December 2015 – news remains good

At a meeting of the Council’s Public Realm Scrutiny Committee on November 25th, Councillor Tim Coleridge (Cabinet member for Planning) confirmed that the Council would be accepting all the conclusions of the independent examiner of the St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Plan.

This means that the verdict that the land at Nursery Lane should be formally designated as Local Green Space will proceed, as part of the StQW Plan, to be voted on in a referendum in the New Year.  A provisional date of 18th February for the referendum has been suggested, but we have pointed out that this is half term week for state and private schools in the neighbourhood, so many people will be away.  We will liaise with the Council on a an alternative date.

News about the Westway Trust is less good.  The Trust held its 2015 AGM on November 23rd at St Helens Church, but the formal business of the meeting had to be abandoned as a result of strong opposition from the public over recent Trust decisions.

As a residents association, we have tried hard over the last 7 years to persuade the Trust that it needs to listen more carefully to the views of local residents in the area.  There remain many residents who lived here in the 1960s and 1970s and who remember the building of the Westway.  The formation of what was then called the North Kensington Amenity Trust was the result of a local community making clear that the strip of 23 acres beneath the Westway should be managed for the benefit of local people, with plenty of the land made available for community and social uses..

Too often in recent years, the approach of the Trust has been to act as a commercial developer of the land that it holds ‘in trust’ from RBKC as its leaseholder, and from Transport for London as the freeholder.  This is ultimately ‘public’ land and not for a body which remains a charity (but which many view as insufficiently accountable) to dispose of with no consideration of the public good.

The saga of the advertising towers at the Sports Centre, on land leased by the Trust to JC Decaux, was one of the first planning issues that brought this association together in 2008.

We will continue to try to work with the Trust and to influence it to think through more carefully its proposals for ‘Portobello Village’ at the junction of the Westway and Portobello Road.  Initial plans exhibited by the Trust were badly received, and the Trust has accepted that it needs to take several steps back.

We hope that the Trust will now make increased efforts to rebuild its relationship with local residents.  It has dug itself into a hole which is deep, but with good will on all sides the position is recoverable.

 

 

 

November 2015 update on planning news – mostly good

As most local residents will have heard, the news in recent weeks has been good.  Our sister website at www.stqw.org carries the details on the outcome of the ‘examination’ of the St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Plan.

Independent examiner John Parmiter FRICS MRTPI supported the main proposals in the Draft Plan, put together by local residents over the past two years.  Provided that the Council (RB Kensington and Chelsea) does not attempt to overturn his recommendations, our three ‘backland’ green spaces will be protected for the forseeable future as Local Green Space, including the site at Nursery Lane.  And we should see more life restored to Latimer Road and to our shopping parades.

This should spell the end of proposals by Metropolis Property Ltd to build 20 new townhouses at Nursery Lane.  Their planning application emerged a year after we had written to the Legard family, owners of the site, telling them of our intentions for a neighbourhood plan.  The application was withdrawn in the summer, and we hope never to see re-surface.

Neither the Legard family as landowners, nor the developers, chose to speak to local residents until detailed plans had been drawn up for a scheme that few if any in the area wanted.  So if their plans are now derailed and prospective windfall profits lost, local sympathy is limited.

Meanwhile the Westway Trust has once again failed to talk to local residents before entering into a new deal with JC Decaux to add a digital advertising screen to the southern advertising tower at the Westway Sports Centre.  Since being built in 2008, the southern face of this tower (which is aimed at drivers on the West Cross Route) has remained blank.

JC Decaux and the Westway Trust clearly cannot resist the temptation to add an extra digital screen to part of a structure which they claim  is currently ‘devoid of advertising’ (as if local residents and motorists see this as a deprivation).

So this will be a further test case of the Council’s willingness to be firm in saying ‘no’ to further outdoor advertising along Westway.  No one needs it, and the Westway Trust should know better.  Our objection letter to the application can be seen here SHRA_to_RBKC on Decaux application Nov 2015..

