One of the original motives for preparing a neighbourhood plan for the St Quintin and Woodlands area was to breathe some life into Latimer Road. Despite the fact that North Kensington is full of vitality, offering residents a wide choice of interesting places to eat, drink, shop and socialise, Latimer Road has offered none of these in recent decades.
During even minor recessions in the London office market, the office buildings at the southern end of the street fall vacant. Public transport access to the street is poor at present, creating problems for existing employers and employees.
100 years ago, Latimer Road was a busy and valued part of the St Quintin Estate, with shops, pubs, cafes and a mix of housing and business uses. A Latimer Road station on the West London Line provided good public transport access. Laundries were the main commercial activity. The street was what planners would now call ‘mixed use’ with employment activity alongside housing, and the street was more alive as a result.
In the 1970s things changed. The arrival of Westway broke up the local street network and Latimer Road ceased to be a through route north/south. The western side of the street (in those days part of Hammersnith) formed part of a Wood Lane Employment Zone. The row of 14 light industrial/warehouse units was built on the western side of the road, facing existing housing on the eastern (Kensington) side of the street..
Following borough boundary changes in 1996, both sides of Latimer Road became part of RBKC. The Council at that time chose to designate four sections of Latimer Road as part of the Freston/Latimer Employment Zone. This meant that any new development in these sections of the street, other than B1 commercial use, was resisted. There was little or no scope for mixed use development (although the Council broke its own policies when approving the development at 290-294 Latimer Road).
The StQW Neighbourhood Forum took the view from the start of its life in 2013 that this ‘zoning’ policy was over-restrictive and had damaged the street over time. Instead of protecting viable commercial space, RBKC planning policies had left too many offices vacant and unused. We also felt strongly that there was scope to provide new housing in Latimer Road, by allowing redevelopment of Units 1-14 with residential above commercial uses (within height limits).
The Council did not accept this view, but after hearing evidence from both the forum and RBKC planning officers at a public hearing in September 2015, the independent examiner of the draft neighbourhood plan sided largely with the StQW Forum.
As a result, policies in the StQW Plan, as supported by a 92% majority at the February 2015 referendum, now allow for redevelopment of Units 1-14 as mixed use premises. They also allow for a wider range of uses in other commercial buildings in the street, including education, creches/nurseries, galleries, shops, gyms, cafes/restaurants. RBKC planning officers now work to these policies, when deciding or making recommendations on planning applications in Latimer Road.
Plans for a pedestrian/cycle underpass beneath the railway line, from the Imperial West site to the southern end of Latimer Road, were announced as far back as 2011. Funding of £4m for this project is secured via a S106 Agreement between Imperial College and LB Hammersmith & Fulham. When built, this underpass will much improve public transport access to Latimer Road, via the Central Line station at White City and the bus routes along Wood Lane.
Regrettably, construction of the underpass is a long time coming. The legal agreement with Imperial allows the College to defer the project until the back end of their build programme (halfway completed as at 2016). The most recent date provided for the underpass construction is 2019.
The StQW Forum continues to press Imperial College to make faster progress with the underpass project. It is key to ensuring that Latimer Road retains any viability as an office and employment location, given the arrival of many thousand square metres of purpose built office space in White City East. Meanwhile we hope that the opportunities provided by the more flexible StQW planning policies will help to bring a wider range of activities to the street.
To find our more about the St Quintin and Woodland Neighbourhood Plan, go to www.stqw.org