Design proposals for police station redevelopment unveiled

Image above: Visualisation of the new building at 205-207 Chiswick High Rd; image from developer Birchgrove

‘Bold and modern’ facade fails to impress residents

The new designs for the redevelopment of Chiswick police station have been revealed – described by the developers as “bold” and “modern” and by residents who went to look at them as a wasted opportunity not in keeping with the character of the High Rd.

Local residents Mr and Mrs Van Dyke, told The Chiswick Calendar they thought the overall the proposals were “a very good idea” but criticised the design.

“It’s supposed to be blending in with the existing architecture but I don’t think it does”, said Mr Van Dyke. Mrs Van Dyke said she would have preferred the building to be red brick:

“It’s supposed to be in a conservation area, so something more in-keeping with the surrounding architecture would be preferable… I’m not against it though, we have to be realistic.”

Image above: Visualisation of the entrance to the new building at 205-207 Chiswick High Rd; image from developer Birchgrove

A ‘statement’ building in the heart of Chiswick

The police station was sold to Birchgrove, who specialise in residential apartments for older people. Their brief was to design a ‘statement’ building for the centre of Chiswick, which some say are  not in keeping with the character of the town centre.

Birchgrove showed off the designs for the site at a public exhibition on Monday (5 December). They are expanding their portfolio of ‘assisted living neighbourhoods’.  For them and their partners Levanter Developments, the site at 205-207 Chiswick High Road will be their seventh property housing older residents.

The building as designed is part six storeys and part recessed five storeys, which they say largely fits within the height and mass of the existing police station. The top floor of the proposed Linden Garden Block is recessed back from the street frontage and steps down.

All trees along Linden Garden would be retained under the proposals and the courtyard at the rear of the main building will be refashioned into an ‘extensive’ communal garden with a vegetable garden and mews units fronting Prince of Wales Terrace.

In addition to the 52 units of extra care accommodation, the ground floor of the proposal will introduce what is described as an ‘active’ frontage onto Chiswick High Road providing shared facilities for the residents of the scheme, which will also be available for the wider community to use. These will be comprised of: a lobby/ reception space, a bar/coffee shop, multi-function community space and a restaurant with an outside patio.

Birchgrove highlighted the new building’s sustainability in the proposals, with a focus on energy use reduction. Some of these aspects include: high efficiency lighting, heat recovery ventilation in all apartments, rainwater harvesting, reusing materials from the existing building and solar panels on the roof.

Images above: Visualisation of the side profile of the building at 205-207 Chiswick High Rd from Linden Gardens

Design “deeply disappointing” says Cllr Joanna Biddolph

Chiswick Gunnersbury ward councillor Joanna Biddolph was among those who went to see the designs unveiled. She told us she would be writing to the design review panel as she and other residents were unhappy with the designs.

“I think the design is deeply disappointing and it’s being driven by planners who are not connected to Chiswick. It just doesn’t do Chiswick justice.

“As I understand it [local residents] are saying the same thing. Nobody’s against the concept… but everyone thinks it’s just letting Chiswick down in terms of aesthetics and we deserve better.”

She added she felt Birchgrove did want to do better, but feared they were effectively being told by Hounslow to build something specific.

“A wasted opportunity” says Dr Karen Liebreich

Dr Karen Liebreich MBE, who is a director of Abundance London and a founder director of the flower market held every month outside the site of the new building, told us she was very much in favour of the idea of bringing homes for older people into the heart of the community, but agreed with Cllr Biddolph that the architectural designs were disappointing:

“At first sight the plans look disappointing. Early indications that there would be a frontage accessible to passersby, and a sympathetic architecture that would enhance the High Road and bring an exciting new development for older residents into the heart of Chiswick seem to have been rejected in favour of an inappropriate ‘statement building’ that simply plonks a generic office-style block on our High Road.

“It’s such a wasted opportunity. I hope these proposals can be revised.”

Image above: The current building, which housed Chiswick Police Station

Currrent building ‘a carbuncle’

In the Chiswick High Road Conservation Area Appraisal in 2021, the current building was identified as a ‘negative contributor’ to the character and appearance of the conservation area.

Honor Barret, CEO of Birchgrove, told The Chiswick Calendar:

“Everyone’s in an agreement that the existing building is a bit of a carbuncle, so they’re really happy with the idea of development. But then there’s this subjective element of what is a good looking building”.

When pressed on criticisms from local people who thought it looked too much like an office, Honor said there had been “a lot of that”. She said up to 250 people had come to view the proposals on Monday.

“Hounslow said to us they wanted quite a statement building, they wanted it to have ambition, because it’s such a high profile spot isn’t it? Right on the High St. They wanted it to tell you unapologetically it’s a residential building.

“But the borough haven’t seen this yet, we thought we’d start with local residents and see what they think and the borough will have a look at it on Thursday.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

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