Bayswater residents protest against plans to turn historic Whiteleys department store into a 10-storey block of luxury flats – with no affordable homes

Protest from major conservation groups and 1,000 local Bayswater residents has greeted a plan to demolish Whiteleys, London’s first department store. 

A wealthy Brunei-based private family trust wants to turn the historic Whiteleys shopping centre in Bayswater into a 10-storey block of luxury flats, with no affordable homes included.

Though some façades would be retained, the store, founded in the Victorian era and rebuilt in 1912, would be gutted and one of its distinctive Edwardian glass domes removed.

The proposal — the centrepiece of a £1 billion project to clean up shabby Queensway — has horrified London’s major conservation and heritage groups and drawn protest from 1,000 local residents.

Westminster council’s planning committee will rule next week on whether Whiteleys can be demolished leaving only its stucco façades in Queensway and Porchester Gardens standing.

 

The Grade II-listed building will be transformed inside, with three new basement levels, into top-end apartments with shops, a gym, a boutique hotel, an underground cinema and large car park, and a crèche.

There will be a total of 103 new homes and these are likely to sell for sums which only the world’s richest could consider. The only comparable development in this area is The Lancasters, at Lancaster Gate, where a four-bedroom flat is currently available for £24 million.

These large, top-spec Whiteleys homes could shatter price ceilings in an area which is already enjoying strong price growth, thanks to its affordability compared to Knightsbridge and Mayfair, and the promise of major regeneration.

 

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The remodelled centre would have a giant glass-topped atrium

 

“The objections relate to the lack of affordable housing … [and the] … substantial harm caused to the listed building as a result of the proposed alterations,” explained John Walker, Westminster’s director of planning, who confirmed that the developers are claiming they cannot afford to include any low-cost homes aimed at Londoners priced off the property ladder.

As a condition of being granted planning permission the developer would, however, have to pay £6 million to the council, to be spent on sprucing up the Queensway area which has gone from chic to very shabby over two decades.

Critics also claim a 10-storey building will be “too tall and bulky” and will cast a shadow over neighbouring homes.

Historic England — formerly English Heritage — has raised concerns about the plan, particularly the loss of one of the building’s landmark domes.

The Victorian Society has also objected, citing “unjustified harm” to the building, which dates from 1863. “The extent of loss of historic fabric would be seriously harmful to the integrity of the building, erode the interest of the building to a critical degree and would render it a mere historic veneer,” said a spokesman.

The South East Bayswater Residents Association says people living nearby will be subjected to “years of noise, dust, dirt and disruption”. Close to 100 local residents objected to the scheme individually, and more than 1,000 people have signed online petitions.

A spokesman for the Whiteleys development said: “The proposed redevelopment will restore Whiteleys to the centre of a rejuvenated Queensway. It will replace a failed shopping centre with a destination that local residents and tourists alike will use regularly due to its wide variety of shops, restaurants and leisure facilities. 

“In the process, hundreds of jobs will be created.  Without this landmark building providing  substantial and critical investment it will fall further into disrepair.

“An affordable housing viability report was submitted to the city council on which we are  working with officers and their appointed independent viability consultant.”

Councillor Adam Hug believes: “There is a risk that with no affordable housing, and overseas buyers, much of the housing will become a dead space, rarely occupied and dragging vibrancy from the area.”

The council’s own policies suggest that at least 30 per cent of the development should be aimed at low-and middle-income buyers.

If this is not feasible the council could consider taking a cash contribution to spend on affordable housing elsewhere in the borough.

Planning director John Walker calculates that this would amount to an astonishing £103,025,538 based on the likely value of the finished flats.

 

This article has been amended. It originally referred to both the Whiteleys glass domes being removed. In fact, the plan envisages the primary dome being retained. While Historic England has raised concerns about the proposal, it has not lodged a formal objection.


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