Further development of the new Imperial West campus in White City is set to move forward following the recent granting of planning permission by local authorities. Zoe Mulholland, programme manager for the project, said that “she can confirm that Hammersmith and Fulham Council granted permission on 25 July 2012. due to the scale and nature of the scheme it was referred to the GLA [Greater London Authority] for their approval which was given on 20 September 2012.”
The site, at 80 Woods Lane, was purchased by the College in 2009 for £28m after former occupants BBC Worldwide moved to the nearby Media Village. Located 500m away from the Imperial Healthcare run Hammersmith Hospital the development will aim to create facilities that will house both world class research as well as clinical teaching facilities for medical students. Planning permission for postgraduate accommodation blocks on the site had already been given in 2010. This is the first phase of development on the site, and has been completed. The Wood Lane Studios postgraduate accommodation currently houses the first cohort of students.
This development nearly triples the number of postgraduate bed spaces that the College provides. Some one third of the site has also been designated as being set aside for “commercial activity” — this includes private housing, a hotel and a “business incubator” for start-up companies.
The planning permission allows Imperial to develop multiple buildings. There will be over five new buildings, three of which will be over ten stories high. In total, to Felix’s current understanding, it seems that the total amount of space will be just shy of one million square feet.
The exact uses of all of the different buildings being built has not yet been entirely decided and confirmed.. It seems, from the planning permission, that it could house Biomedical research, health, and teaching facilities.
The plans, however, have met with strong opposition from local residents, with over one hundred letters objecting to the proposals having been received by Hammersmith and Fulham Council. Some half a dozen groups, including the Hammersmith Society and the Hammersmith and Fulham Historic Buildings Group, have voiced strong concern; with the St Helens Residents Association creating a website — imperialfolly.org.uk — to articulate their concerns. In Kensington and Chelsea, there were 160 objections.
Many of the objections concern the relate to the height of Campus’ buildings. While the highest BBC Worldwide Buildings on the site were 4 stories tall Imperial College is not planning on building any buildings with less than five stories. The tallest building will be a 35 story, 110m tall residential tower which will, to Felix’s current knowledge, contain 133 units for private sale and 59 apartments for Imperial postdoctoral researchers. Residents fear that this will impact negatively on low rise housing in the Oxford Gardens Conservation Area. The College dismissed concerns that overshadowing by the buildings will lead to an excessive lack of sunlight for existing houses, saying that the worst affected buildings will be commercial properties, and that the College used the “industry leader” to consult on the daylight and overshadowing of buildings.
There are also concerns about increased traffic, especially in light of separate plans to extend the nearby Westfield shopping centre.The St Helens Residents Association believes that “it is hard to see how Wood Lane, which will provide the access and egress for [both] developments, will not be gridlocked at all times”. They believe the problem will be exacerbated by the number of parking spaces on the site, 240, being far too low to meet demand.
Despite the opposition it looks unlikely that the College will alter its plans. Imperial claims that the development will bring numerous benefits for the local population, pointing out that development plans include the building of a new healthcare centre and a publicly accessible square. In a statement earlier this year John Anderson, Project Director for Imperial West, added: “Imperial West will provide real and lasting benefits for the capital, helping to grow the London economy, and has the capacity to generate and sustain over 3,000 jobs. We have consulted widely with the planning authorities and local residents and this process has helped inform the basis of our planning application.”
Felix contacted College to ask about more recent developments. Specifically, Felix asked about how the College is working with the residents in the local area to ensure that the residents are not left unhappy about the development. A College spokesperson replied with the following statement:
“In developing the masterplan proposals for the former BBC site, the project team has incorporated feedback from a variety of stakeholders including Hammersmith and Fulham Council, the Greater London Authority, and local residents. Among the refinements made to the proposals before submission to the planning authority included:
Introducing a stepped building form on Wood Lane to take on board concerns of residents living nearby.
Reductions in theheight and massing of buildings along the eastern boundary facing the residential area of North Kensington.
Locating taller buildings further to the west and south of the site, and refining the tallest building in an east/west orientation to make it more slender, minimising its profile and tapering in relation to north/south views.
Local residents have been actively involved in the development of the community space, ‘Brickfields Hall’ on the junction of Shinfield Street and Eynham Road, working with the design team on the layout, fixtures and fittings. The new community space will open at the end of October.”