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   Most are now outdated.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:


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.

White City planning framework finalised – but how little has changed…

Hammersmith & Fulham Council on October 23rd will be adopting the final version of the White City Opportunity Area Planning Framework.

This will become a Supplementary Planning Document to the borough’s Core Strategy, and will be taken into account when decisions are made on planning applications for sites in the Opportunity Area.

The document has been through two rounds of public consultation, one in early 2011 and one in mid 2013.  In the long interval between the two, the council granted planning permissions to developments on most of the key sites in the Opportunity Area.

These included the Imperial West scheme (with its 35 storey tower), the Helical Bar scheme (32 storey tower) and the next phase of Westfield (20 storey tower).

In response to both consultation exercises, local people said they did not want to see very tall towers in this part of London.  The idea that it was somehow ‘appropriate’ to build a cluster of very tall buildings alongside Westway, as a ‘gateway to London’, has been widely derided and received no support in the consultation responses sent in the council.

Has the council taken any notice, in finalising the planning framework due to be approved next week?

If you read the Summary of Consultation Responses (on the council agenda) you might think the council would be making changes to final version of the planning frameworkl.  Council officers summarise the consultation responses as saying: 

The overwhelming concern expressed relates to guidance in theWCOAPF regarding building heights. Whilst there is some support for more flexibility regarding where tall buildings can be located in the opportunity area the majority oppose the building heights as being excessive and express concern regarding their impact on surrounding areas especially the impact on conservation areas.

Of most concern are the two towers proposed in the indicative masterplan on either side of the Westway and their detrimental effect on the skyline and their impact on local residents to the north and east including residents in RBKC and the Stable Way traveller’s site.

If you read what has actually changed in the text of the OAPF, as a result of this response from the public, you will see that the answer is very little.  Below is one of two textual edits to this part of the final document:

Slender towers of approximately 21-30 storeys (up to 100 metres) would be appropriate along the Westway has been changed to read Slender towers of approximately 21-30 storeys (up to 100 metres) could be appropriate along the Westway.

As before the document blithely ignores the fact that the council has already approved two schemes with 35 and 32 storey towers in this location.  Why has the wording not been amended to reflect current reality (as it has elsewhere in the document?)

Answer – because the council knows that buildings of this height have stretched national and London Plan policies beyond their legitimate limits, and they do not wish to acknowledge this in what will become part of the Borough’s statutory planning framework.

The only other textual change to this part of the document is as below:

The indicative masterplan identifies the limited locations where taller buildings might be suitable has been changed to read The indicative masterplan identifies the limited locations where taller buildings would be suitable

Note that this change has been made as the final outcome of a two-stage consultation exercise in which the responses from the public have said the complete opposite to the thrust of this revision.

So that is it.  A long-drawn out process of public consultation on a strategic planning document, spread over several years and costing large sums of public money, and these are the end results?

This is why the general public has lost faith in the planning system, and in consultation processes that are required by Parliament but which can be rendered meaningless in practice by a council that wants to get its way.

The council made up its mind several years ago, in close dialogue with developers, about building heights in White City East.  It has refused to listen ever since.  

The one hope now is that Imperial College may prove a better listener.  The College has acquired the former Dairy Crest site on Wood Lane, so the prospect of the Helical Bar scheme being built on this site is now past history.

The College has appointed the international firm of Skidmore Owings Merrill to prepare a new masterplan for what is now a combined 22 acre site.   There is the prospect of a much more coherent plan, with better buildings, emerging to replace the currently approved schemes.

The College has shown a recent willingness to talk to the Hammersmith Society, the St Helens Residents Association, and the new St Quintin & Woodlands Neighbourhood Forum, at an early stage in this new masterplanning exercise.

A revised set of proposals could create a university, health, and science innovation complex of world class renown, and one that sits well alongside its residential neighbours.

But this will need the council to join with the College in showing greater respect to the voices of local people.



Neighbourhood plan gets underway

Kensington and Chelsea Council has now formally ‘designated’ the new St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Forum.  The background documents can be seen here on the council’s website.

An inaugural meeting of the Forum was held at St Helens Church hall on June 27th 2013.  A constitution was adopted and a 10 person management committee elected. There remain 4 places on the management committee and others have come forward since the meeting to express interest in joining the committee.  There will be further decisions on membership at the next open meeting (scheduled for September 12th).

