Major Schemes

There are a few major planning consultations and applications that need a detailed review before we can submit our comments. The details vary each time but the sorts of things that we do to form our view are attend public exhibitions and meet with the developers. We also try to get input from our members and the public though the timescales for consultation do not give us as much time for this as we would like.

This is a summary of what we said on recent major consultations and applications.

15/10383 LIDLS,FORMER HOOK VENTURER SPORTS CLUB, JUBILEE WAY, CHESSINGTON

The site is apparently assigned for development by RBK and is included in a “strategy for change” within the ’Tolworth Regeneration Area’. The application proposes an attractive 5-storey building of classic, modern design in a landscaped setting. In addition to office space for the administration of the business the building is designed to accommodate staff training and “conference events”. A Travel Plan will include measures to encourage visiting staff to use sustainable modes of travel and the management of the car park for “essential car users” to ensure no over-spill parking on local streets.

The Society welcomes the prospects of a major company locating in the Borough. particularly when we have been critical of applications that have reduced employment opportunities locally. We are also pleased to support this design.

As with other major developments in the area, we trust that the Council will work with the applicants to minimise the impact on local traffic flows and parking.

15/16356 Tolworth Towers

This is a large scheme. The applicant states amongst its benefits: new private and affordable homes; replacement high quality office space; enhanced appearance and a high quality public realm, including a pocket park. Overall the objective is to “support and enhance the vitality and viability of the District Centre”.

A good mix of residential accommodation is planned that would meet and exceed the London Plan space standards. 5,000 sq.m of office space is provided to meet current requirements and street level retail space is increased to 962 sq.m. The application is accompanied by Travel Plans covering the commercial and residential elements of the development that promote sustainable transport and reduced vehicular movements to be secured by s106. Additionally there will be 100 fewer parking spaces on the site.

The application is also accompanied by a Daylight and Sunlight Assessment that concludes, “where neighbouring properties have obstructions opposite there would be no material difference between existing and proposed daylight / sunlight levels”. The development will be subject to CIL at a rate compliant with the Council’s charging schedule (currently in draft). The designs are by cjct-studios, a multi-discipline central London commercial practice with an impressive portfolio of high profile projects.

The Society welcomes the proposals to reinvigorate the Tolworth Tower complex and considers the planned mix of residential, office and retail appropriate.

We support the improvements to the public realm and the overall quality of the scheme. However the intensification of uses on the site will significantly impact on the locality. We therefore trust that the Council’s CIL will be adequate and that it will be used to fund public services in the vicinity, sooner rather than later.

While reference is made to “affordable housing” we could find no reference to specific undertakings, we trust that the Council will secure full provision.

Residents are understandably, and justifiably, concerned about the impact on Tolworth of this and the King George’s Gate schemes, e.g. sunlight, wind and traffic, and we urge the Council to ensure that the applicant has fully addressed these concerns before giving approval to this proposal.

14/13247 The Old Post Office - updated May 15

There are some aspects of the proposal that we fully support. In particular, we welcome the proposed restoration of The Old Post Office and the Telephone Exchange.

We also believe that the creation of a new public space and the intention to attract boutique shops that add to the range of retail outlets in Kingston will be a benefit to Kingston though not a significant one. We are concerned that the public space will be gloomy most of the time (due to the tall buildings to the south of it) and will not be as attractive as the developer’s drawings suggest. We note that the original drawings for the public space showed the light shining from the North and while this has been corrected the sun is shown as low in the West which it will only be for a relatively few hours of the year. Most of the time the space will be in shade. We are also concerned the that there will be little public amenity in this public space, i.e. any seats will be tied to commercial premises and for use by their customers only.

We support the revision to the previous plans to accommodate the Mini-Holland scheme for Wheatfield Way and the more varied appearance given to that frontage with its mixture of heights and finishes. However, we do not like the unbroken frontage which means that the site if not permeable (not even an arcade running through it as there is in other developments nearby) and this helps to create an unpleasant barrier between the lanes of the town centre and the open space of the Fairfield.

We note that the plans have also been modified to make more space around the two listed buildings, however, we would have liked more room given to the Telephone Exchange which looks rather hemmed in by the blocks either side of it. The tower that lies between the two listed buildings is particularly obtrusive as it divides and over powers them.

There are other parts of the proposal that we are unhappy with; the scheme is very dense, especially when compared the Victoria streets nearby, and the proposition of affordable housing is well below the Council’s guidelines.

