RBKC Local Plan – Chelsea Society comments

Here are the Chelsea Society’s comments on the RBKC Local Plan – Partial Review. (See the plan on RBKC website).

GENERAL POINTS

The Society appreciates the value of having a descriptive/visual plan/vision for each part of Chelsea, fully updated to reflect the multiple pressures upon them.

The Society has set out its Policy Guidelines for the Future of Chelsea on its website at http://chelseasociety.org.uk/the-future-of-chelsea-whats-next/ and believes that the Local Plan should be fully consistent with those Guidelines.

Insofar as this Partial Review relates to Chelsea, it is premature because no decision has yet been made as to whether there will be a Crossrail 2 station in Chelsea, and if so where it would be located. The Society considers that this would have a fundamental impact on Chelsea, and has opposed a station in the King’s Road for the reasons set out in its submission to TfL and published at http://chelseasociety.org.uk/response-to-tfl-consultation-crossrail2/

There is an urgent need to reduce traffic congestion as well as pollution from traffic and building works which are a serious threat to the well-being of local people and our domestic and overseas visitors alike. We do not think that Crossrail 2 in Chelsea would help to achieve this, and could make matters worse.

We are pleased that noisy construction work will no longer be allowed on Saturdays as well as Sundays.

The Society has been critical of Cycle Quietways. See http://chelseasociety.org.uk/cycle-quietways/

PLACES

The character of the river frontage and the immediate hinterland must be preserved, and access to the river improved. The views of the river and from the river should be preserved and enhanced.

The Society considers that the River should be a “Place” in its own right, in order to bring appropriate focus to fostering and protecting its unique heritage and amenity qualities. These are well described in the River Thames Conservation Area Statement which is not referred to in the Local Plan Partial Review. The whole of Chelsea Riverside from the LBHF boundary to the Westminster boundary should be designated as a “Place” and should be treated as a single area of consideration under CR5 Parks, Gardens, Open Spaces and Waterways and be given more than incidental consideration. We wish to see this clearly referenced in order to assist enforcement and to protect this key area of Chelsea.

The character of Chelsea is largely derived from its buildings and open spaces. No buildings should be permitted to rise above 6 storeys, and high quality design should be insisted upon.

HOUSING

It is simply not possible to provide a house or flat for every person in the United Kingdom, and indeed the world, who wishes to have one in Chelsea. This needs to be clearly understood not only by the Borough Council but also by the Mayor and the national Government. Any attempt to meet unrealistic “targets” would be a disaster.

Insofar as housing is to be provided in Chelsea, the priority should be to upgrade existing housing, in a manner which is sympathetic to the style, the character, and the charm of Chelsea. The Society has commented on its website at http://chelseasociety.org.uk/affinity-sutton-estate/ on the proposals to redevelop the Affinity-Sutton Estate. Any additional housing should be built to meet the needs of local people, and not to cater for the international market for very expensive property, much of which is left unoccupied.

We would like to see the level of social housing maintained. A mix of tenures and types of housing is essential.

In addition to social housing there is a need for housing suitable for the elderly, and for care homes and nursing homes. We would wish to see provision made to treat this requirement as of public need, and to that end the Council should where appropriate invite developers to make such provision when negotiating S 106 and/or CIL agreements. The Council should itself make adequate provision, and we would not wish to see the land occupied by the Thamesbrook care home used for other purposes.

We would like to see fewer empty houses and flats, and we support the 50% premium for Council Tax on unoccupied properties.

SHOPS AND CENTRES

We consider that the existing map gives the impression that the focus is on ribbon retail development along the King’s Road and Fulham Road. We believe that it should show many other attractive/important features like the adjacent hospitals, schools, churches, cinemas and even pubs to give a better picture.

We agree with the statement on page 154 of the Consolidated Local Plan that “shops, financial and professional services uses and restaurants/cafes are … valued, for both the service that they provide and their wider social role. This essential mix of uses in the borough’s predominantly residential areas, not only makes these areas highly desirable places in which to live, helping to provide services locally for the community and beyond, but adds to the character and distinctiveness of the borough as a whole. The approach of maintaining and protecting a broader range of uses also brings greater benefit to the wider community, rather than favouring a particular group within it.”