 

 

 

August update on planning news

Our sister website at www.stqw.org carries details of the current ‘examination’ of the St Quintin and Woodlands Draft Neighbourhood Plan.  Independent examiner John Parmiter FRICS MRTPI has been engaged by Kensington and Chelsea Council to review to Draft Plan, and to ensure that it meets to necessary legal conditions to proceed to a local referendum.

His examination will include a public hearing on September 22nd, starting at 10.00 at St Helens Church.  More details of the agenda for this hearing are at www,stqw.org.

The main issues which will arise at the public hearing are the future of Latimer Road, and of the backland at Nursery Lane.  Housing developers Metropolis Property Ltd have withdrawn their application for 20 four bedroom homes, pending the examination of the StQW Draft Plan, and have submitted lengthy objections to the StQW Draft Plan during the recent round of consultation.

The Neighbourhood Plan offers local residents and businesses a real opportunity to have a greater influence on planning decisions in our local area.  We are hoping that the Plan’s proposals will be supported by the independent examiner, and that a referendum on the Plan will be organised by RBKC before Christmas 2015.

The long-running saga of the advertising tower at the Westway Sports Centre continues.  In the latest development, advertisers JCDecaux have appealed against a discontinuance notice, finally issued by Kensington and Chelsea Council in June.

The notice follows the decision by the Council in March 2015 to grant planning permission for a replacement tower, of a design that will be much less obtrusive in its impact on this part of the Oxford Gardens Conservation Area.  It seems that Westway Trust and JCDecaux have been unable to agree commercial terms on the deal for the replacement tower.

The Association has written to the Planning Inspectorate to ask that the appeal be dismissed, and the Council allowed to proceed with discontinuance action.  Local residents have been waiting since 2009 for the Council to honour its commitment to ensure that the present tower structure is dismantled.

Catch up on news for our neighbourhood

If you are a new arrival in the streets of the St Quintin Estate and its surrounding area, we hope you find this website useful.  The St Helens Residents Association welcomes new members to its current membership of 360 and you can join by emailing sthelensassn@aol.com. Membership is free and you will receive monthly newsletters.

The Association’s membership is shared with the St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Forum, a body set up in 2013 to prepare a neighbourhood plan for this area.  Information on the neighbourhood plan is at www.stqw.org.

Our neighbourhood is subject to many pressures for development, in an around the area.  As at April 2015, the live issues are

  • proposals for a housing development on one of the three remaining St Quintin backlands at Nursery Lane.   See at www.stqw.org for more details,
  • the Imperial College development at Imperial West (in Wood Lane).  This development is under construction.  It involves a number of very tall buildings, which will be very visible on the western skyline from our neighbourhood.  Our campaign website at www.imperialfolly.org.uk has all the details and the long history of our campaign against this scale and height of this development.
  • Plans of the newly established Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation, which include proposals for 24,000 new homes at Old Oak (the area immediately north of Wormwood Scrubs).  The Friends of Wormwood Scrubs have a website at http://www.saveourscrubs.org.uk/
  • The Neighbourhood Forum’s plans for Latimer Road, to widen the mix of activities in this street, attract creative small businesses, and to allow additional housing above commercial space, as set out in the Draft StQW Neighbourhood Plan (see at this link).

The residents association keeps an eye on all planning applications in the area, and works hard to ensure that all the good things about this neighbourhood are retained and that new development is of the kind that meets the needs of people in this area.

We are also involved in building a stronger sense of community and helping people to get to know their neighbours.  We have public meetings, at St Helens Church, and a noticeboard in Kelfield Gardens (on the side wall of the bakers, at St Helens Gardens).

We work to get vacant shop units filled, and have helped to make the West London Bowling Club in Highlever Road a new focus for social events and community gardening as well as lawn bowling.(see at http://www.westlondonbowlingclub.com/)

Please email us at sthelensassn@aol.com if would like any more information on the above, or to join our mailing list.

Henry Peterson, Chair, St Helens Residents Association

 

 

 

 

 

Bowling Club enters a new phase

West London Bowling Club started life in 1903 as one of several sports and recreation clubs on the ‘backland’ sites of the St Quintin Estate (entrance at 112 Highlever Road).

It is now the only one that survives and recently its future as a successful club looked precarious, with membership in decline.

