There have been some encouraging decisions from the council in recent weeks, which have shown a willingness to listen to the views of local residents (and this association).
Firstly, the planning application from the Alpha Plus Group for Chepstow House School to relocate to 49 Bassett Road has been turned down by the council. Residents in St Marks Road and Bassett Road organised a campaign to point out the drawbacks of a large school coming to a residential street which already copes with the comings and goings at Bassett House School.
Potential problems of parking, buses being blocked by parents dropping off and collecting their children, and the daytime noise generated by 240 pupils having ‘staggered playtimes’ in a very small outdoor area, were all brought to the attention of the council. Another factor was that the building has previously been used as a hostel for single homeless, and is classed as a ‘social and community’ building in planning terms. There are all too few of these left in the borough and the right use needs to be found for them.
Second was the decision by the council’s Planning Applications Committee that it is ‘minded to approve’ the application by Mountgrange Heritage to continue with their existing presence at 59 St Helens Gardens. Council planning officers had recommended refusal to this application, on the grounds that the building is classed as A1 retail whereas estate agents are A2 (financial services and other business uses).
Ward councillors, the association, the neighbouring shops, the church and several other residents had supported the idea of Mountgrange Heritage being allowed to stay put, rather than being forced to leave. We do not want to see the premises becoming vacant again, just when three shop units in this section of the St Helens Gardens have finally been refurbished and let. We also pointed out to councillors that the estate agents have brought back some footfall to a street which has long struggled to find long-term retail tenants. There are presently two vacant shops in the northern section of St Helens Gardens, as well as several in North Pole Road.
The committee was persuaded to think again about the recommendation from their planning officers. A final decision will be made at a future committee, and we will be working with ward councillors to ensure wide support for the proposed solution. This is to grant approval with personal conditions attached to Mountgrange Heritage, and to allow A2 estate agency use when coupled with the proposal to install a florists kiosk on the area of private land next to No.59 (normally occupied by a parked car).
In this way there should be little risk of a precedent being set in planning terms, and the neighbourhood should get a florists stall to replace Orlando’s (the former tenants of Number 59). All of this should help to secure the viability and vitality of St Helens Gardens.
There has been no decision yet on the application for the proposed Crowthorne Road development, which (if permitted) will overshadow Oxford Gardens Primary School and destroy the views south along Wallingford Avenue. We hope that councillors will take account of the many letters if protest from local residents, and ask the developers to scale down the height and mass of their proposals.
In relation to Latimer Road, we have followed up the discussion at our last open meeting with a session with the Council’s planning officers. It looks as though there will be support for ideas on encouraging a wider mix of uses in Latimer Road, with some residential to bring in development funding to encourage the arrival of creative and cultural businesses and related uses. Our response to the council’s recent consultation on its Enterprise Review can be found here Enterprise Review. SHRA response.final
All in all, we feel that the council is recognising that some of its planning policies can prove too inflexible at times, and need some fine tuning to respond to all sorts of development pressures and finely balanced planning issues.
We want to find ways of keeping what is best about this past of North Kensington, while recognising economic realities. We hope that 2013 will bring formal approval to the designation of the proposed St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Forum, and the chance for local residents and businesses to have a greater say in the future of this part of the borough.