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Renzo Piano's Paddington Cube wins reprieve from communities secretary Sajid Javid

Renzo Piano’s controversial ‘Paddington Cube’ development in London looks set to go ahead, with the British communities secretary Sajid Javid deciding not to block the mixed-use scheme.

The £775m (US$958.3m, €892m) project has already won the backing of the local Westminster City Council, but Javid blocked their decision last month while he reviewed Piano’s plans, which have been strongly criticised by local heritage groups.

However, it is now reported he will allow Piano, and developers Sellar Property Group and Great Western Developments, to proceed – informing the council in a letter that the decision should be “determined by the local planning authority”.

Speaking to Construction News, the council’s cabinet member for planning and public realm, Daniel Astaire, said he was “pleased to hear government is content for the application to be determined by the city council.”

“The committee members considered the scheme’s impact very carefully, but concluded the substantial social, economic and regeneration benefits coupled with the substantial public benefits outweighs the less-than-substantial harm to the heritage assets,” he added.

The 14-storey Paddington Cube will replace the former Royal Mail sorting office next to Paddington Station. In addition to offices, around 80,000sq ft (7,400sq m) of retail and restaurant accommodation will feature over five levels, including a rooftop eatery. The building will be lifted 12m (39ft) above a stretch of public realm covering an acre.

Speaking last year, the former deputy leader of the council, Robert Davis, praised the “game-changing” design and said: “Paddington is the front door of our city for many visitors with vital rail connections linking London to the country and the world, and The Cube development will create the infrastructure we need to build a brighter future for this part of Westminster.”

However, the Historic England and Save Britain’s Heritage groups have raised objections to the scheme, and NHS Trust Imperial College Healthcare, which runs the adjacent St Mary's Hospital, has raised “very significant concerns” that the building will obstruct access for ambulances serving its major trauma unit.

An earlier Piano-designed concept for the site – centred around a 72-storey skyscraper and nicknamed ‘the Paddington Pole’ – was scrapped at the beginning of 2016 following a barrage of complaints from campaigners.

The Sellar Property Group – which is developing the project and previously collaborated with Renzo Piano Building Workshop to build The Shard – responded by holding local consultations and proposing the alternative cube-shaped structure, and this vision was enough to convince city planners.

The chairman of the Sellar Group, Irvine Sellar, died last month at the age of 82 following a short illness.

Paying tribute, Piano said: “Sometimes you meet people you understand – with the same desires and the same curiosity. We found ourselves in synchronicity.

“As an architect, he gave you trust and affection. Architects need that trust from a client. Sometimes as an architect you cannot be 100 per cent sure [about your designs] but Irvine gave you that trust with a bit of love and that is essential.”

Renzo Piano  Paddington Cube  architecture  design  Irvine Sellar  London  Westminster  Sajid Javid  
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Renzo Piano’s controversial ‘Paddington Cube’ development in London looks set to go ahead, with the British communities secretary Sajid Javid deciding not to block the mixed-use scheme. The £775m (US$958.3m, €892m) project has already won the backing of the local Westminster City Council, but Javid blocked their decision last month while he reviewed Piano’s plans, which have been strongly criticised by local heritage groups. However, it is now reported he
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 The building will be lifted 12m (39ft) above a stretch of public realm covering an acre / Sellar Property Group
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