October 2020 update

This website is now updated only occasionally.  Our sister website for the St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Forum carries more regular news of planning issues in the local area.

The StQW/St Helens RA newsletter for this month includes an item on the new shop at 20 North Pole Road, selling wholefoods and wellbeing products.  This store is a very welcome addition to a shopping parade which has had several premises vacant in recent years.

Turmeric and Honey is managed by Upesh and his wife, Upesh being the younger brother of Shelly at the North Pole pharmacist.   Between now and December 31st the shop is offering a 15% discount to local residents who bring along a copy of the flyer/voucher accompanying its launch.  A copy can be downloaded at this link Turmeric and Honey voucher.

We continue to believe that North Pole Road and St Helens Gardens are shopping parades in which more varied shops and and a restaurant/cafe would be viable – if they judge their offering well in terms of the demographic of the area.  The parade in Barlby Road has seen fewer vacant units over the years.

Policies in the StQW Neighbourhood Plan allow for change of use between different ‘use classes’ and were introduced to encourage new tenants and leaseholder to these shopping parades.  Meanwhile we hope that Turmeric and Honey flourishes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 2019 update

Link

A joint AGM of the Association and the StQW Neighbourhood Forum was held in St Helens Church hall on October 23rd.  We discussed the Council’s plans for new housing infill schemes on sites in St Helens Gardens and off Barlby Road, the trial of 20mph speed limit in this area, latest news on OPDC plans for Old Oak, and a new proposal for Womens Pioneer Housing for a residential tower in Wood Lane.

Members of the Association’s management committee were re-elected for a further year. Details on all the above can be found in the minutes on the StQW Forum website at this link http://stqw.org/wordpress/members/minutes/

The Association continues to monitor the weekly list of planning applications in our neighbourhood.  No large developments have come forward this year.  We will be looking out for the Council’s own application for its housing site at 54 St Helens Gardens.

The impact of climate change is affecting our area, in small ways that do not compare with the floods, fires and natural disasters in other parts of the world.  London has seen two summers with very extended periods of dry weather.  The houses in our streets are built on clay soil which shrinks at such times, and expands back at times of average or above average rainfall.

We have also experienced very heavy rainfalls at times, in an area at known risk of flash flooding should the main Thames Water Authority Counters Creek sewer/drain become overwhelmed.

These climatic changes have consequences locally:

  • more residents have become aware of the Council’s flood prevention policies.  The RBKC Local Plan policy CE2(f) resists impermeable surfaces in front gardens. This policy is reinforced and refined in the StQW Neighbourhood Plan and resists any such surface above the 5 sq m allowed under national Permitted Development Rights.  This allows tiled pathways to be retained.
  • more residents seem to be experiencing minor movement of their houses during these dry period, leading to occasional problems of jammed front doors and locks or small cracks in brickwork of front facades and window bays.

The Association continues to raise awareness of the fact that replacing front gardens with slates, tiles or concrete requires planning permission.  This will not normally be granted by RBKC unless the new surface is of a permeable type and/or rainwater is drained away through some means other than it going into the public sewer/drain.  So if you notice works in front gardens which may not have been granted permission, let the Association know and we will check on the position and pursue with the Council where necessary.

Problems of property subsidence in this neighbourhood have always existed, particularly in certain streets close to the original Counters Creek ‘lost river’ where the water table can be very high.  The small movements in other streets are prompting some house owners to apply for felling of street trees near their property. 

The more of these trees we lose, the less their beneficial impact in reducing poor air quality.  The Association will be exploring this issue with the Council as we need better  evidence on possible causes of minor movement within the terraces in this neighbourhood.   Are street trees to blame and if so should we all be watering them in hot dry periods?  Are the many basements built in this area over the past 15 years part of the cause of problems?

Another local concern which the Association will be examining in the coming months is the growing number of properties for being advertised for ‘short lets’.  This includes those on Airbnb, Onefinestay, hometogo, passthekeys and others.

