We were pleased to hear that there are proposals to demolish this ugly building and build a high quality private residential home for elderly people. The owners expect that about 70% of the residents will be local people who will be selling a valuable house and can afford to maintain the high standard of living which they had enjoyed in their earlier years. The land would therefore remain within Class C2 (Use for the provision of residential accommodation and care to people in need of care (other than a use within class C3 (dwelling houses)). It would comprise sheltered apartments with one and two bedrooms. We are advised that the owners would be Auriens http://auriens.com/ and the managers would be Draycott nursing (http://www.draycottnursing.co.uk/).
The question then arises as to what RBKC has received for the building and whether they intend to spend the money on providing care for elderly people who will not be able to afford to live in the new Thamesbrook facility. This is a separate issue on which the Society will engage with the Council.
There is a need for a facility like this in Chelsea, but there is a danger that “private extra-care housing” is a device for selling property for residential development on land for which C3 use is unlikely to be granted. Questions which therefore need to be addressed are how you can realistically ensure that apartments are owned and used only by the elderly people who need them – and how do you prevent the apartments from moving into the open market when the initial owners pass away? Issues of this kind are normally dealt with in the leases and in the planning permission.
A planning application (PP/17/00583) was made on 9th February 2017, which the Society supports, subject as follows:
So far as the proposed building is concerned, the main entrance would be on Dovehouse Street. There would be a service entrance from Britten Street, and the Council needs to be satisfied that vehicles of the size expected for servicing the facility could be accommodated without obstructing the highway. There should be no loss of residents’ parking spaces.
We have met on two occasions with the architects, and have stressed that the most important elevation is the south elevation, which overlooks Dovehouse Green. Although it will be a flank wall, it should not look like a flank wall. The south elevation needs to be seen in the context of Dovehouse Green itself and the height of the building should be in suitable proportion to the distance from the King’s Road to the south elevation. There must be no interference with the roots or canopy of the large London Plane trees on the northern edge of Dovehouse Green. Although the design of the south elevation presented in the planning application is competent, this is a very important site for Chelsea and our feeling is “could do better.”
The building must also be seen in the context of the adjacent late Victorian building to the east. This is an imposing building, which was the office of the Board of Guardians, who had been Chelsea’s local authority since 1841. We do not however think that regard should be had to the buildings which might or might not be built on the site of the farmers’ market, as this is still much too speculative. Rather, those buildings should be designed to have regard to whatever building on the Thamesbrook site is approved.
We have suggested that the building should contain some studio apartments for people who do not need, or could not afford, larger accommodation. We have also suggested that the main entrance on Dovehouse Street should be recessed and should have a canopy, so that people will be able to get into and out of cars under cover and so that the cars will not obstruct Dovehouse Street. We support the architects’ idea to set back the upper floors of the building by 7 metres (not 5m as shown) so that Dovehouse Street would not look like an urban canyon, and the same should be done on the south elevation overlooking Dovehouse Green and on the Britten Street frontage at the rear. Roof-top plant and equipment must not be visible from ground level.
There would be a large basement which could accommodate the cars of residents, staff and visitors, together with a kitchen, heating and ventilating equipment, treatment rooms, storage, and perhaps a small pool. Care must be taken on the siting of outlets from the ventilation system, and there must be no noise from fans or compressors which would disturb the residents or local people.
On the ground floor there would be a dining room and sitting rooms overlooking Dovehouse Green, with residential apartments on the upper floors, and on all floors of the north, east, and west wings around a secure garden courtyard. There would be a small garden for the use of residents on the south side, overlooking Dovehouse Green, which should be separated from the green by suitably designed railings – not a wall. To the west, the building line should be set back from Dovehouse Street to the same extent as the existing building, so that there would be a green strip between the pavement and the building to which the ground-floor apartments would have access. This would enable planting to improve the privacy of the ground-floor apartments and to improve the appearance of Dovehouse Street.
If the owners wished to locate a café within the building which would be open to Dovehouse Green and perhaps be open to the public at certain times, we would have no objection to that, as residents may not wish to feel cut off from the outside world.
The owner of the land, and therefore the intended lessor, is the Borough Council itself. Councillors are rightly concerned to obtain the maximum value for the land for the public purse, but they are also the local planning authority, and must in that capacity be very careful not to be influenced by a conflict of interest.
RBKC have confirmed that there would be the following key requirements in the lease, which will:
- Restrict residents to people of 60 years and more.
- Offer self-contained accommodation which can be purchased and/or rented with security of tenure subject to this being within Class C2 of the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987.
- Provide 24 hour daily care and support staff in the Property.
- Provide domestic services for residents as required.
- Offer meals in a restaurant or dining area in the Property.
- Provide communal facilities that are managed, to encourage an active social programme in the extra care facility.
- Provide a standard of care and accommodation to enable residents to remain in the Property for the rest of their lives if they so wish.