Just over nine years ago, John Prescott (then Deputy Prime Minister) over-ruled the Planning Inspector and approved the developer’s application to develop both the Chelsea and the Fulham sides of this strategic site. Apart from taking off most of the roof of the Power Station, stripping out its interior and knocking down ancillary buildings, the developers have yet to start any visible construction work on the Chelsea side. So the 420 planned residential units, of which nearly 40% is to be affordable housing (98 rented, 46 Shared Equity and 21 Entry Level units for key workers), remain on the drawing board, together with modest amounts of office and retail space.
By contrast, work on the Fulham side across Chelsea Creek has been under way for well over a year following approval from Hammersmith & Fulham Council in March 2012 to vary considerably the 2006 planning permission for 169 private residential and 213 affordable units. This was on grounds they could not afford to create so many affordable units because there are no longer Government grants available to support building social housing. Now there will be only 110 affordable and 187 private units. While the objectionable 37-storey skyscraper will still be built, two other residential blocks will not, and another has been reduced in height, giving more open space.
Construction vehicles, denied direct access via Chelsea Harbour Drive, have to reach the Fulham side via the A3220/Embankment, Lots Road East, and then a temporary bridge from the Chelsea side of the Creek.
By contrast in January 2011 (despite the lack of visible construction work) RBKC Council deemed the 2006 planning permission to have been implemented because the extent of the demolition work “was considered to constitute a material operation”. There was subsequent talk about some changes to elevations of the Power Station shell, some reconfiguration of the proposed uses of the site, and alterations to servicing arrangements, but it took until 2014 for the developers to apply for “minor material amendments” to the 2006 approved scheme.
These were approved by RBKC’s Planning Applications Committee last May despite local objections centred on the cumulative impacts on the infrastructure and amenity of Lots Village resulting from:
- more than doubling the population in the area;
- generating substantial volumes of commercial traffic to service the site;
- producing 86,000 litres of waste a week to be collected from a roadside loading bay right opposite homes in Lots Road;
- more traffic congestion arising from nearly 400 underground parking spaces on site; and
- half the new dwellings being permitted one or more on-street parking permits despite already strong demand for existing parking spaces in Lots Village.
The Committee, in approving the “minor material amendments” nonetheless required the submission of a Service Management Plan to come back to the Committee for final decision, together with details of the proposed refuse storage and collection arrangements. Nine months later these have yet to be submitted, and a marketing suite to attract buyers to “Chelsea Waterfront” remains closed to the public. In the meantime the site has been included in the newly designated Lots Village Conservation Area, and local residents are discussing with officers improving the public realm, streetscape and infrastructure.