We are fortunate to have in Chelsea two hospitals providing world-class tertiary medical services in different specialisations, in addition to our general hospital – the Chelsea and Westminster. The Royal Brompton specialises in hearts and lungs, and the Royal Marsden specialises in cancer, and they have both identified a need for new buildings in which to provide their services on the 12 acre site in Chelsea which they and their charities each currently own.
The main site is bounded by King’s Road, Sydney St., Fulham Road, and Dovehouse Street. The Royal Brompton owns the sites of the Chelsea Farmers’ Market and the Garden Centre, which are presently leased to the operators of those businesses. The Royal Brompton also owns some residential accommodation north of the Fulham Road.
The two hospitals are NHS Foundation Trusts, and are therefore semi-independent, though most of their work is commissioned and paid for by NHS England. They have additional revenue from patients who pay for themselves or via health-insurance, and they each have important charities which provide extra funding.
The Chelsea Society wishes to keep in Chelsea both hospitals and their associated research institutes, and to encourage cooperation between them at managerial as well as clinical level. We also wish to ensure so far as possible that the land will remain in use for medical purposes, and that it will provide employment and business opportunities for local people. We wish to maintain and enhance the character of Chelsea, and would in particular be opposed to the demolition or alteration of the fine Victorian frontages of the buildings on South Parade and Dovehouse Street. We would also like to retain if at all possible some open space comparable to that occupied by the Farmers’ Market and the Garden Centre on Sydney St.
In the recent past the two hospitals had acted unilaterally – The Brompton proposed to sell its Fulham Road wing for private housing and the Marsden applied for planning permission to use the same building for medical purposes.
The Chairman of the Planning Committee of the Society, and the Committee-member for Stanley Ward (in which the site is located), have visited both hospitals and received briefings from senior managerial and medical staff for which they are grateful. They were pleased to find that there is now much better cooperation between the two hospitals at all levels, and that it is now much less likely that unilateral proposals and planning applications will be made.
The hospitals have established joint working groups to identify their needs and concerns, and have already identified areas in which they could share facilities. For example, they each have very expensive scanners which could be put to more productive use if relocated and used jointly.
They have begun to plan together for the future use of the site. They have identified some possibilities, and if they can reach outline agreement they will need to commission architects and quantity surveyors to evaluate the options and to prepare an initial set of costings before approaching NHS England and other possible providers of funding. Hospital construction is of course very expensive having regard to the special systems required within the buildings, and would be particularly expensive on a site with as many constraints as this site in Chelsea. The Dept. of Health and the Treasury would need to consider carefully whether it would be good value for taxpayers’ money.
As the scope for upward and sideways expansion is limited on this site, it would make sense to create a large amount of underground space to be used for facilities which do not require natural light e.g. operating theatres, car parking, heating and ventilating equipment, computer facilities, and mortuaries. The Society is generally opposed to basement developments, but the creation of underground space on this hospital site would be regarded as a special case, although great care would still be needed to minimise the effect on local people of the removal of large amounts of spoil and other building operations.
The Society is also generally opposed to the change of use of land and buildings from medical to residential, but if the two hospitals were to agree on a scheme for development which included some limited change of use, it would be sympathetically considered.
At the south-western corner of the main site there is the Thamesbrook care home, which is owned by RBKC and is now closed. When considering what to do with this site the Borough Council should consider what role it might play in the development of the whole site for medical purposes.
A very imaginative proposal has been made by Jon Moynihan, a local resident, who has spent a great deal of his own time and money creating a 138-page booklet which describes his proposal, gives examples of plans and elevations, evaluates the likely costs, and examines ways in which the development could be financed. He estimates the cost at £908.7 million.
The central feature of his proposal is to create four underground floors, with a road running though the site from Sydney Street to the Fulham Road above basement level -3 so that basement levels -1 and -2 would be open to natural light. The road would connect the whole site together. This is certainly the kind of scheme which the Chelsea Society would support in principle, but more work would need to be done by the hospitals and their advisers before it could be known whether it would be feasible in physical and financial terms. In the meantime, it would be unfortunate if further piecemeal development on the site should make a comprehensive redevelopment impossible.
Another factor to be considered is the proposed construction of Crossrail 2. A station below the existing fire station on the King’s Road is currently an option, but during the construction phase a large area of land on the surface would be required, and this would include land at the southern end of the hospitals site. There will be further consultation on the location of the Crossrail station and on the use of land on the surface, and the Chelsea Society will participate fully in this process.
However, notwithstanding the above, the Royal Brompton has in July 2016 made a unilateral three-part planning application. See https://www.rbkc.gov.