Occasional lets of this kind, staying within the ’90 night per year rule’ that applies in London, do not usually cause problems (other than for ‘party lets’).  But short term lets with a succession of visitors often arriving and leaving at odd hours can and do cause noise and nuisance for some neighbours in this area.  It is not clear that all landlords and ‘hosts’ are observing the ’90 night’ legal restriction.

The Council examined this growing problem in the Borough a couple of years back and published this RBKC Scrutiny report   We will be looking into the number of properties being advertised for short-term lets in this neighbourhood, focusing on those which are ‘whole house’ or ‘whole flat’ and where the ‘host’ does not live on the premises.

This sector of the property industry has expanded hugely in all major capital cities and now bears little relation to the philosophy of ‘rent out a spare room to make some extra cash’ from which Airbnb and other commercial companies have grown.

If there are other local concerns which you feel the Association should be looking at, please email sthelensass@aol.com.  If you are new to the area and would like to be added to our membership/mailing list, let us know.  There is no membership fee.  We circulate a monthly newsletter from sister body the St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Forum and hold three or more open meetings a year at St Helens Church hall.

 

 

 

October 2018 update

The Association’s AGM will be held on 14th November 2018 at 8pm at St Helens Church hall, St Helens Gardens.  All those living or working in the area are welcome.  As usual this will be a joint AGM with the St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Forum.  This is the body set up by the Association in 2013 (and redesignated by RB Kensington and Chelsea in 2018) to prepare the neighbourhood plan for our part of North Kensington.

If you are interested in joining the management committee of either the residents association or the neighbourhood forum, please email to sthelenassn@aol.com.

The latest newsletter from the Forum carries an article about press reports of contaminated soil in this part of the Borough, arising from the 2017 Grenfell fire.

A letter sent by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to residents on the nearby Silchester Estate, explaining that Public Health England do no see this as a health risk, can be found at this link.181018 Letter to Silchester Estate RA[23483]

Any further news will be reported at our meeting on the 14th November.

2018 local news

The Association has continued its involvement in local planning issues and other aspects of life in this part of North Kensington.

  • Vacant shop units remain a big issue in our local shopping parades.  Bassett House School are now refurbishing 53 St Helens Gardens as an extension of the school.  The Association supported the planning application and change of use of this building, which had lain empty for several years.
  • Imperial College’s 35 storey tower has reached its full height.  As expected, this building (the first of such height in this part of London) dominates views along Oxford Gardens from as far away as Ladbroke Grove.
  • Imperial remain committed to constructing a pedestrian/cycle underpass between their new campus in Wood Lane and the southern end of Latimer Road. Negotiations with Network Rail have been very slow, and the earliest completion date forecast by the College is the third quarter of 2019.
  • The Playground Theatre has opened in Latimer Road, with some very successful productions such as the Jonathan Lewis play Soldier On.
  • The outcome of a Judicial Review challenge to the Council’s 2015 decision to advance the StQW Neighbourhood Plan to its referendum in 2016 was a comprehensive victory for RBKC and the neighbourhood forum.  The JR application by the site owners of Nursery Lane (the Legard family) was dismissed on all grounds. The willow trees on this backland behind Highlever Road, Brewster Gardens and Dalgarno Road are now back in leaf.  The site, as a designated Local Green Space, has strong protection against development.
  • New Studio Pre-School has successfully raised funds for an outdoor ‘Forest School’ making use of unused land at the Methodist Church land behind Kelfield Gardens. This site is also designated in the StQW Neighbourhood Plan (along with the West London Bowling Club) as a Local Green Space.

The Association continues to monitor all planning applications within the area.  Where proposals depart from RBKC policy, or the policies in the StQW Neighbourhood Plan, we submit an objection.  Where we support proposals, including those making use of the new policies in the neighbourhood plan, we say so.

In this way we do our best to ensure that this area retains its very many attractive features, while also ensuring that planning policies remain up to date and reflect how contemporary households want to make the best use of their homes.

If you are new to the area, or thinking of moving into the neighbourhood, please feel free to contact the association at sthelensassn@aol.com for more information.

