• Piccadilly Circus makeover

The block behind the famous Piccadilly Circus advertising lights is to be redeveloped – but the lights will remain.
Land Securities received permission in December for a comprehensive redevelopment of almost a complete city block. The redevelopment will increase the amount of office space on the site in a Fletcher Priest design that makes much use of ceramic tiles to clad its roof, and some of the block’s walls.
The rebuild will reuse facades of some buildings on the site, blending them in with the new structure. While officers liked the adventurous design, there was some criticism of certain elements, which will be conditioned to refine the design. The application also tested Westminster’s attitude towards affordable housing, and successfully argued for the loss of existing on-site affordable homes, in favour of more office space.
Advised by agent JLL, the applicants argued that not only could they not provide affordable housing on site, but that there were no appropriate nearby sites that could be found on which it might be delivered. A payment in lieu was therefore proposed – subject to the inevitable viability argument, to beat down the original figure demanded.
The redevelopment will provide an additional 11.258 sq m of office accommodation, compared with the existing buildings on the site.

LPA Perspective: This redevelopment proposal challenged Westminster’s planning policies on a number of issues, not least the council’s strong preference to resist the loss of affordable housing, and for obligations to be built either on a development site or else in nearby streets. But the result is a more efficient block that copes with heritage issues, such as the retention of historic building facades, while delivering interesting architectural treatment of the new elements. And inside, there will be efficient office floorplates – and more space than previously.
Little was made of the opportunity to enhance the illuminated advertising hoardings, for many years a key part of the Piccadilly Circus environment. Perhaps they will be updated another day, under a different permission. But with central London’s traffic noise reducing, as cyclists replace cars, buses go hybrid and black taxis will soon be whisper quiet too, how about taking up an idea seen in Japan’s Shibuya district. There, the illuminated advertising boards also feature sound, for a full on assault on the senses.

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