Wednesday 16 March 2022
The first session of the second day of the public inquiry on the proposed Tesco/Homebase redevelopment opened with Mr Patel, the architect responsible for the Homebase site. He was taken through his firm’s approach to the design of the proposed Homebase development by Mr Warren QC representing the developer. He characterised the proposal as a “gateway development” that ‘regenerated’ the area, complementing the needs of both residential and commercial sectors while reconciling the ‘two grains’. The exact meaning of this was unclear but seemed to refer to the proximity of buildings to roads, in this case usually the GWR; a positive ‘grain’ was close to the road and tidy. The upshot was that it almost seemed as if Homebase was being demolished because of its car park’s negative ‘grain’.
Mr Patel argued that the construction details would give the new development an Art Deco feel to match the character of the Golden Mile, and that the ‘stepped back’ design would permit views of the Gillette Building from Syon Lane, acknowledging the ‘pre-eminence’ of this famous building. He also claimed that the good quality of the homes would be ‘tenure blind’, with a great outlook and sufficient sunlight. The level 4 podium would provide green space for leisure, community and play, while some green areas nearby would be upgraded, under the section 106 agreement, to cater largely for the needs of older children (aged 12+).
Scott Lyness, a QC for Historic England, questioned Mr Patel about how heritage issues had informed key design principles, and to what extent they were modified in response to feedback. The discussion focused on the massing and height of the buildings, the impact this was likely to have on nearby communities, the coherence of the Art Deco corridor, and the likely impact on the line of sight from Kew Gardens and Syon Park. Mr Lyness commented that there was ‘nothing to indicate that heritage issues were at the heart of the typology’. Mr Patel replied that heritage was ‘implied in the design’ even if it had not been explicitly mentioned. When questions were repeated he sometimes gave different answers. At one point the Inspector advised Mr Patel that he ‘couldn’t have it both ways’.
Mr Lyness suggested that the Gillette Building already provided a gateway function: ‘you don’t need 17 storeys to achieve a gateway function’. He added that there was an abrupt change of scale from Building B (the 17-storey building that would be next to the Skoda garage) to the buildings to the east. Mr Patel said he had assumed that the latter would ‘come up for regeneration’ which would reduce the abruptness. Mr Lyness’ questioning lasted for over two hours during which Mr Patel often seemed to have difficulty answering the questions put to him.
Barbara Stryjak for OWGRA followed with a question on the 2017 planning permission for the Access Storage building. LBH denied planning permission when 11 storeys were proposed so why then did Mr Patel propose 17 storeys for the Homebase site? “Context” was Mr Patel’s response; this is a regeneration area and it is proposed to set the new buildings away from the boundary. Mohsen Zikri, also for OWGRA, continued with questions about renewable energy to which there was no clear answer. He also asked about the podium level, its location on the 4th floor and vulnerability to noise from the Heathrow flight path, and winds. The Inspector advised that these issues should be addressed at a roundtable discussion dealing with environmental impacts and scheduled to take place later in the inquiry. She did however question Mr Patel on the nature of these spaces. If the podium was designed for the under 5s, where were the quiet spaces for older people? Mr Patel responded that the plans ‘fulfil all GLA requirements for space for all users.’
Mohsen also questioned the sustainability of the planned facades and the risks of glare, and possible light pollution. Mr Patel was confident that none of these issues were problematic and even claimed that glare only arose from concave glass facades.
You can watch a recording of the proceedings via this link:
We have prepared an index of the proceedings that will let you directly access individual contributions. You can access the index for Day 2 here