Update on new development around our neighbourhood

 

 

Imperial College have been consulting on their plans for the remaining two buildings on the northern site at their White City campus, and for their 11.5 acre site immediately south of the Westway.  Details are at this link on the College website http://www.imperial.ac.uk/white-city-campus/consultation/.

There is also an item on our sister site www.imperialfolly.org uk commenting on Imperial’s approach to development and the near completion of the 35 storey residential tower.

Imperial College's tower at Wood Lane, White City

Imperial College’s tower at Wood Lane, White City

Proposals for the Old Oak area

The ‘opportunity area’ to the north-west of the St Helens neighbourhood covers Old Oak and Park Royal.  A Mayoral Development Corporation (OPDC) took over planning powers for the area in April 2015.  A draft OPDC Local Plan has been in preparation since that date, and has been through three versions.

In December 2019, the OPDC announced major changes to its plans and abandoned its proposals for regeneration of the land owned by Cargiant Ltd. north of Wormwood Scrubs.  A fourth version of the OPDC Draft Local Plan is due to be published in mid 2020.  For latest news see the website of the Old Oak Neighbourhood Forum.

OPDC plans previously included proposals for an additional Overground station on the West London Line at Hythe Road.  These proposals have now been dropped.

The StQW Forum has long made the case for an additional Overground station at ‘Westway Circus’ (beneath the Westway roundabout at the southern end of Latimer Road).

The costs at Westway Circus would be a twentieth of the Hythe Road proposal.  Such a station would serve Imperial White City and the new residential developments being built by St James (White City Living) and on the former BBC TV Centre site. It would also improve public transport access to our neighbourhood (currently at a low level by London standards) and take some traffic off Wood Lane/Scrubs Lane. 

Developments in Scrubs Lane

A series of residential towers on sites in Scrubs Lane were granted planing permission by OPDC in 2017 and 2018.  None have subsequently started on site, but in two cases the developer involved (City & Docklands) has applied to vary to current permissions and to add more housing units.  

A third residential tower in Scrubs Lane has also been granted planning permission by the OPDC.  This is at 2 Scrubs Lane, on the corner with the Harrow Road, so more distant from us than those previously given approval near Mitre Bridge.  Once again, the building looks as if it dates from the 1960s era of tower blocks.  The height is 20 storeys.

CGI image of 2 Scrubs Lane, from the south.

Kensington and Chelsea Council in 2017 put on hold plans for a comprehensive estate renewal scheme for the Silchester Estate.  This followed the Grenfell fire and a commitment by the Council to rethink a number of its proposed plans for North Kensington.  .

The proposed redevelopment at 3 Crowthorne Road (behind Oxford Gardens School) has also not materialised, despite being granted planning permission 2016.  This was for a mixed use development of the former garage site, with flats and studio/business units on the ground floor.  StQW/SHRA supported the scheme, which was well designed and low rise.  The developers have held back from construction, given uncertainties in the London property market.

 

 

 

 

 

Grenfell Fire Inquiry

At the Association’s open meeting on July 12th, we discussed the aftermath of the devastating fire at the Grenfell Tower.  Apart from sharing information on how local churches and faith groups had responded and how residents could offer continuing support for survivors and the families of victims, we discussed how the terms of reference for the public inquiry should be framed.

There was strong consensus that the formal terms of reference should be short and simple, so that the Inquiry can go where the evidence takes it.  We also identified a series of issues which we felt the Inquiry should look into.

A submission has been sent to the Inquiry, with these views and some further suggestions made by SHRA/StQW members since our meeting.  A copy can be downloaded here SHRA Grenfell Inquiry. Aug 2017.

It has not yet been announced when the Inquiry will start its formal hearings, and we will update this post when this is known.

Meanwhile the Grenfell Response Team continues to publish frequent updates which can be seen at  www.grenfellresponse.org.uk

 

 

22 storey tower approved by OPDC at ‘North Kensington Gate’

The OPDC Planning Committee on April 5th granted planning permission to the controversial planning application from Aurora Developments for a residential tower on Scrubs Lane.

