Campaigners say design changes have failed to address scheme’s ’alien scale and massing’

Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners’ reworked proposals to redevelop South Kensington tube station are set to be backed by councillors tonight – but campaigners are still hoping for a last-minute rejection of the controversial scheme.

Members of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s planning committee were poised to approve an earlier incarnation of the plans at a meeting in June – but development partners Native Land and Transport for London asked for more time to make additional design improvements.

It was a further dramatic twist in a redevelopment saga for the grade II-listed station and its surrounding area that has seen six practices work up proposals over the last 30 years, only to be confronted by passionate heritage campaigners.

Scott, Brownrigg & Turner, Terry Farrell & Partners, Francis Machin, John McAslan & Partners and Buckley Gray Yeoman have all drawn up proposals for the station before RSHP.

RSHP’s scheme will introduce a series of new buildings into the area around South Kensington station, as well as redeveloping the existing horseshoe-shaped structure at the front of the property with a new four-storey ”Bullnose” building.


The Thurloe Square residential building that forms part of RSHP’s proposals to redevelop of South Kensington station (August 2021 version)

The scheme will deliver 50 new homes, along with a range of shops, restaurants and workspace – and station improvements. Almost 3,000sq m of new office space will be created under the proposals.

In June Native Land and TfL said they wanted to reduce the height of proposed buildings on Pelham Street and increase setbacks on top to lessen the structures’ impact on neighbours. Similar changes were proposed to set back the top floor of the scheme’s Thurloe Square building.

A report to tonight’s meeting says the proposed height of the Pelham Street residential buildings has been reduced by 60cm, while floor plans for the top floor of Thurloe Square have been amended to create larger setbacks between the front and gable-end elevations.

Other changes include alterations to the façade of the Bullnose building and a redesign of its top floor.


Source: RSHP / AWR London

The Bullnose building and South Kensington station, under RSHP’s latest redevelopment proposals. (August 2021 version)

Despite describing RSHP’s general design approach as “well considered, engaging, well-detailed and highly functional”, planning officers said the “generally contemporary architectural language” failed to “fully respond to the context and character of the local area”.

They also noted that the 17 affordable homes earmarked for delivery under the proposals fall short of the 50% strategic target for affordable housing for projects on public land in the capital, which they said was “disappointing”.

Nevertheless, officers said the public benefits of the proposals, which include making the Tube station far more accessible, outweighed harms to heritage assets and recommended the scheme for approval.

Campaign group Save Britain’s Heritage acknowledged that the latest version of the scheme was an improvement on the two previous iterations of the scheme. But it said the changes failed to address widespread concern over the scheme’s “alien scale and massing”.

It pointed to figures in the report stating that Kensington and Chelsea had received 2,192 objections to the proposals and only 812 indications of support.

A spokesman for the Native Land and TfL joint venture said the number of letters of support had risen to 826 and included major local employers and cultural institutions such as the Natural History Museum and Royal Albert Hall. He welcomed the planning officer’s recommendation to approve the scheme, adding: ”The proposed buildings have all been carefully considered to ensure that the design, scale and massing is sympathetic to the surrounding townscape and respects what is a hugely important heritage location.”

Tonight’s planning committee meeting is due to start at 6.30pm.

Previous proposals from January 2021: