro Touch Soccer Academy, Westbourne Park Family Centre, the Sudanese Community and Information Centre and the Westbourne Forum.

They say they are “deeply worried” that the new library in Church Street will “simply not be big enough” given the scale of the regeneration.

“Regeneration must mean more than simply providing new housing,” it said. “The plans must include adequate cultural and social facilities, in order to enable people to lead fulfilling lives.

“As has been evidenced throughout the pandemic, Church Street residents are disadvantaged by having many people without access to the internet or IT devices.” The letter goes on to criticise the council for building flats 10 storeys high along Church Street.

“We are genuinely horrified…” said the letter. “We strongly oppose over-tall buildings and do not believe a busy open-air public space and market can flourish if turned into an oppressively bordered corridor robbed of sunlight.

“We are deeply worried that your current proposals will result in the market being completely overwhelmed and that the existing ‘village’ atmosphere that we all love so much will be totally lost by overpoweringly tall buildings looming over the street.”

The letter says the market provides “low-priced fresh fish and fruit and vegetables” to residents’ general health in a ward with the lowest life expectancy in Westminster.

The market is also one of the main attractions bringing visitors and income to the area. The letter said: “We believe that you must reconsider these proposals and place any new high rise buildings on the Edgware Road frontage parallel to Venables Street or elsewhere on the edge of the ward in order to protect our precious market and street.”

The regeneration of the Church Street area is mapped out in a “masterplan” that was agreed in 2018.

A council spokesperson said: “The regeneration of Church Street is providing new, sustainable and affordable homes, greener public spaces, improved facilities for the community and for the street market.

“Our plan will enable local people and businesses to remain at the heart of this strong, vibrant and diverse community. Additional high-quality homes are much needed in the area.

“Other community spaces, in addition to the library, are being built in the ward, including across the road at the Church Street Triangle. We are developing a Community Infrastructure Strategy to make sure all of these new spaces provide a network of locations to bring benefits to the community.

“We are committed to working closely with local residents, businesses and representative groups on our plans. The leader of the council, Cllr Rachael Robathan, and cabinet member for communities and regeneration, Cllr Heather Acton, have offered to meet with those who have signed the letter to discuss their concerns.”

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