More details about the forum and the neighbourhood plan are on the new website at www.stqw.org

In future, the new website is where information about the plan will be published and comments can be left.

The St Helens Residents Association will continue as a separate body, and will have less need to get involved in the detail of planning issues. Existing members of the association are also deemed to be members of the forum, and will be notified of meetings and consultation sessions.

St Helens Festival 2013

The association had a stall at the very successful St Helens Festival on July 6th.  A total of 28 new members signed up to join, bringing our total membership to over 300.  This helps to strengthen the voice of the association (and the new neighbourhood forum) on decisions that affect the area.  Whether it is on the major plans for developments in this part of London (including the long-term plans for the HS2 transport interchange at Old Oak) or the future of health services in our immediate neighbourhood, there is a lot happening at the moment.

Designation of this area for a neighbourhood plan means that detailed work can begin on putting the plan together.  This will include a look back at the history of the area, an update of conservation policies, and ideas for ensuring the long term success of the shopping parades and regenerating Latimer Road.

We need to gather together everyone’s views on what is good about the area, and what may be threats or unwelcome trends for the future.  Please use www.stwq.org or the comments box on this site to feed in your suggestions.


Neighbourhood forum to be launched at end of June

After a long wait, designation by Kensington & Chelsea council of the proposed St intin and Woodlands neighbourhood forum is now imminent.  An inaugural meeting of the forum has been convened for Thursday June 27th, at 19.30 pm at St Helens Church hall.

leaflet inviting all who live or work in the plan area to come to the meeting (and/or to join the forum) is being circulated to the 1,500 or so households and businesses in this neighbourhood (see map below).

At this stage, it is the larger part of the area within RB Kensington & Chelsea that is being formally designated for neighbourhood planning purposes.  Hammersmith and Fulham Council has yet to reach a decision on the part within its borough.  We hope that the council will ultimately decide the designate this part also.

In meantime, membership of the forum is open to anyone living or working in the plan area.  There is no charge for membership.  St Helens Residents Association has been awarded a grant of £6,760 from the Government, to enable the forum to meet the basic costs of preparing a neighbourhood plan (consultation materials, meeting room hire etc).

A new website for the forum has been set up at www.stqw.org.  This includes background information and an online membership form.  Existing members of the St Helens Residents Association will be deemed to be members of the forum without having to fill out this form.  But if you know of other neighbours who would be interested, please encourage them to use the new website and online form to communicate their contact details.

In future, news and documents relating to the neighbourhood forum and plan will appear on www.stqw.org rather than on this website.  St Helens Residents Association will continue as a separate body, working to improve the overall quality of life in the area.  We hope that with the neighbourhood forum taking on the longer-term planning issues, that SHRA will have more time and capacity to look at other concerns such as health services, policing and community safety in the area.



Preparation of Neighbourhood Plan to start soon

After a long wait, formal approval is expected shortly for the start of preparation of a Neighbourhood Plan for this area.  RB Kensington and Chelsea are due in May to ‘designate’ their part of the proposed St Quintin and Woodlands area.  For a map and more details of these proposals see at this link.

The delay on these proposals has not been the fault of RBKC.  The proposed plan area extends westwards to Wood Lane, in order to include the triangle of housing around Eynham Road and the Imperial West site.  Following a 6 week consultation exercise last summer (when views for and against the proposals were evenly balanced) LB Hammersmith & Fulham has since chosen not to reach a decision on whether to designate that part of the plan area in their borough.

So the way forward will be for RBKC to grant approval for the larger part of the plan area (see map below). The process of consulting locally and drawing up a draft plan can then get underway.  In the next few weeks we will be circulating all 1400 households, businesses and shops in the plan area with basic information explaining the process.


We will be looking for people who are interested in coming together on the management committee of what will be a newly constituted body – the Neighbourhood Forum for this area.

We hope that residents and businesses on the LBHF side of the boundary will want to take part in local discussions, and that Hammersmith & Fulham Council will eventually be persuaded to designate their part of the area.  In the meantime, the arrangements for the Forum and Plan insofar as they relate to LBHF will be in ‘shadow’ form only.

