Woodlands To Be Demolished

Imperial begin consulting residents over development plans

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Local residents have expressed concerns as Imperial College begins consultations over its plans for the former BBC Worldwide building on Wood Lane.

Imperial College London bought the site at 80 Wood Lane last September for £28million. Since then, it has been developing its plans to create a new academic and research campus there – plans which involve almost completely demolishing the existing buildings.

The site, known as Woodlands, currently comprises over 30,000 square metres of former BBC offices and support facilities and is surrounded by a red brick boundary. Imperial say all the buildings currently on the site, with the exception of the Sports Centre, will be demolished subject to planning permission.

The College, which is part of the University of London, says it wants to use the site to create new teaching, research and administration facilities and to provide high quality student accommodation, particularly for postgraduates. In addition, they envisage that the site will provide small retail units such as a convenience store and a pharmacy, new homes, new commercial offices, a hotel, sports facilities, a GP surgery and an early years education nursery.

The say the development will bring many benefits to the local community, including: opening up the site, which has been closed off to the public for decades, bringing new jobs to the area, creating an open space at the heart of the campus which will be open to the public, creating pedestrian and cycling routes through the site.

According to the proposals, the new development is likely to be made up of 'domestic scale dwellings' on the Shinfield Street side, medium-rise buildings in the centre of the site and taller buildings next to the Westway.

Last week residents living to the north and west of the site were invited to a series of open days to discuss the proposals. Some of those living nearby have expressed reservations about the plans: “Personally I am concerned that after the construction work has finally stopped for Westfield and in the midst of the unceasing roadworks round here, we could have another number of years of disruption and noise,” said Damian Rafferty of Eynham Road, which backs onto the site.

“That said, Imperial College have at least offered to consult with us and the development may bring some benefits to the area. It remains to be seen whether those benefits could more readily be achieved by using the existing buildings though. At the moment we don't really know what is planned so it is hard to react but my feeling is one of resigned scepticism: I'd like to see what they are planning and if they do meet local demands. I would like to see guarantees built in so that good intentions don't get shaved off later on,” he added.

In their proposals, Imperial say they aim to cause as little disruption as possible to local residents: “The College recognises the importance of working with the local community and will seek to minimise the impact of development. Prior to the start of demolition and construction, a management plan will be submitted to the Council and will ensure that the amenity of local residents will be protected during the demolition and construction phases.”

Commenting on the initial consultation, a spokesperson for Imperial said: “This is the very start of the consultation and there will be further consultation over the coming months. So far, the feedback has been positive.”

Imperial say they are aiming to submit a planning application in the middle of 2010.

Yasmine Estaphanos

March 5, 2010

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