Former Tory leadership contender hopes latest plans will go the way of half a dozen other failed attempts

RSHP_South Kensington Station landmark Bullnose building

Source: Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners

RSHP’s plan for the station’s rebuilt bullnose building

A former London mayoral candidate and a cellist have launched a campaign to torpedo Roger Stirk Harbour & Partners’ plans to redevelop South Kensington Tube station.

Rory Stewart, who dropped out of this year’s mayoral race when the covid-19 outbreak delayed the contest, and Julian Lloyd-Webber, brother of composer Andrew Lloyd-Webber, have joined forces to fight the proposals - the sixth attempt in 30 years to rejig the historic station.

They say that the scheme, which is scheduled to start in early 2023 if it gets approval from Kensington & Chelsea council, would destroy the bright, airy atmosphere and village-like character of the surrounding area.

rory stewart index

Rory Stewart

RSHP’s designs would transform the 1868 grade II-listed station’s distinctive horseshoe-shaped bullnose building into a four-storey office and retail block and see 50 homes built in the vicinity of the site, 17 of which would be affordable.

But Stewart and Webber said the plans, which Webber called “appalling”, would ruin protected views of the nearby Natural History Museum, V&A and Science Museum.

RSHP_South Kensington Station proposal_aerial

Source: Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners

Aerial view looking from the south west

They say it would overshadow the station and say local businesses and residents have called the proposals too intensive and out of scale with the existing architecture of the area.

Webber said the proposals would “fly in the face of everything that was previously promised and, if passed, result in yet another bland, commercial development which would destroy South Kensington’s unique character forever”.

And Stewart, a South Kensington resident, said: “I think this is a terrible example of development.”

He said businesses that had become South Ken instititutions such as Polish restaurant Daquise which opened in 1947 and has served notable diners including Christine Keeler, would be evicted, adding: ”Apart from the façade, the buildings on Thurloe Street are being destroyed and the new ones which are being built are being designed so that they can link together at both ground floor and basement levels to create larger units, perhaps heralding the arrival of more chain stores in the area in the future.

“We should be working much more closely with communities and respecting the surrounding built environment, and the heritage and context of the area.”

RSHP_South Kensington_Station restored arcade

Source: Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners

The station entrance arcade would be restored

But RSHP partner Trace Mellor said the studio, which plans to restore the station’s historic Victorian arcade, had “carefully studied the historic context of the station and surrounding area”.

She added that the practice would “repair and enhance” the surrounding streets, which she said were “no longer in [the] best condition”. 

Stewart, who says he was “very close” to Building Better Building Beautiful chair Roger Scuton, is a long-time advocate for South Kensington’s architectural character. In February he described the “gentle density” of the area which he said “is beautiful, and people want to live here”.

The former Conservative MP, who was thrown out of the Tory party last year when he rebelled over Brexit, has also been outspoken over brutalist buildings, describing many examples as “horrifying”.