Developers challenge councillors’ decision to overrule recommendation to approve controversial scheme
The team behind Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners’ rejected proposals to redevelop the area around South Kensington tube station have confirmed they are seeking to challenge the decision at a planning inquiry.
Members of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea’s planning committee went against officers’ recommendations when they refused RSHP’s proposals for 50 new apartments and new shops, restaurants and workspace in the tourist hotspot last year.
The scheme, created for joint-venture partners Native Land and Transport for London, would also have delivered improvements for South Kensington Station itself, including step-free access to the District and Circle Lines.
But after a four-hour planning committee session in November, councillors voted unanimously to refuse the application, arguing that the public benefits offered by the scheme did not overcome the impacts of the height, massing and architectural design of some elements of the proposed development.
They said the RSHP proposals failed to preserve the character and appearance of the conservation area and the special architectural and historical interest of the listed station building.
Although planning officers recommended the proposals for approval, they acknowledged RSHP’s “generally contemporary architectural language” failed to “fully respond to the context and character of the local area”.
A report to councillors also described the 17 affordable homes earmarked for delivery under the proposals as “disappointing” in light of the 50% strategic target for affordable housing for projects on public land in the capital.
Last month the developers informed RBKC of their intention to appeal the South Ken decision and seek an inspector-led planning inquiry into the proposals. Their letter suggested six days would be required for the hearing.
A spokesperson for the Native Land and TfL joint venture this week confirmed the developers are pushing ahead with the challenge.
“We are appealing to the Planning Inspectorate because we remain committed to delivering our plans, which represent a once-in-a generation opportunity to revitalise South Kensington, by repairing and enhancing the station buildings and surrounding streets with world class architecture in an important civic city location,” they said.
“The development will complete the delivery of much-needed step-free access to the ticket hall, and District and Circle Line platforms, together with 50 new homes with 35% affordable housing, offices for small and medium sized enterprises, and shops for small and independent retailers.
“Our planning application is policy compliant and was recommended for approval by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s planning officer, who cited architecture of the highest quality.
“It attracted more than 700 letters of support from local organisations and the wider community, including the Natural History Museum, the V&A, the Science Museum and Imperial College.”
Campaign group Save Britain’s Heritage was one of the organisations opposing the scheme. Ahead of November’s meeting it accepted that design tweaks implemented over the summer represented an improvement to earlier incarnations of the proposals.
But it said at the time that the changes failed to address widespread concern over the scheme’s “alien scale and massing” and pointed to figures stating that Kensington and Chelsea had received 2,192 objections to the proposals.
RSHP is the sixth practice to draw up redevelopment proposals for the area around South Kensington tube station in recent decades.
Scott, Brownrigg & Turner, Terry Farrell & Partners, Francis Machin, John McAslan & Partners and Buckley Gray Yeoman all created earlier proposals.