But no longer.  Existing Club members and other local residents have come together to put the Club back on its feet.  Following a successful membership drive, the Club now has over 100 members.  These include those keen to learn to bowl, and those who want to help to widen the range of activities offered in the evenings and during the winter (non-bowling) season.

The Club’s AGM was held on 16th June and a new set of officers and management committee members were elected.  Positions for the Club’s officers were not contested, with longstanding Club member Pat White agreeing to serve as President and Bowls Secretary.   Those now involved as the Management Committee are as follows:

Chair Ruth Hillary, President and Bowls Secretary Pat White, Treasurer Tania Martin, Press Officer Philippa Collie Cousins, other committee members Emma Henderson, Joshua Millais, Mick Sutton, Sandra Sutton-Cleaver, Anita Williams.

The newly elected WLBC committee

The newly elected WLBC committee

The clubhouse has been refurbished and repainted, and much volunteer effort has gone into cleaning up the building and finding new furniture.

A new website has been set up at this link and you can contact the Club at Chair@westlondonbowlingclub.com.   There will be evening events at the Club, with lots of ideas coming forward for how best to provide food and drink in the future (the Club is not currently licensed, but members can bring their own).

Within a few months, the idea of the Club becoming a hub of social activity in this area is being turned into reality.  Thanks to a lot of hard work by its committee members, old and new.  Call in at weekends if you would like join, or learn more about bowling..

The bowling green and clubhouse

The bowling green and clubhouse

 

Traffic lights at North Pole Road junction with Wood Lane

The queues and delays at these lights have been a longstanding topic of local conversation, and one raised at several of our public meetings.  The worsening problems are variously attributed to a) the opening of Westfield b) too much traffic on Scrubs Lane/Wood Lane and c) poor phasing of the traffic lights, allowing too few vehicles to make a left turn onto Wood Lane.

The StQW Neighbouirhood Forum has been pursuing the issue with Transport for London. It is this body, rather than either LBHF or RBKC, who control these lights.  Wood Lane/Scrubs Lane is a major through route (the A219).

We have received a detailed reply in response to requests that the phasing of the lights be checked.  This is copied below.  I have also met on site with one of Transport for London’s traffic engineers, at 8.30 in the morning.

On that particular morning the traffic was light and there were no queues.  Just as when one takes one’s car into the garage and it refuses to exhibit the symptoms that led to you to take it there.  Sods Law.

I explained to TfL’s engineer that many of the worst queues occur in the mid afternoon and early evening, as well as during the morning rush hour.  Corroboration was provided by our local butchers, who regularly watch the Barlby Road/St Quintin Avenue triangle become grid-locked and traffic taking 20 minutes or more to get through the lights,.

Transport for London have promised to

  • send out another engineer to observe from mid afternoon
  • recheck the phasing (reviewed and adjusted last year)
  • assess whether the queues in Wood Lane are the real problem, allowing very few vehicles to exit North pole Road when the lights are green
  • check on the number of reports of long delays sent in by bus drivers

TfL also point out that it is LBHF who are responsible for the physical design of the junction.  TfL deal with the sequencing of the lights.

The StQW Forum will be following up on these issues, and including in the neighbourhood plan any possible measures to of improve the traffic flow at this junction.  But the basic problem remains that too much development is being built on the LBHF side of the boundary with no plans to do anything radical in terms of road or rail improvements. Hence our local campaign for a new Overground station beneath the Westway elevated roundabout.

The letter from TfL is as follows.   If anyone wants to see the November 2012 traffic survey data, referred to in the letter, please email info@stqw.org

Dear Mr Peterson,

Thank you for your email and bringing your concerns to our attention

The junction of Wood Lane, Scrubs Lane and North Pole Road operates using a system called SCOOT, which uses sensors embedded in the road surface to detect traffic and automatically adjust signal timings according to the relative demands on each approach.  Resurfacing works earlier in the year had damaged the detectors, which meant the junction was not able to optimise and respond to the demands of traffic as it should.  This may have been the source of some of the difficulties recently experienced.  The detection has now been fixed, so the timings should be back to normal and we can now keep a close eye on the operation and accurately observe the issues you have described.