'North Kensington Gate' 22 storey tower - approved by the OPDC April 5th

‘North Kensington Gate’ 22 storey tower – approved by the OPDC April 5th

The location is just north of Mitre Bridge and adjacent to three conservation areas (St Marys Cemetery, the Grand Union Canal, and the newly designated Cumberland Park CA on the east side of Scrubs Lane.

There were objections to the application from RB Kensington and Chelsea, LB Hammersmith & Fulham, Historic England, the Canals and Waterways Trust, Friends of Little Wormwood Scrubs, and 41 local residents and businesses.

Andrew Slaughter (MP for Hammersmith) spoke against the proposals. Hammersmith & Fulham councillors Wesley Harcourt and Adam Connell voted for refusal of the application as sid Cllr Hitesh Tailor from LB Ealing.  The vote was 5:3 in favour of granting approval, with the committee chair, the three independent members, and Cllr Ketan Sheth from LB Brent voting for granting permission.

The OPDC Planning Committee is part of a Mayoral Development Corporation (Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation).  Only half of the committee are elected, with the remainder having been appointed by the Boris Johnson as the former Mayor of London.

The decision to approve remains subject to endorsement by the Mayor of London. The Hammersmith Society and St Helens Residents Association have jointly submitted further representations (see at NKG South. Stage 2 representations.V3) setting out reasons why the application should be refused as contrary to the London Plan and to policies in the OPDCs first draft Local Plan.

Approval to this application will set a precedent for a series of other residential towers along Scrubs Lane, already in the planning pipeline.  The February 2016 OPDC ‘vision’ that Scrubs Lane will be transformed into a pleasant street, respectful of surrounding heritage assets with a high quality public realm has already succumbed to the proposals of developers.  Public confidence that that the planners of Old Oak will come up with something other than a repetition of the rash of residential towers already blighting Vauxhall, Nine Elms and Battersea has taken a serious knock.

Spring 2017 update on our neighbourhood

The trees in our streets are in blossom.  They remind us why the St Helens area is a much loved  part of London in which to live.

Highlever Road

Highlever Road

The threat of the Council installing an all-weather fenced and floodlit football pitch in Memorial Park has passed.  The Council accepted the outcome of local consultation, with a strong majority of respondents against the idea.  The proposal has been dropped.  Refurbishment of the grass pitch, and improvements to some of the parks buildings, should get underway soon.

The Association was part of a successful campaign to convince the Council that such a pitch was not in great demand locally, and would take away space from other park users.

Imperial College’s new buildings in Wood Lane are making their presence increasingly felt . The 35 storey residential tower rises week by week.   Back in 2011, when Imperial first submitted their plans, the association produced some images using the software Sketchup to show what the impact would be on Oxford Gardens.

We were told at the time that these were alarmist, but they look now to have been pretty accurate (see the images below).  Both the I-HUB building (red terracotta tiles) and the apartment tower will sit smack in the centre of the view along Oxford Gardens, from Ladbroke Grove to Latimer Road. Gone are the days when our neighbourhood had clear skylines to the west and felt like the edge of the city.

View form Oxford Gardens as forecast in 2012

View from Oxford Gardens as forecast in 2012

 

Imperial West from Oxford Gardens Miarch 2017

Imperial West from Oxford Gardens March 2017

 

 

 

 

 

The tower, still less than half its final height, is emerging in the centre of the photo to the right.

The College has re-branded its ‘Imperial West’ development as ‘White City Campus’. Many local residents will have received a copy of the first issue of what is promised to be a series of newsletters distributed in the area.

We are holding a meeting later this month with Imperial staff to find out what is happening on the ‘community benefits’ from the Wood Lane development that are not mentioned in the leaflet, including the long promised pedestrian/cycle underpass at the southern ed of Latimer Road.

Visit our sister website at www.imperialfolly.org.uk if you want to know more about Imperial’s latest plans.

Traffic in North Pole Road has been a worse nightmare than usual, as RBKC undertakes works on the Cycle Quietway crossing between Latimer Road and Bracewell Gardens.  St Helens Residents Association argued for a different location for this cycle route (on the eastern side of the Highlever/St Quintin Avenue/StQuintin Gardens ‘triangle’).  We were told that this was not feasible.

