This is an important building, which was intended to be the motor showroom for Harrods.
We think that it is essential to replicate the architectural detail of the original building in the new parts of the building, and not just to pay lip service to it by making it look similar but deliberately not identical in case the architect is accused of pastiche. We would not accuse the architect of pastiche, and on the contrary the building could possibly qualify for an architectural award by the Chelsea Society.
Chelsea is a very special place, and except in rare cases we do not see a site in Chelsea as a blank canvas on which the architect can design as he pleases. There are locations where visual innovation is inappropriate and where the exact replication of an earlier style is appropriate – but it does have to be exact. For example our members are irritated every day when they see the efforts of the 1950’s architects to rebuild the terraces damaged in the Second World War.
These terraces were beautiful before the bombing and their front elevations could have been restored, but instead an attempt was made to imitate them and the result looks cheap (whether it was cheap in financial terms or not) and reflects no credit on the architect or developer.
At 60 Sloane Avenue there is an opportunity to complete the building work which was interrupted by the First World War and create a building of which its original designers would have been proud, with the interior adapted seamlessly to the needs of the present day.
USE OF THE BUILDING
Chelsea is attracting a large number of overseas buyers who see flats and houses here as a safe investment for their money, with the intention of living in them for only a few days each year if at all. This has the effect of reducing the vitality and coherence of the community, and making it more difficult for shops, restaurants and other businesses to survive.
We are glad that the applicants are proposing retail units on the ground and basement floors, but Chelsea is already over-supplied with international retail outlets selling extremely expensive clothes, shoes and other fashion items. We are also over-supplied with estate agents and phone shops. No doubt they will wish to let the units on Sloane Avenue to businesses of that type, but perhaps the units on Draycott Avenue and Ixworth Place could be let to smaller businesses providing goods and services which local people want, including the residents of your flats. For example a Post Office, an ironmonger, a butcher, a fishmonger and premises for doctors, dentists, osteopaths etc. We also need good restaurants serving Chinese, Indian, Italian and other foods at reasonable prices.
There is a serious shortage of housing in Chelsea for local people who cannot compete with the overseas buyers and applicants for tenancies. We note that the applicants will be providing funding for social housing in the north of the Borough, and we look forward to seeing more detail about this. The Society is however also concerned with the middle-income groups who do not qualify for social housing and some of the flats could perhaps be studio or one-bedroom flats which they could afford. We would welcome an imaginative scheme for renting some of these flats to the middle-income groups.
RBKC should consider a piazza (or possibly an atrium) on land owned by the Council adjacent to the south wall of the building.