Our major activities, such as public meetings and responses to planning applications, are described elsewhere on this website. This page covers miscellaneous matters that we think might be of interest.
Heritage Map of Kingston
Kingston Council have produced an online map showing all of the Buildings of Townscape Merit, Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas in the Borough. You can find the map at www6.kingston.gov.uk/maps/.
At our public meeting in February, our new Chairman, Matthew Rees, outlined some of the things he hoped to achieve in his new role and what the Society needed to do to enable that to happen.
You can read about the talk on Matthew's personal blog, Ham Life.
Chairman's Report for 2014
This is an extract of the report that our Chairman, Jennifer Butterworth, gave to the AGM in January 2015. A fuller version will be published in our Members' Newsletter.
I announced my intention to retire at the AGM last year and here we are at the point of my departure making my last report to the membership.
The last year saw the publication of the History of the Society’s first fifty years, thanks to the selfless work of Michael Davison, and this gives us a welcome opportunity to compare the contemporary scene with what has gone before. I think the scheme for the monstrous road encircling Kingston which prompted which prompted the foundation of the Society was of an order of importance that has not been surpassed since.
But what are these other developments which have stopped us from tackling the Society’s domestic issues? I shall start by naming two related concerns for the whole Borough which may surprise you; air and noise pollution. The population of Kingston has an interest in what happens and does not happen at Heathrow. We know we don’t want Kingston to get like Croydon but would it be just as bad to be just like Richmond? South of the Borough Neighbourhood is well aware of the woeful levels of pollution along the A3 and other main roads but generally the insidious dangers of pollution and noise have to be recognized and action ensured to diminish them. Should the Society devote more time and energy to them?
One of the stated objectives of the Royal Borough of Kingston has been to foster a sense of place. Indeed I attended a meeting of interested parties called by the Council to encourage anything that made residents here more aware of what made Kingston desirable. I volunteered the observation that I felt the Society’s management on behalf of English Heritage of Coombe Conduit and Heritage Open Days did this very effectively. Indeed I was quoted in national publicity put out by English Heritage supporting the Heritage Open Days scheme saying exactly that. My contribution was listened to politely but there was no move to see in what way greater use could be made of these events to foster this sense of place. The Society has to continue making annual applications for a small grant to cover printing costs and is even advised by the Council which the Society it would be better to look elsewhere for this funding.
The most contentious application in my time was for the development of the Filter Beds. The Society had in the past been in the forefront of the campaign to oppose an earlier proposed development of the site in Surbiton, but now, to the amazement of erstwhile allies, supported a proposal for a pontoon development. The reason was the deterioration of the site, the absence of any viable scheme to develop it as a country park, and the belief that the developers had offered enough in the way of environmental protection to make the scheme a better option than continued inaction.
North Kingston is a hot spot at the moment. The development of the Latchmere Prison site, split between Richmond and Kingston has been highly contentious, particularly regarding access. It was unfortunate to come up for decision in Kingston immediately after a change of control and the final decision-making process was chaotic and unfortunate. North Kingston also had an application for student accommodation, as did Norbiton, Penrhyn Road and New Malden, It is after all the current policy of the Mayor of London to house central London students in the outer boroughs. The developments are private schemes mainly for studio flats. Kingston University opposed one on grounds the type of accommodation offered was too expensive for most UK students and unsuitable for their needs anyhow. Our contacts with Kingston University were useful in this respect and we were briefed on the issues involved. Unfortunately, we have also been briefed by the Council (who gave permission) about THEIR difficulties so it looks at the moment as studio flats are what will be on offer in the main.
The long saga of Tesco at Tolworth might be nearing resolution. Thanks to the decline in out of town shopping, Tesco, after several plans aborted mainly by pollution and traffic considerations, seem to have bitten the bullet and is now proposing a housing development, with a local shop, surgery and nursery. The site was ear-marked for housing decades ago anyway. What could well be the most contentious part of the application is the amount of affordable housing.
I should comment here about an argument we have been having in committee. Should we base our opinions solely on the architectural and planning merit of an application? It was agreed that local residents could have reasonable grounds to object to a beautifully designed casino plonked in a residential area. What about an unobtrusive adult shop? Was it our business that wealthy parents could rent flats in Kingston for students studying in Central London in developments in sites that could have been used for cluster flats for students at Kingston University? Should doubts about the financial viability of certain schemes or their more broadly social effects, colour our decision to oppose or support? May be we should have a debate on this! My report so far has been largely, though not exclusively, about planning matters., which I considered the prime reason for our existence. However, when I was brave enough to put on a debate on what the Society was for, it became clear that the members expected to the Society to promote the study of local history. So I have stood corrected and included in our programme of monthly meetings items on local history. I quote this as an example that we DO listen to our members!
Whilst making no bones about our struggles to keep up with events, I should like to thank the committee for its hard work and support over my term of office. We have been blessedly free of in-fighting and our efforts have been focused on the greater good for Kingston. I wish the Society every success in the future
Jennifer Butterworth, Chairman