Combustible Cladding Used in Original Empire House Design

New plans submitted with materials compliant with current regulations

Empire House frontage onto Chiswick High Road from Lend Lease design
Empire House frontage onto Chiswick High Road from Lend Lease design

A new design has been submitted for a major development planned in the centre of Chiswick after the original plan was found to contain combustible cladding.

Architects commissioned by Lend Lease drew up designs for the Empire House development which stretches from Essex Place to Acton Lane as well as fronting onto Chiswick High Road. The tower block on the High Road is to be converted to residential use and the remainder of the site includes a new 7/8 storey block and four 3-storey townhouses on Essex Place and a 5-storey block on the corner of Essex Place and Acton Lane, creating a total of 137 dwellings and additions to the existing commercial space.

These were approved by Hounslow Council in 2015 but then challenged by local residents through a judicial review. When that failed, Lend Lease did not start the project and announced in 2018 that they wished to sell. The area around the scheme has since gone into a decline with complaints of empty shops, fly tipping and littering.

No sale has been announced or recorded with the Land Registry but last December a company called CHR London Ltd submitted minor amendments to the original plan. The company was incorporated in September of last year and two of the directors of this company are Grant Lipton and Dean Clifford and they also appear to have backing from Chinese investors who are listed as directors. They are also joint directors of Great Marlborough Estates. Grant Lipton is the son of Sir Stuart Lipton, the founder of Stanhope PLC which was behind the development of Chiswick Park. Sir Stuart is a Non-Executive Director of Great Marlborough Estates.

Quod, a planning consultant, working on behalf of CHR London has been holding detailed discussions with Hounslow Council as recently as this May. They have submitted the latest planning application on behalf of CHR London which is for a non-material amendment to the design already approved. They wish to change façade insulation type and thickness and relocate a firefighting lift. They say these changes are required to comply with amended building regulations.

As part of the implementation of the Hackitt Review’s recommendations in response to the Grenfell Tower disaster, the Government published a new regulations which came into force on 30 August 2019.

The regulations ban the use of combustible materials in the external walls of high-rise residential buildings and apply to all new residential buildings above 18m in height. To ensure that the façade construction is compliant with the revised regulations, non-combustible mineral wool insulation is now proposed instead of rigid insulation boards upon which the original design was based.

Lend Lease's plan for Essex Place

The new regulations also have led to requested changes in the way the energy efficiency of the building is managed. The original design relied on Combined Heat and Power (CHP) to meet CO2 emission targets but there have been growing concerns over the impact such combustion technology has on air quality and a switch is to air source heat pumps (ASHP) is proposed.

We contacted representatives of CHR London who said they weren't ready to make a comment on their plans just at this stage.

June 20, 2020