Let us hope the new crossing works effectively, and that cyclists actually use it.  The plans that were discussed at our meeting last year do not explain quite how it will be safer and easier for cyclists to cross North Pole Road, however much expensive new road surface has been laid and extra signage installed.

Cycle Quietway crossing at North Pole Road

Cycle Quietway crossing at North Pole Road

In our wider area, the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation is working on the second version of its OPDC Local Plan.  This will determine what happens across a large swathe of London’s disused railway land, north of Wormwood Scrubs. The HS2 Bill is now an Act of Parliament, giving HS2 sweeping planning powers to progress its proposals on Old Oak Common station (the planned interchange with Crossrail/Queen Elizabeth Line).

Meanwhile developers have been coming forward with a series of applications for tall residential towers along Scrubs Lane.  The first of two applications from Aurora Developments was approved earlier this month by the OPDC Planning Committee. The Association was given the opportunity to speak at the committee meeting, but did not change minds already made up.  The second application, for a 22 storey tower very visible from Little Wormwood Scrubs, looks likely to be decided on April 5th.

'North Kensington Gate' north site - now approved by OPDC

‘North Kensington Gate’ north site – now approved by OPDC

 

'North Kensington Gate' 22 storey tower - due to be decided by OPDC April 5th

‘North Kensington Gate’ 22 storey tower – due to be decided by OPDC April 5th

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to all those SHRA members who wrote in with objections to this second proposal. There is a slim chance that the level of public opposition might tip the balance on a decision on this application.

We are hoping that the two councillors from Hammersmith & Fulham, on the OPDC Planning Committee, will vote against the application. RBKC has sent in written objections but is not represented on the committee.

Two further developments involving residential towers are set to follow in Scrubs Lane, at ‘Mitre Yard’ just north of Mitre Bridge on the west side of Scrubs Lane and at 2 Scrubs Lane, on the corner of Harrow Road.

Proposed Mitre Yard sceme in Scrubs Lane

Proposed Mitre Yard sceme in Scrubs Lane

All of these schemes feel like architecture from a previous era. They show the risks of a Development Corporation seemingly willing to approve almost anything, to show that things are happening at Old Oak. The public transport links which would justify building at these densities will not be in place until 2026.

The Old Oak Interim Neighbourhood Forum is a body made up of residents associations around Wormwood Scrubs, in LBHF and in Ealing, including the Friends of Wormwood Scrubs.  This body has been meeting over the past year and has now applied for formal ‘designation’ from the OPDC and LBHF so that a neighbourhood plan for old Oak can be prepared.

The Forum will be doing its best to use the neighbourhood planning framework as a means of influencing the outcome of massive regeneration at Old Oak.  At the moment the omens do not look positive.

The challenge is to convince Mayor Sadiq Khan that Boris’s ideas of a ‘mini-Manhattan’ or a ‘Canary Wharf in the West’ make little sense at Old Oak – an area with a road network already over-congested. This part of London needs more housing, rather than second homes and unoccupied luxury apartments, but super-density high-rise is not where London’s future should be heading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update on Memorial Park and proposals for an all-weather pitch

The Association has had a reply to our letter to Cllr Nick Paget-Brown, Leader of the Council, on the above (see the November post below for the background).  His response can be seen here RBKC LETTER TO SHRA JAN 6 2017.  Our further letter to him can be seen here SHRA to RBKC on Memorial Park Jan 2017 final.

The Leader if the Council has confirmed that there is no ‘developed plan’ for an all-weather floodlit pitch in Memorial Park, and that it remains an option.  This leaves residents in Argyll Place, Pangbourne Avenue, and Oakworth Road experiencing further months of uncertainty – with a big impact on any of these trying to sell their home.

The ‘second phase’ of a much criticised consultation exercise on ‘improvements’ to the park is now concluded.  We are told the results will be published at the end of January.