I will be visiting the site next week, now that the Easter holidays are finished, to watch the junction and see the problem for myself.  I do appreciate the concerns of the residents and we will take time to investigate.  If we can make any improvements or we feel that the balance between north-south movements and east-west movements is not correct, we will investigate what changes can be made.

If you think it would be useful I would be happy to meet you at the junction to discuss the issues.  Let me know if this interests you and we can make arrangements.

In the meantime, here follows an explanation of the way the junction operates now.

The junction operates in four stages:

 

Northbound Northbound RT Southbound Westbound RT Westbound LT
42s 16s 20s 10s 21s 

Stage 2 is only triggered when northbound vehicles are detected waiting to turn right.  When Stage 2 is triggered the left turn from North Pole Road gets extra green time, which is why green time for this movement is intermittently shorter or longer.  Stage 2 is typically called on around 70% of opportunities between 7am to 10am.  If vehicles turn between gaps in the southbound traffic then Stage 2 isn’t triggered. 

The pedestrian movements occur in stage 4.  When no one presses the button for green man, the extra green time is given to the north-south stage.  During the period 7am to 10am the pedestrian stage runs on approximately 40% of opportunities.  When the pedestrian stage is called, the necessary safety period between the end of green man to the start of north-south traffic green is 16 seconds long, during which time no traffic or pedestrians are given a green signal.  Although it may appear to the driver that this is wasted time, it is the necessary period to ensure no conflict between vehicles and people.

As mentioned before, the junction timings constantly optimise according to the demands of traffic from all approaches.  This means that I can’t quote fixed green times, but the table below gives typical green times for the AM peak hour between 8am and 9am.  Actual green times will differ considerably minute by minute as the junction optimises and when stages are not called by the right turn and pedestrians.

 

Northbound Northbound RT Southbound Westbound RT Westbound LT
42s 16s 20s 10s 21s

At the bottom of your email in point b you ask for traffic survey data which I have attached.  The most recent data we have dates from November 2012.  We don’t have any delay survey information for the junction.

Comparing crude, automatically collected flows for 2012 and 2013, there was a 2.3% increase in traffic flow at the junction.  This echoes a general trend of increased traffic levels across London over the last year.

In response to point c in your email, TfL have no proposals for a scheme that would reduce traffic levels that use this junction now or in the future.  As for mitigation, TfL will be assessing the impacts of the developments mentioned and will make decisions on what needs mitigating and how based on these predictions.

Please also bear in mind that, whilst TfL manages the traffic signals on Wood Lane, the decision to modify the physical design is the responsibility of LBH&F as this is a Borough-controlled road.

 

Nursery Lane site up for sale

This piece of land is the latest planning challenge to be faced by the association and the St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Forum.

This site (behind the houses on Brewster Gardens, the northern part of Highlever Road, and Dalgarno Gardens) has been in use by Clifton Nurseries since 1964.  This company, who are the tenants and not the owners, use it as a plant nursery and storage area for their main outlet in Maida Vale, which is one of very few garden centres in Central London.

The site is one of a number of ‘backland’ sites created as part of the original design of the St Quintin Estate, as an integral part of the original design of this neighbourhood.  Use by Clifton Nurseries has meant that the site, with its many large and mature trees, has been left largely undisturbed since the 1970s when RBKC built sheltered housing on the southern part of the original 2 acres of land.

Now the site has been put up for sale by the owners of the freehold (the Legard family, descendants of the St Quintins).  It is being marketed by .estate agents Knight Frank, with a brochure that says ‘we feel that the site my be suitable for private housing’.

Clifton aerial

This Clifton Nurseries flyer brochure describes the site as ‘an exceptional residential development opportunity comprising just over an acre of land in North Kensington’. The freehold is being offered through an informal tender process, and the sellers will consider either unconditional or ‘subject to planning’ offers.

We have been trying to contact the Legard family for some months, to ask about their long term plans for this piece of land.  Now we have the answer.

Potential bidders are being told that they must make their own enquiries of the council, as to the planning position on the site.  This is a piece of private open land, and the council has a Core Strategy policy (C5) to protect open space, either private or public.  The Oxford Gardens Conservation Ares Statement has a specific policy that these backland sites, created for the local community as part of the St Quintin Estate, should not be used for Housing.