There is a danger that the King’s Road is becoming just another shopping centre. There is a place for the international chains, but the special character of the King’s Road derives from the smaller independent businesses who do not need, and cannot afford, large floor-areas. The Society believes that these businesses should be encouraged by the planning system, by the rating authority, and by the landowners – including the Council itself. The amalgamation of small units into larger units should be discouraged.

There is perhaps too much emphasis on the nature of the retail outlets and not enough on the physical appearance of the buildings. Part of the unique character of the King’s Road is the quirky and heterogeneous facades, and it should be an aim of the Council’s policy to preserve them.

There is very little attention paid to the needs of local residents as customers of the shops. There is for example no hardware shop east of World’s End, and there are very few high quality butchers, bakers, fishmongers and greengrocers.

The central aim – to preserve small businesses on the King’s Road – is incompatible with the proposal for a Crossrail 2 station at the corner of King’s Road and Sydney Street.

The King’s Road has been enhanced by the development of the Duke of York Square, and by the continued existence of the Chelsea Old Town Hall as a venue for meetings, weddings and other events, and for the public library, which is an important community asset.

There is an urgent need for a Post Office between World’s End and Sloane Square. Preferably in the former Post Office building opposite the Old Town Hall.

We agree with the statement on page 87 of the CLP that there are in Chelsea many buildings, especially those built in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s which are of substandard design and/or construction and that replacement with a building more appropriate to its context would be welcome. The Chelsea Society will endeavour to identify some of them during 2016.

CLP CHAPTER 18 – Lots Road/World’s End

 Lots Road/World’s End is treated as the triangle bounded by the ECOWS, the River Thames and the inter borough boundary. This serves to isolate it from the remainder of Chelsea Riverside and thus constrain coherent and constructive debate about the integration and relationship of this “place” to the other parts of Chelsea Riverside, in particular the adjacent zone of the Thames Chelsea Bank.

  • Progress over the five years since 2010 has been disappointingly slow, and this should be reflected in the Review because : –
  • Ten years ago the Secretary of State overruled the Planning Inspector and gave planning permission for the strategic Lots Road Power Station site in Chelsea but the developers have yet to get beyond the demolition phase in redeveloping. So no Section 106 money has become available and no matching funds from RBKC to help overcome the impact of blight (created by a derelict, roofless power station) by improving the neighbourhood.
  • A community centre within the Power Station has yet to materialize to replace that lost when Ashburnham School was demolished to make way for the Chelsea Academy, and the Academy itself has not become a local facility for the community as a whole.
  • No progress has yet been made in completing the Thames Path from Cremorne Gardens through to Chelsea Creek.
  • No moves have been made to improve accessibility by perhaps installing pedestrian lights at the zebra crossings between the World’s End Estate and Lots Village, or by installing a suggested crossing half way down Edith Grove.  The Council’s aim of “returning the one way-way system to two-way working” has not been realized although we do not know the terms in which RBKC may have pursued this with TfL, nor the grounds on which TfL may have declined to pursue or at least investigate this positive proposal; we have received no feedback and no local consultation process has taken place despite the high volume of heavy polluting traffic and long tail backs particularly at weekends. This aim should be re-emphasized in the updated text as a key priority.

We are of course pleased that much of Lots Village has become a Conservation Area and believe we can build on this. In particular the VISION for this area should now be strengthened to :-

  • foster recognition of the Thames as a major amenity, and aim to make the waterfront more available for all to enjoy
  • revitalise and not just protect, Cremorne Gardens and Westfield Park as essential public recreational space in this densely populated Ward, and manage the increased demands now made on them
  • create a new Green Way following the track of the Kensington Canal up from the Pound site to Stanley Bridge and beyond ,following the commitment in 18.3.5 to give consideration to “the creation of new open space”
  • replace the giant advertising hoardings with Green Walls at the junction of Lots Road with Cheyne Walk to benefit air quality and make the entrance to Lots Villlage once home to extensive market gardens and now in need of more tree planting
  • reinforce Chelsea Design Quarter as a major cultural and employment asset within Lots Road Employment Zone

The text on pages 109,111 and 112 of the Consolidated Local Plan 2015 needs some specific updating as follows : –