The outcome of the first stage was a clear majority opposed to a floodlit and fenced all-weather pitch, taking away a large part of the park from other users.  The Association supports the refurbishment of drainage to the existing grass pitch, for which funds are already set aside (as part of the ‘community benefits derived from the development of Argyll Place).

We hope that this will be an occasion when the Council listens to the views of those who live near and use Memorial Park.  There are several all-weather pitches at Westway, and a further one due to be provided as part of the new North Kensington Library development.

 

 

 

Memorial Park – what are the Council’s plans?

For many months there has been growing confusion about the Council’s intentions for Memorial Park (sometimes known as St Marks Park).

During the summer RBKC carried out a consultation, in the form of a questionnaire on possible ‘improvements’ to the park.  Many felt that the questionnaire was weighted towards the idea of installing an all-weather floodlit football pitch (i.e. with an artificial surface) in place of the current grassed football pitch on the west side of the park.

This area is used by the Kensington Dragons youth team at weekends and for informal games, dog-walking, and picnics in the summer.  As part of a S106 planning agreement between RBKC and the developers of Argyll Place in Pangbourne Avenue, the sum of £150,000 was set aside before the development was built, for improvements to the park.  The first item on the list in this legal agreement is refurbishment of the grassed pitch, which needs better drainage.

The Council had 214 responses to the survey, and has analysed these.  The results are shown below (in one of several slides that will be shown at the SHRA/StQW open meeting on November 24th).   The was a strong majority against the idea of an artificial pitch.

Mem Park slide 1

Subsequent to seeing these results, Cabinet member Cllr Tim Ahern asked that the consultation exercise be extended into a second phase, with further postcards delivered to residents in a wider radius from the park (650m rather than the original 400m).  This ‘phase 2′ of the consultation ends on November 30th.

The survey form remains available on the RBKC website at this link.  The website now has a note asking people not to return a second response if they did so in the first consultation.  This was not clear at the start of ‘Phase 2′.

When discussed at the open meeting of St Helens Residents Association/StQW Forum on 9th June 2016, the clear majority view was that a floodlit artificial pitch is not what local people want to see in the park.

There are obvious issues of noise and light pollution for immediate neighbours.  For other visitors, the high wire fencing would detract from the views of what has always been an extensive grassed open space.  Use of this part of the park becomes limited to a single activity, in what has always been a family park oriented park with its regular dog walking community.  All weather pitches are already available at Westway.

These views were confirmed by the responses to the ‘phase 1′ survey, as shown below:

Mem Park slide 2

A two stage consultation exercise, covering two different areas, is confusing enough. Even greater confusion has arisen from the wording used in three different versions of the Council’s Parks Strategy 2016-25.   A first version of this document was considered by the Council’s Public Real Scrutiny Committee last March, and a second by the Council’s Cabinet in May.  A third version was launched in June and remains on the Councils website.   The changes of wording in relation to the first ‘objective’ of the Strategy for Memorial Park is shown in the slide below:

Mem Park slide 4 V2

We have been assured by RBKC officers that the third set of wording above is that included in the ‘final’ version of the Parks Strategy, and that no Council decision on an all-weather pitch has yet been taken.  But various exchanges between Pangbourne Avenue residents and Cllr Nick Paget-Brown (Council Leader) suggest that a decision has already been made.  The Ask Nick session at St Helens Church on November 23rd may provide clarity.

Meanwhile, Prince William came to Memorial Park prior to Remembrance Sunday, to designate the park as a Centenary Field.  These designations were introduced recently as part of the First World War commemorations, in a programme organised by Fields In Trust.

The designation will give added protection to the park as open space.  As far as we can make out, it does no affect whether part of the park becomes an all-weather pitch.  If the Council were to proceed with such a proposal, aspects such as floodlighting and fencing would need planning permission.  Public consultation on a planning application would also be required.

We hope that matters will not reach this stage, and that the Council decides without further delay to use the £150,000 sum already secured through a planning agreements, to install better drainage and refurbish the existing grass pitch.

 

Prince William meeting local school children on his visit to Memorial Park

Prince William meeting local school children on his visit to Memorial Park