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’.
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.