The Government has started a new programme of funding for neighbourhood plans.  Over 300 neighbourhoods across England are currently taking the opportunity to prepare such plans.   Grants of £7,000 will be available to neighbourhood forums, to meet the costs of holding consultation sessions, and putting together a draft plan.  We intend to apply for such a grant when bidding opens on May 1st, so that the new Forum has some resources to progress the necessary work.

Membership of the new Forum will be open to anyone living or working in the area. If you are interested in knowing more, or taking an active role in the management committee of this new body, please email to sthelenassn@aol.com.


Our legal case against Hammersmith & Fulham Council

The series of posts below explain that our residents association is continuing to prepare a judicial review application, challenging the decisions of Hammersmith and Fulham to issue a planning permission for the second phase of the Imperial West development.

The planning application was approved by the council’s Planning Applications Committee on July 25th 2012.  Six months of negotiations between Imperial College and the council then followed.  The planning permission was issued on December 21st.

We are asking local residents and businesses to contribute to our legal costs.  Having raised £2,500 previously from amongst our 280 members (a sum which was then matched by the Kensington Society) we are concentrating this time on the households that will be most affected by the Imperial West development.  These are the houses in Oxford Gardens, and the southern ends of Wallingford Road, Finstock Road, Balliol Road, and Wallingford Avenue.

We ask all these households to think what the development will mean for the daily views they have of their streets, and from their windows, and what they are willing to contribute to try to force a rethink on the proposals.  If the planning approval was quashed by the courts, the current politicians in charge of the council may have second thoughts.  And the May 2014 Borough elections are not that far away.

How the development will look from Oxford Gardens

As a first stage in a Judicial Review, our lawyers sent to the council last month a ‘Letter Before Action’.  This sets out two grounds, as advised by a leading planning QC, which render the council’s decision potentially unlawful.

The council has since replied to this letter and this response is being reviewed by our lawyers.

The grounds for judicial review are that:

  • the council erred in law in giving any weight to the emerging White City Opportunity Area Planning Framework
  • the council acted unlawfully by granting planning permission for a development which is in conflict with is Core Strategy policy on affordable housing, without any or any adequate reasons and having misdirected itself as to the correct meaning of policy.

The details of our claim are at this link Webster Dixon Letter before Action.

Local residents may be familiar with the long history of the White City Opportunity Area Planning Framework.  More background is on our campaign website at www.imperialfolly.org.uk.   In a nutshell, the council intended to have this ‘strategic planning framework’ in place before it considered the Imperial West application.  But it has never republished the draft version, let alone gone through the necessary statutory consultation process before adopting this document as part of its planning policies.

Many believe that this 18 month delay in republishing the WCOAPF results from the case that the council lost in the courts in March 2012, when its decision to adopt a similar document for Shepherds Bush Market was ruled unlawful in the Wakil case.  The challenge to the Imperial West decision is not a first for the council.  Other decisions on the proposed developments at Earls Court and Shepherds Bush Market are also being challenged through the courts.

Please help with whatever contribution you can make.  This legal battle is not just about the Imperial West development, but also the future of the whole area to the west of the Borough boundary.  This includes the Helical Bar proposals on Wood Lane (with a second 32 storey tower proposed) and which Hammersmith & Fulham are about  to decide on.   The council has pushed the boundaries of the planning system too far in recent years, and only concerted action by the public will ensure that its planning juggernaut is stopped in its tracks.


Imperial West – we are not giving up

The Association is working with lawyers Webster Dixon and leading planning QC Gregory Jones, on a judicial review application to challenge the decision of Hammersmith & Fulham Council last December to issue a planning permission for Phase 2 of the Imperial West development.  More details are on our campaign website at www.imperialfolly.org.uk.

We need to raise some more funds, roughly doubling the £5,000 already contributed by local residents (including a matching contribution from the Kensington Society).  Please contact us at sthelensassn@aol.com if you can donate something, however large or small.

This legal action against the council will be joining other similar Judicial Review cases.  The first of these was mounted by the shop-keepers of Goldhawk Road against the proposed Shepherds Bush development, and led to the High Court declaring as unlawful the council’s Supplementary Development Plan for the area.  Further judicial review applications are making their way through the courts on the Capital and Counties scheme at Earls Court.