• Ref: PP/16/04357 Hospital
• Ref: PP/16/04269 117-123 Sydney St
• Ref: PP/16/04366 Chelsea Farmers Market
THE CHELSEA SOCIETY’S POSITION
As at 1st August 2016 our main concerns are as follows:
- We are aware that some of the hospital buildings are no longer fit for purpose, and that there is no grant-funding available for the proposed works.
- We would have liked to see evidence of cooperation with the Royal Marsden for the redevelopment of the whole of the land owned by the two hospitals and their Institutions by stages, building on synergies between the two hospitals who could share facilities – and not a piecemeal development by the Brompton alone.
- We believe that the open spaces of Chelsea are fundamental to its character. They are the places where it is possible to see the sky and listen to the birds in the heart of London. One of those open spaces is the Chelsea farmers’ market and garden centre but the proposals by the Brompton would turn the whole of this large space into a massive block of “luxury” flats, fronting directly upon Sydney Street and would turn the street into an urban canyon unless set back with open space in front.
- The proposal to build luxury flats would mean the permanent loss of this substantial piece of land for hospital purposes.
- The Brompton owns a very large building on Sydney Street, which used to be the nurses’ home. We are not satisfied that this could not be modified for clinical use instead of building on open space.
The former nurses’ home on Dovehouse St.
6. It is proposed to construct a new building fronting Dovehouse St., between the former nurses’ home and the former Chelsea Womens’ Hospital. This could have two storeys above ground and two below, with open space at each end, thus making better use of the available land.
7. The proposed hospital building would intrude upon the setting of the Grade I listed St. Luke’s church opposite, and would cast shadow over its gardens in the evening. There is a case for providing more space in the building underground and less space above ground.
St. Luke’s gardens
8. The new block of flats proposed on Sydney St. would be unlikely to provide homes for local people, as they would be sold to the very rich, often from foreign countries. There are too many such developments in Chelsea and not enough housing for local people. Although the profit from the flats would be used for hospital purposes, the new block of flats would contain no affordable or social housing at all.
9. The proposed architecture of the hospital building and the flats is not good enough for the heart of Chelsea. A careful balance is needed to create buildings which are dignified in their own right but do not upstage St. Luke’s church.
10. We have doubts about the financial viability of the project. Permission could be granted for residential but the hospital extension might not be built.
We have had a meeting with the architects and property consultants acting for the Royal Brompton Hospital, and the Chairman of the Chelsea Society has attended meetings of the Community Liaison Group. The Society will make a detailed comment on the Planning Applications in due course.
COMMUNITY LIAISON GROUP
The Royal Brompton has established this Group, and Minutes of its meetings are available here:
There were Drop-in exhibitions on the following dates.
Wednesday 25 May 2016, 12 noon-4pm, St Luke’s Church
Thursday 26 May 2016, 4pm-8pm, St Luke’s Church
Saturday 4 June 2016, 10am-2pm, Seminar room 2, Ground Floor, Royal Brompton Hospital
The Royal Brompton’s May 2016 Newsletter with the background on the project is also available to view here.
Consultation on a Supplementary Planning Document for land owned by the Brompton Hospital ran until 10 April 2014. The document can be found here. It gives the Borough Council’s advice on how the Royal Brompton’s sites should be developed. The hospital wants to consolidate all its services a block bounded by Sydney and Dovehouse Streets and Cale and Britten Streets.
HOSPITAL TO STAY IN CHELSEA (20 November 2013)
The Royal Brompton Hospital has decided to stay in Chelsea and to build and rebuild on its existing Sydney Street site. This means that Chelsea will continue to have three major hospitals.
The Brompton’s plan is to sell off the north and south parts of its huge land-holding and invest the proceeds in the central block bounded by Sydney and Dovehouse streets. Paul Davis, the architects of Duke of York’s Square, are working on plans for the sites that are due to be sold and on a new hospital building on Dovehouse Street. Once the Brompton has got planning permission for its unwanted sites, it will sell them to the highest bidder.
Some things are already clear. Paul Davis propose to retain the old vestry building on the corner of Sydney Street and King’s Road, and the other Edwardian building adjacent to it, and create a new square to the north of them. This square is likely to be devoted to cafes and could include a link to Dovehouse Green. To the north of the square, the architects propose a block of flats and, beyond that, a terrace of houses fronting Sydney Street with a mews behind them.
The future hospital will consist of the existing 1970s building opposite St Luke’s Church, perhaps with a new central entrance lined up with St Luke’s, and behind it a very large new building. Designing this voluminous hospital so that it is not a monster and sits comfortably with Dovehouse Street will be challenging.
The tall red brick buildings that front South Parade, including the former fire station, and the hospital on Fulham Road are likely to have their facades retained and be converted into flats. The flats looking southwards over Chelsea Square will be the most expensive.
Robert Bell, the Brompton’s chief executive, is keen to get all this under way as quickly as possible. To underline the need for urgency he observes that some facilities are housed in shipping containers!