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

 

Proposals for ‘North Kensington Gate’ – the latest threat to our area

At the joint meeting of the Association and the StQW Neighbourhood Forum on June 9th, we looked at images of two proposed new developments on the eastern side of Scrubs Lane.

Aurora Developments have now submitted separate planning applications to the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC) for what is being badged as ‘North Kensington Gate North’ and ‘North Kensington Gate South’.  The sites are in fact in Hammersmith and not in North Kensington but the ‘Kensington’ label is no doubt seen as helping sales of the completed apartments.

The consultation page here on the OPDC website is the easiest route for finding your way to the details of the two applications.

The proposals for the northern site are the least contentious of the two.  An image of the completed development looks like this:

North building imageOn the southern site closer to the Grand Union Canal, a 22 storey tower is proposed.  The developers make much of the fact that earlier proposals were for 25 storeys, and that this height has been reduced in response to public consultation.

Both schemes are for residential apartments, with commercial/retail space on the ground floor.   The affordable housing elements are 29% (north) and 30% (south), i.e. below the 50% aspiration of Sadiq Khan as London Mayor.

Housing densities on both sites are very high, at around 450 housing units per hectare. This is justified on the basis that the while the location currently has very poor public transport accessibility, new rail connections will change this by 2026.  This assumes that a Crossrail station, HS2 station at Old Oak Common, and new Overground station at Hythe Road all come into operation by then.

For our neighbourhood, the biggest impact is that this will be the first of what threatens to become a series of  tall towers submitted for approval at ‘Old Oak Park’ (the Cargiant site) and along Scrubs Lane.

The 22 storey building (if approved) will look like this from Mitre Bridge on Scrubs Lane:

North Ken Gate South.final

The planning application is accompanied by a series of ‘representative views’ including one from Little Wormwood Scrubs.  The view will look like this CGI image below, with the new building clearly visible in the middle of what is now an empty skyline:

North Ken Gate South from Little Scrubs

So having lost our western skyline to the forthcoming 35 storey ‘Imperial Folly’, we now look likely to lose the currently unimpaired northern skyline from Little Scrubs.

We have to get used to the fact that ‘Old Oak’ (i.e. the area to the north of Wormwood Scrubs) is destined for 24,500 new homes and many more residential towers.  But it is depressing that this first major application in Scrubs Lane looks as though it is being ushered through the planning system by a Development Corporation very keen to see some early ‘catalysts’ rise from the ground – even when these planning applications conflict with the Corporation’s own emerging planning policies.

Scrubs Lane is defined as a ‘sensitive edge’ in the OPDC Draft Local Plan, given its proximity to the St Marys Cemetery Conservation Area and the Grand Union Canal.  A new Conservation Area (Cumberland Park) is due to be designated, protecting the Victorian factory buildings on the east side of Scrubs Lane.  But it seems to be OK to place a 22 storey tower in the midst of these.

Below is the future view from the Grand Union Canal, as shown in the planning application.

North Ken Gate from canal

The architects for both the northern and southern sites at North Kensington Gate are Allies and Morrison, a well-known and respected London firm.   We have asked the developer why the two buildings are so different.  The Planning Statement for the southern tower describes it as ‘elegant’.  This is not the adjective that the audience came up with when we showed an image of the building at our June 9th open meeting at St Helens Church Hall.

In London, there is a growing disconnect between what developers, planners and architects see as a good scheme, and the views of the London public.  This has become clear in opposition to the original design for the ‘Paddington Pole’ and on other major developments.

What has been built in Vauxhall and Battersea is causing growing public concern, with the prospect of residential towers standing there but now failing to sell to their intended offshore market.  A spread of ‘Nine Elms Disease’ to north-west London looks likely to be resisted fiercely over the coming months and years.

St Helens Residents Association will submit objections to the planning application for the southern tower, on grounds of non-compliance with the London Plan and the Local Plans of both LBHF and the OPDC (the latter of which will overtake the former by 2018).  Comments can be sent in to planningapplications@opdc.london.gov.uk.