Before the war, most of these sites were used as sports or recreation areas, run by local clubs and societies.  This site was the home of the Ashfield Tennis Club, until a bomb destroyed the tennis courts during the 2nd World War.  It was then used for allotments and for playing fields for Latymer School.

The St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Plan is likely to designate this and the other remaining undeveloped backland areas as Local Green Space, i.e. very largely open space areas with scope for recreational and leisure activities, as well as providing visual amenity to the neighbourhood.  This would allow for e.g. a tennis or sports club, allotments, and for the re-location of the RBKC community kitchen garden currently in St Quintin Avenue.

The StQW Forum is now consulting with local residents in the streets around the site and in the wider area, on what we as a community would like to see happen on the site.  The StQW Neighbourhood Plan gives us scope to define the planning context for the site, provided that this is in ‘general conformity’ with the council’s Core Strategy.  ’Local Green Space’ is a new designation, introduced as part of the National Planning Policy Framework, to protect areas such as this.

There is also the option for the Forum applying to add this site to the RBKC Register.of Community Assets (as has already been done with the West London Bowling Club). If such an application were approved, this would trigger a six month moratorium on a sale, while other options were explored.

The next open meeting of the Forum will be on Thursday May 29th 2014 at 8pm at St Helens Church Hall.  Please join us to discuss this site and other parts of the draft Neighbourhood Plan.

 

 

 

Westway advertising towers – local residents have been patient enough

Back in 2009, residents were puzzled to see a new construction emerge on the skyline, at the Westway Sports Centre.  Was it part of a film set, or a sports project?  Surely it was only temporary?

It turned out to be the first of two advertising towers, aimed at motorists on Westway and rising 100 feet into the air.  Illuminated adverts 25 feet high swiftly appeared, and have been with us ever since.   At night they dominate the southern skyline for the full length of Highlever Road and light up the bedrooms of houses and flats on Oxford Gardens.

DSCF1567 reduced

Swiftly nicknamed the ‘Towers of Terror’ a local campaign got underway to get lobby for these adverts to be removed.  It emerged that the Westway Development Trust had leased small plots of land to JC Decaux, the outdoor advertising company.

It also emerged that Kensington & Chelsea had refused planning permission, but this decision had been overturned by the Planning Inspectorate (based in Bristol).  While it seemed extraordinary that a Planning Inspector had approved such a structure on the edge of a conservation area, the decision was made and nothing could be done.

Only a handful of residents in Oxford Gardens had received any notification of the original planning application, or the appeal.  And such notifications that were sent out by the council made no mention of the height and scale of these structures.  Hence only a couple of objections were submitted.  Most residents had no idea of what was coming.

Westway Development Trust chief executive Martyn Freeman was memorably confronted by a mother, at a packed meeting at St Helens Church Hall, who asked how he would like it if his young daughters went to bed and awoke to the sight of an illuminated David Beckham, 25 feet high and in his underpants, gazing into their bedroom.

Martyn Freeman’s explanation that the Trust needed the income from advertising to support its activities did not convince.   We have never been told what sums are involved, despite repeated requests.   And the Trust is a charitable body, managing public amenity land for the benefit of Londoners.  It does not have the excuse that it is a commercial landlord.

After a long campaign by the Association, the council gave written undertakings that ‘discontinuance action’ would be taken on the advertisements, once their initial five year approval had expired.   This felt a long time to wait, but gave some prospect of relief from this blight on the neighbourhood.

The five years expired in May 2013.  Since then, the Association has regularly reminded the council of its commitment to halt the display of the adverts.  We have been given various reasons why such a decision will take time to make, and are now told that the matter will be decided by the council’s Planning Applications Committee, some time after the May 2014 local elections.  This will make it 6 years of waiting.

We have asked to make an input to the committee report, and the material we have sent is at this link WESTWAY ADVERTISING TOWERS – input from SHRA to PAC report.final. We will keep local residents informed of the date of the committee discussion, which will not be before June, and hope to see plenty of you there for the occasion.