There another aspect of the scheme that we find completely unacceptable and that is the height of the tallest tower. At 19 storeys it is considerably taller than anything else nearby. We think that this tower would have an unacceptable visual impact from several locations including Richmond Park (where it would protrude over the horizon) and the Fairfield. We also think that the height would set a dangerous precedent for other locations in Kingston, particularly Eden Walk.

We do not accept the argument that the tower would be an appropriate gateway building into Kingston because its location is wrong for this and because a gateway from the South will be provided by Country Hall and the new University Town House that is being built opposite.

The Kingston upon Thames Society was formed just over fifty years ago to fight the relief road that was proposed at the time and we see this development as just as big a threat to the historical town and we strongly oppose it.

15/12280: Car park, 40 Cowleaze Road, Kingston

The Society has previously written to the applicant welcoming the proposal to provide affordable housing. The type of accommodation proposed was though to be a good use of an under-used site close to Kingston Station. The overall design is attractive and offers decent accommodation within an area of mixed building styles with no overriding character. The proposed sales policy favouring those in greatest need, offering discounted sales and prioritising first time buyers currently living and working in the Borough, is welcomed.

The Society welcomes this application to provide affordable accommodation on brown-field land aimed at meeting the needs to local people. The overall bulk of the building appears reasonable in this context and the proposed choice of red brick as the principal building material, would relate well to existing buildings nearby.

The Council is asked to seek confirmation of the maintenance regime to ensure that the common areas are properly maintained and the landscaped areas are kept attractive and free of litter.

15/12107: 18-32 and 23-43 Beaufort Road and Fassett Road, Kingston

This is a major application for development within the Grove Crescent conservation area. With the development of further hotel accommodation in the town centre the loss of the Antoinette Hotel, in itself, is perhaps acceptable, especially as the intention is to return the site to its original residential use. The proposal is however very dense, particularly with a 4-storey block of flats in the centre of the site.

The designs of the new and restored buildings on the two principal roads are unexceptional and while they recognise the context of the conservation area they are also too dense, particularly along Beaufort Road which currently has a number of fine detached houses which would be replaced by a terrace.

There appears to be an excessive number of parking spaces with 108 spaces serving 79 dwellings. There is also a discrepancy in the number of existing parking spaces mentioned; the application states there are 100, while the transport impact report refers to133.

The Society raises no objections of principle to the change of use of the existing hotel site to residential.

We do have serious concerns regarding the overall density of the development and in particular we object to the 4-storey flats in the centre of the site (that will surely impact on the amenity of the housing on either side) and to the proposals for Beaufort Road which replaces several separate buildings with one large terrace.

Furthermore the amount of car parking planned seems excessive for the number of dwellings.

Should the Council decide to grant consent to this or any modified application, contributions to support, health, education and social services, additional to fulfilling the Council’s affordable housing requirements, will be necessary in mitigation.

14/13278: Town House, Kingston University, Kingston

The application follows the design we previously generally supported.

The A&D Statement states that as a result of public consultation the building is now one storey lower, representing a 13% reduction of floor space. While this reduction in height is welcome (although the building still seems massive when viewed along Penrhyn Road) the lost space is that previously identified for new “projects”, the loss of which is regrettable.

This has, however, resulted in better use of the space internally and a reduction of the over generous circulation space in the original design.

Regrettably the planning statement says the University already provides “training and support for small businesses…” therefore “…it is not considered a financial contribution is justified”.

The Society welcomes this application from the University to provide a building of some distinction on this most prominent site, opposite County Hall. We appreciate the reduction of the height of the building from that originally proposed but regret the loss of “project space”, potentially an important aspect of the University’s link with the community.

During the consultation the University undertook to provide community access but we note that no S106 or CIL contributions are now proposed. We trust, therefore, that measures will be agreed to compensate for this loss in a S106 agreement safeguarding public access and regulated community use of the building’s meeting spaces.

14/13247 The Old Post Office

The Kingston upon Thames Society has put considerable effort into reviewing the redevelopment of The Old Post Office site including a meeting with the developers on Monday 19 January and then a discussion at our monthly meeting with our members on Wednesday 21 January, and these are our comments.

There are several aspects of the proposal that we fully support. We welcome the proposed restoration of The Old Post Office and the Telephone Exchange. We also welcome the creation of a new public space, the intention to attract boutique shops that add to the range of retail outlets in Kingston and the use of bricks to match the predominant style of the town.

We support the revision to the previous plans to accommodate the Mini-Holland scheme for Wheatfield Way and the more varied appearance given to that frontage with its mixture of heights and finishes.