The OPDC has arranged a session involving the developers Aurora, OPDC planning officers, and members of the public on October 19th at the Co-Club, 140 Wales Farm Road, North Acton, W3 6UG between 6.30pm – 8.00pm.  This is a less than ideal location for those who will be most affected by the development, but I will be there to try and make our voice heard.

Henry Peterson, Chair St Helens Residents Association

RBKC ideas for Kensington Memorial Park

The Council has published a consultation survey on potential improvements to Memorial Park.  Some but not all residents in surrounding streets received a leaflet giving details of how to find the survey. Below is the link to the online version of the survey on the RBKC website https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/survey/kmpimprovements2016/kmp_improvements_concept_ideas_phase_one.htm

The survey was discussed at the open meeting of SHRA/StQW Neighbourhood Forum on June 9th 2016, at St Helens Church hall.  The 60 people present felt that the survey was weighted towards seeking support for one main option – installing an all-weather pitch with floodlighting in place of the existing grass pitch in the west of the park.

Residents value the park as open green space which is peaceful and low-key.  All weather pitches come with tall fencing that is visually intrusive, as are floodlights.  It would mean that the existing grassed area could not be used for other activities, as at present.

The location of a floodlit pitch would be right outside the new development at Argyll Place and would be intrusive for residents there and along Pangbourne Avenue (see below).

Memorial Park

The back story is that funding of £150,000 is available for improvements to the park. This was part of the Section 106 contribution negotiated between the developer of Argyll Place and the Council, at the time when the development was granted planning permission.  This legal agreement included a specified list of improvements to the park, the first of which was for the grass pitch with no mention of an all-weather pitch of floodlighting.  Westway Sports Centre already provides these facilities.

The vote at the June 9th  meeting was unanimous that these funds should be used to bring the existing grass pitch back to a good state, clearing out the underground drainage system that is in place but which needs some work to ensure the grass is not waterlogged in winter months.  The Kensington Dragons youth teams use this pitch at weekend, leaving it available for other park users in the week.  This is seen as a good arrangement which should continue.

A letter has gone from St Helens Residents Association to the Council, setting out these views.  We hope that the Council will listen,  The letter can be seen at this link SHRA_to_RBKC on Memorial Park.V2final

 

 

 

 

Successful referendum for the StQW Neighbourhood Plan

As reported on our sister site at www.stqw.org, the referendum on the Draft StQW Neighbourhood Plan saw over 600 voters in the neighbourhood vote ‘yes’ to the Plan being adopted by the Council.

Of a total of 706 votes cast, 645 voted in favour, 54 against and there were 4 spoilt papers.  The results can also be seen here on the RBKC website.

The Council is due to adopt the StQW Neighbourhood Plan next month, and is already using its policies when deciding on planning applications.  For more information see at www.stqw.org, and thanks to all local residents who came out to vote.

 

Referendum on StQW Neighbourhood Plan – please vote on February 25th

After several years of work by the St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Forum, the neighbourhood plan for this area is about to be voted on by local residents.

The vote will take place on Thursday February 25th, at St Helens Church.  The Council will be running the vote, as for a local election.  The polling station will be open from 7am to 10pm.

If you are a resident living within the neighbourhood area, and on the RBKC electoral register, please come out to vote ‘yes’ in favour of the neighbourhood plan.  The Council will then adopt the StQW Draft Plan and use it when making future planning decisions in this area.

The policies in the Draft Plan will

  • protect from development the three St Quinbtin ‘backlands’ at Nursery Lane, the West London Bowling Club, and behind Kelfield Gardens.
  • bring back more life to Latimer Road, allowing for cafes, shops, creches. coffee shops and restaurants, as well as office uses.
  • allow ‘mixed use’ redevelopment of Units 1-14 Latimer Road
  • reduce the number of vacant shop units in St Helens Gardens and North Pole Road, by allowing a wider range of uses.
  • ensure that conservation policies for this area are more consistent and up to date

The StQW Neighbourhood Plan has been put together by local people and consulted on in two consultation exercises last year, receiving strong support.  It has been independently ‘examined’ at a public hearing last September, with the examiner subsequently supporting its main policy proposals.  Please help to ensure that it becomes part of the statutory Local Plan for our neighbourhood, by voting ‘yes’ on the 25th.

 

 

 

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.