We were informed on 13th December 2023 that the Planning inspector had allowed the developer’s appeal, and overturned the refusal by RBKC of all proposals except the introduction of shop fronts to the grade II-listed pedestrian subway.
For The Chelsea Society’s views on the redevelopment of this station see TCS submission on SOUTH KENSINGTON STATION
On 30th May 2021 The Chairman of The Chelsea Society’s Planning Committee had made the following further submission to the members of the Planning Committee of RBKC:
I am writing, as chairman of the Planning Committee of the Chelsea Society, to urge you at your meeting on 3 June to refuse Planning Application PP/20/03216 for the refurbishment of South Kensington station.
1,900 objections to it have been registered on the RBKC website, including from all the local amenity and residents organisations, as well as from the Kensington and Chelsea Societies. All the ward Councillors of the Brompton and Hans Town ward, the local MP and the local member of the Greater London Assembly have also expressed their opposition. This is a formidable expression of public opinion, which deserves to be respected.
The main reasons for this opposition is the design, character and size of the proposed building and its incompatibility with the surrounding Conservation Area. It is modern, unsympathetic, overly dominant, and destructive of important vistas and views. To approve its construction would be in breach of the Council’s
Statutory Duty of Care to preserve and enhance Conservation Areas under Section 72 of the Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas Act 1990. It would also be incompatible with the following Council policies:
CL1 Context and Character
CL3 and CL4 Heritage Assets
CO5 Renewing the Legacy
CL8 and CL9 Existing Buildings.
Detailed analyses of the application’s deficiencies are set out in the many submissions from associations and individuals which the Council has received.
Council officers, in the report which they have submitted to you on the application, do not in the main dissent from these comments. Their report is replete with negative assessments of the building’s suitability. To cite just a few:
They describe it in para 1.7 as “alien and out of keeping with its context”; and they note in para 1.8 its “failure to preserve the character and appearance of the Thurloe/Smith’s Charity Conservation Area”.
They say of The Bullnose design that “the increased height leads to a cliff face to the rear; and that the finished result is a building that is unsympathetic in regards to the setting of the listed building to the rear, over which it looms in an overly dominant way which is harmful to its setting”.
As regards Thurloe Street they note that “the creation of what is effectively a large monolithic building…would erode an important element of the character of the Conservation Area: and that “the proposed roof addition will be visible in views from Exhibition Road and neighbouring streets”.
They refer to the alien façade proposed for Pelham Street, note that “the scale, massing and continuous form of the proposals is harmful to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area” and conclude that “the massing, particularly at roof level, is over-dominant in relation to the buildings on the South side of the street”.
They describe the proposed roof level for the Thurloe Square building as having a “top heavy and overly dominant appearance that is inconsistent with the existing terrace to Thurloe Square (west) as well as the bother terraces around the Square” and conclude that the proposals are “harmful to the setting of the listed buildings on Pelham Place and Thurloe Square as well as the character and appearance of the Conservation Area”.
They also recognise that harm will be done to the surviving Victorian wall of The Station whose setting will be “adversely affected by the Bullnose building and the loss of the rear elevation of Thurloe Place”.
But despite all these criticisms (and the many others which are contained in their report) officers, bizarrely, recommend approval of the application. Their reason for doing so is that they characterise all the potential harm as less than substantial; and they claim that this harm is outweighed by the advantage of the construction of 50 new units of accommodation, 17 of which will be affordable (though only on the basis of the Discount London Living Rent).
Officers do not provide any evidence for these judgements; and it would set a hugely damaging precedent if the Planning Committee simply accepted them unchallenged. Whether the level of harm done by the proposed building is substantial or less than substantial, and whether it is outweighed by the provision of a certain quantity or type of accommodation, are matters of political appreciation which elected Councillors are much better placed to make than unelected officers.
On any reasonable analysis the comments made by local residents and amenity associations, and by Council officers themselves, suggest that the term “less than substantial” does not do justice to the scale of the damage which the proposed building would do to the surrounding area; and the benefit from the accrual of 17 units of accommodation which, even if so described, would not be genuinely affordable, is limited. And of course it cannot be argued that the only way in which affordable housing can be provided on this site is by the adoption of this particular proposal. It is open to Transport for London, the public body which owns the site, to commission a different design.
We hope therefore that you will exercise the political judgement for which you were elected; refuse this application; and require Transport for London to submit a new design which is appropriate to the station’s unique environment.
Chairman of the Planning Committee, The Chelsea Society