Rarely has a local planning authority found itself at the wrong end of so many legal challenges.  But then rarely has a council played so fast and loose with the planning system, in its efforts to appease developers rather than listen to the views of the public.

Redevelopment of the BBC TV Centre

Stanhope PLC and the BBC are in the early stages of preparing 3 planning applications to redevelop the site of the BBC TV Centre on Wood Lane.  The plans involve opening up the site to the public, retaining the listed buildings and Studios 1-3, and building new offices and up to 1,000 housing units.  Under the partnership agreed between the BBC and Stanhope, some BBC production (and live shows) will remain on the site.  More details are due to be published on a new website for the development.

Planning news for our immediate area

On the Kensington and Chelsea side of the boundary, the latest news includes:-

  • a revised application for the Crowthorne Road development – one storey less in height but but otherwise essentially unchanged.  We have sent in updated objections to these proposals.
  • rumours (not yet confirmed) that the Alpha Plus Group may be submitting a revised application for their plans to relocate Chepstow House School to No.49 Bassett Road.
  • a welcome decision from the council to let Mountgrange Heritage estate agents stay at 59 St Helens Gardens, with the addition of a flower kiosk on the adjoining pavement.

New Government policies on planning will have a significant impact on Kensington & Chelsea over the next few years.  Policies to encourage ‘growth’ involve relaxing planning rules on change of use from business to residential.  Rules on the size of extensions allowed under ‘permitted development’ are also being relaxed (although these changes will not apply in conservation areas so will not have much impact locally).

On the new freedoms to change the use of B1 business premises to residential, the council has major concerns over loss of employment and will be seeking an exemption from this policy, within the Borough’s main business areas.  Whether the Government will grant such an exemption remains to be seen.

Meanwhile the council has been reviewing and strengthening its policies on basements.  It will be bringing in tougher controls over what is allowed, with additional conditions to reduce nuisance to neighbours.  Anyone planning to build a basement (and there are a growing number appearing on the St Quintins Estate) needs to be aware of these changes.

The Association monitors planning applications in the area, and where proposals do not meet council policies (e.g. on basements or rooflights) the Association will normally submit an objection.  It is in the collective interests of all residents to maintain the quality of this conservation area.  Our web page on Conservation has more details of council policies.



The council listens……

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.


Our AGM and ideas for Latimer Road

The Association’s Annual General Meeting will take place in St Helens Church hall (St Helens Gardens W10) on Thursday 1st November at 8pm.  The meeting is open to all members, and to anyone living in the streets around the St Quintin Estate.

There will be the usual formal business of electing a management committee and officers for the association.  We have a management committee of 12, with two members standing down this year, and please email sthelensassn@aol.com before the meeting if you wish to stand for election.

The officers of the association have agreed to continue for a further year, if re-elected.  These are: Chairman, Henry Peterson, Vice Chairman Ruth Hillary, Treasurer Maggie Tyler, and Secretary Tania Martin.

For the main discussion at the AGM, we want to talk about about the past and present of Latimer Road, and to get peoples ideas for its future.

Latimer Road is part of the Freston Road/Latimer Road Employment Zone, within the current planning framework of RB Kensington and Chelsea.  The council has recently launched an Enterprise Review, looking at the future of employment zones in the Borough.  Fresh thinking is needed, not least because Latimer Road is one of the few parts of the borough where offices and business units prove hard to let.

As part of the proposed neighbourhood plan for this area, we feel that Latimer Road could be improved.  It currently lacks pedestrian footfall, but this will change when the proposed east west underpass beneath the railway is built.  Plans for this project have not been finalised, but £4m of funding is included in the Imperial West S106 agreement.  It is understood that the underpass might be built as part of the earlier phases of the construction programme for Imperial West, in the next year or two.

So we would like to seek the views of our members on the regeneration of Latimer Road, and how to bring more life to the area.  We will be showing examples of how some similar roads and streets in London have achieved a good mix of workshops, offices, studios, and residential, which in turn bring cafes and restaurants to the area (or ensure the survival of those already there).

We hope that you can join us for this discussion, Thursday November 1st at 8pm.