  • 18.1.2 needs the words “ on the A3220 one-way system and the A308 ” added after the words “The high volume of traffic”
  • 18.3.2  needs to be updated to explain the Conservation Area has now been established
  • 18.3.6 needs to say that Cremorne Gardens and Westfield Park have been awarded Green Flag status; the Cremorne Riverside Centre has been built on part of the Gardens ; and in January 2015 English Heritage declined to designate the Gardens as fit to be added to the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest.
  • 18.3.7 needs to recognize the Council’s valuable support for better local shopping facilities, as reflected in an excellent range of practical/functional
  • retail outlets along the south side of King’s Road West between Beaufort Street and the modernised Co-op on the corner of Edith Grove.
  • 18.3.9 needs to acknowledge that Chelsea Academy has yet to become “an important local facility” for the local community as a whole.
  • 18.3.11 needs to explain that bus routes in the neighbourhood have been very much improved and the West London Line has achieved increased capacity through longer trains and increasing frequencies. References to a Chelsea-Hackney line potential interchange with the West London Line should be deleted as the Council has written to TfL to rule out the earlier option of a station in West Chelsea on Crossrail 2.( Also delete reference at 18.4.4).
  • 18.3.13 needs we think to acknowledge that to tackle the core issue of overloaded/polluted streets (which present major health risks) the Air Quality Action Plan needs to be strengthened with additional traffic reduction initiatives.
  • 18.3.13 needs to recognize that the waste management facility at Cremorne Wharf has been decommisioned, that Thames Tideway Tunnel Ltd is about to start major construction work there to be followed by Thames Water’s proposed Counters Creek Storm Relief Sewer project, and that it will be at least five years before the Wharf can return to its GLA status as a protected wharf for river freight operations which PLA intend to pursue. This will leave no scope for reversion to borough waste management operations now consolidated at Smugglers Wharf in Battersea.
  • 18.3.14 needs to refer to the recently built Heatherly Fine Arts School which replaces the one demolished to make way for the Academy and which should also be shown on the map and also refer explicitly to Chelsea Design Quarter as an adjunct to the well established Design Centre in Chelsea Harbour itself, London’s centre for Interior Design. We consider the reference to the Employment Zone should be strengthened to emphasize that this valuable business cluster should whenever possible be expanded and reinforced by providing more space for independent businesses more small business units and more managed workspace; this is particularly necessary on employment generation grounds in view of the fact that Chelsea Riverside Ward is the third most densely populated ward in RBKC but, unlike other wards in Chelsea, its Workplace Population does not increase to a much higher level during the working week; it remains no higher than its usual resident population, only two thirds of which are economically active.
  • 18.4.5 already says “there is a need for the area to settle after the implementation of these projects take place” – it will be at least another FIVE years before the Power Station site is completed (and over 1,000 residents added to the population of Lots Village ) and longer before the intensive infrastructure works at Cremorne Wharf are finished. There is therefore no case at all for further residential development to be planned in this neighbourhood apart from the low rise redevelopment of the Pound site as extra care housing for the elderly which we would very much favour and indeed eagerly await.

The map on page 110 (from the 2010 Local Plan) suggested there were “potential development sites” in the lower part of Lots Road running up to the King’s Road. As this area is almost entirely given over to Employment Uses, and is so coloured on the map as part of the Lots Road Employment Zone, there can in our opinion be no case for any more residential development or so-called “mixed use” development when there are such compelling reasons (as recorded in commenting on18.3.14 above) for reinforcing employment space needed by Chelsea Design Quarter. The creation of new homes in the Employment Zone is contrary to the Council’s Local Plan; because this is already the most densely populated ward in Chelsea before the coming of 420 new homes on the LRPS site any further residential development should be located in less densely populated wards with more infra-structure capacity to accommodate additional homes.

ARTS AND CULTURAL USES

The Society strongly endorses the view that the Council should continue to support the Borough’s role in both local and world-class arts and culture.

The two cinemas on the King’s Road and the theatres at Sloane Square and World’s End should be preserved, and the cinemas should not be closed for redevelopment at the same time.

RAIL INFRASTRUCTURE

The most important issue is Crossrail 2, which has already been dealt with.

In addition, there is an urgent need to provide step-free access to both platforms at Sloane Square station. TfL should also restore the distinctive green trellis tiles on the platform walls.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

The Chelsea Society acknowledges with thanks the contributions made to this document by its members and by the Residents’ Associations of Chelsea. The Society is in general agreement with the comments made by the Kensington Society.

Chairman of the Planning Committee

planning@chelseasociety.org.uk

POLICY

DEVELOPMENTS

INFRASTRUCTURE

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