RBKC has now decided to appoint a nominee of The Chelsea Society and a nominee of The Kensington Society to the Quality Review Panel to provide advice on new buildings and major alterations in the Borough.
This is a welcome development, which resulted from expressions of surprise and concern by both Societies at the lack of transparency and consultation by the Council in making appointments to the Panel.
RBKC responded by requesting a meeting on Zoom with The Chelsea Society, which was held on 11th June. It was attended by 41 people including the Leader of the Council, Cllr. Elizabeth Campbell, the Lead-member for Planning, Cllr. Thalassites, and four other Councillors.
The Chelsea Society’s position is that a Panel established to advise the Council on architecture will of course have regard to the well-established principles of architecture applicable anywhere, but Chelsea is a special place, and we considered that the membership of the Panel was too heavily weighted toward architects, and people who do not live in Chelsea.
We have had occasion more than once to express the view that a design proposed by an architect which might be an adornment to some other place, is quite wrong in Chelsea.
New buildings and major alterations will have a visual impact on Chelsea for many decades, and we are still living with some bad examples which the Council has permitted over the years. The greatest care is therefore necessary to ensure that their appearance is right not only for Chelsea but for the particular place in Chelsea where they are located. This requires a “feel” for Chelsea which people who do not live in Chelsea cannot be expected to have, and it was for the very purpose of assisting the local authority on these matters that The Chelsea Society was established 93 years ago.
We were therefore very concerned about the complete lack of any local representation on the panel. While it seemed to contain a good mix of skills, it is noteworthy that none of the members were based in the Royal Borough – they seem concentrated in Camden or Boroughs south of the river.
We noted that on the Hammersmith and Fulham Panel there are not only a number of local architects both large and small but also representatives of the Hammersmith and Fulham Societies.
The Chelsea Society considered that it should have been invited to nominate a member of the Panel when it was established, but we were not even consulted. This implied a lack of respect for the Society and the one thousand residents of Chelsea whom it represents. We did not think that the Coronavirus could be accepted as a reason for this, for if there was time to consider establishing the Panel at all, there was time to consult with the Society.
We did not find it acceptable that the matter might have been considered in a review of the Panel in September, whether or not the Panel had applications to consider in the meantime.