 

 

Future plans for Notting Hill Gate

Notting Hill Gate is important to us residents of St Helens, as a place to shop, see a film, or have a meal.   Many people living in these streets were drawn towards this area because of its relative proximity to Notting Hill Gate, which has always been seen as an interesting, creative, and slightly bohemian part of London (long before Hugh Grant and the film gave it global recognition).

RB Kensington and Chelsea has been consulting recently on a planning framework for the Gate.  The area was comprehensively redeveloped in the 1950s, as part of a road widening scheme by the London County Council.  Some of its office buildings date back from that period, and others from the 1960s and 1970s.   Most are now outdated.

Several landowners have property holdings in the area, and have been putting together redevelopment proposals.  The largest of these is for Newcombe House (the tall block above Waterstones) and includes the row of shops and restaurants on the west side of Kensington Church Street.

The council’s new draft Supplementary Planning Document for Notting Hill attempts to set some parameters for redevelopment, in terms of building heights and densities.  It also contains proposals for upgrading pavements, public areas, and the entrances to the Underground.

The council’s ‘vision’ for Notting Hill is to retain its role as a ‘district centre’ for shopping and offices, and to improve the public realm for all those who use this very busy public transport hub – including the many tourists en route to Portobello Road.

In recent months the Kensington Society has been working with resident and amenity groups in the area (including St Helens) to refine some of the council’s initial proposals. In particular, the Society has argued that one of the RBKC ideas – that of using £8m of ‘planning gain’ to provide a 2,000 sq.m space for a museum or ‘cultural hub’ was not attracting much local support.  The Design Museum is already relocating to the former Commonwealth Centre in Kensington High Street, and does the borough need another museum space which might turn into an expensive ‘white elephant’.

The Kensington Society view, which has been widely supported, is that this £8m of public funds could be better spent, and could in part be used to secure a new public square, within the redevelopment of Newcombe House.  This is seen as giving the area a much needed focus, sheltered from the windswept main road, and an attractive locatiion for shops, cafes and resturants (as well as the Farmers Market).  The redevelopment of Duke of York Square, off the Kings Road, is cited as an example of creating successful open space within a new retail development..

The Society’s proposals are shown in the diagram below:

NHG

An issue likely to prove contentious once planning applications are submitted is the height of redeveloped buildings.  Developers will be looking to build high, in order to maximise profitable floorspace.  The owners of Campden Hill Towers would like to adds another couple of storeys.  The developers of Newcombe House has shown plans which include and office and residential tower half as tall again as the present building.  The council generally has strict policies on tall buildings, but will allow them in district centres maximise where they are claimed to provide a ‘landmark’ building of high architectural quality,  Residents of Hillgate Village wait to be convinced.

Having listened to the views of the Kensington Society and other groups, the council has shown some willingness to modify its original plans.  It will not be publishing the final version of the Noting Hill SPD until after the May elections, and may consult further before doling so.

 

height in order

Planning application to relocate Chepstow House School to 49 Bassett Road

This proposal from the Alpha Plus Group of schools has been around for a year or so. A previous planning application was turned down by RBKC.  A revised application was submitted a couple of months ago.

We asked all our membership for a view on this controversial planning application to relocate Chepstow House School to Bassett Road.
 
The outcome, from the 66 of you who responded, was as below:
Supporting the application    12
Opposing the application      41
No view either way                13
The main concerns raised were in relation to traffic, parking, and the road safety issues on the junction at the mini-roundabout on St Marks Road/Bassett Road.  Along with potential noise nuisance for those in neighbouring houses and the fact that the building at 49 Bassett Road is too small for a school of the size proposed.
On the basis of this response, the association sent in a letter of objection to the planning application.  The main concerns, as with the earlier application, were in relation to traffic problems, road safety at the junction and mini-roundabout, and potential noise nuisance to neighbours.
Our letter can be seen here SHRA_to_RBKC_objection_letter_Oct_2013
We understand that letters of support and objection (of which many hundreds have been sent into the council) have been in roughly the same ratio as your votes.  The council’s Planning Applications Committee will make the final decision on the application, in the next few weeks.