We note that the plans have also been modified to make more space around the two listed buildings, however, we would have liked more room given to the Telephone Exchange which looks rather hemmed in by the blocks either side of it.

There are other aspects of the proposal that we are less happy with; the scheme is very dense, even more so now that the footprint of the blocks has been reduced, and the proposition of affordable housing at 15% is well below the Council’s guidelines.

There is one aspect of the scheme that we find completely unacceptable and that is the height of the tallest tower. At 21 storeys it is considerably taller than anything else nearby. We think that this tower would have an unacceptable visual impact from several locations including Richmond Park (where it would protrude over the horizon) and the Fairfield. We are concerned about the impact on other views, e.g. from Hampton Court, but we have been unable to make a proper assessment of these from the documentation provided.

We also think that the height would set a dangerous precedent for other locations in Kingston, particularly Eden Walk.

January 2015

Eden Quarter Development Brief Supplementary Planning Document

We welcome the brief as we welcome all efforts by the Council to manage the way that the Borough develops rather than leaving it to the whims of developers. The recent experience in North Kingston shows the need for area plans.

We would have liked to see this brief put into the greater context of the Borough. For example, if this area is to be predominantly retail then where in the Borough is there an emphasis on employment? It would also be helpful to see how this area connects to the rest of Kingston, e.g. routes from the station.

We are concerned that the first principle is "a competitive town centre" as we believe both that other changes will make this hard to achieve (e.g. Croydon Westfield and internet shopping) and that this is not a principle designed to benefit residents.

We appreciate the efforts of the Council and Kingston First to diversify and animate the town centre to be more attractive but the quantity of new retail space seems ambitious. We understand that the Council’s consultant GVA has concluded that there is sufficient demand for the >200,000sq ft proposed and would appreciate more information on this.

We welcome the proposal to retain and enhance the walkability of the are and we think that the general street plan will work well in connecting the areas east of Eden Street to the town centre. We would also like to see walking routes improved to/from the town centre. The proposals to reduce the traffic in the centre to create more space for people is also welcomed.

Apart from embryonic proposals to re-route bus services (subject to the conclusions of TfL’s current study) the plans do not appear to explain how access to the town centre will be enhanced; the SW Trains are already running to over capacity and the plan makes no significant proposals for additional capacity to address this. How will people get there? Access to and from Kingston at peak times is already difficult.

Should Eden Square be a pedestrian area this would be great advantage in reconnecting The Old Post Office site to the town. The Development Brief proposes the Eden Square should be a shared pedestrian and cycle space with restricted access for service vehicles, and we support this.

We welcome the intention to improve the settings of the Museum and Library and to improve access to them and to the Fairfield, however we oppose plans for further building on the Fairfield. Under no circumstances should any of the grassed area of Fairfield be paved over for use of a relocated Cattle Market.

In the report Fairfield is referred to as Fairfield Park, this it certainly is not, but it could well be improved by making it more accessible. The report suggests a gate at the north west corner by the library which would be an improvement, or we would suggest, more radically, by removing the railings all together, and laying some diagonal paths.. Having looked at the local maps Fairfield is larger then Richmond Green, which seems incredible, and like Richmond Green it has the potential to be connected to the town and to be a favoured destination for residents and visitors.

The Cattle Market has deteriorated over the years: it always had low budget stalls, which should remain, but it used to also have second hand jewellery and ‘antique’ stalls which gave the place more life and interest. As such it could be developed on its present site as part of a total redevelopment, in the manner of Spitalfields. The underground car parks could be rebuilt, at ground level a grand columned market hall could be erected, supporting the office/residential development above.

We are concerned that what generally looks a good plan on a map may be made considerably worse in reality if the building heights are not contained, both to protect current views and also to retain an open and attractive feel to the town. The consultation document states that important views should be “taken into account” (section 3.5), that is not strong enough: important views must be protected.

The excessive heights proposed by the developers seem to be the major problem. The Developers obviously want to go as high as they can get away with, stating that the developments are not viable unless they reach 12,14 or 16 storeys, which we are not in a position to argue with. We accept that some further high-rise buildings will be necessary but they should be the exception rather than the rule (we want Kingston to feel more like Richmond than Croydon) and should only be allowed when they are sympathetic to their surroundings.

We are appalled by the proposal to re-site Out of Order, to a place unknown, just to improve the view of the shops in Old London Road. This is now the most famous monument in Kingston and should stay where it is. Putting commerce above art in this way is a terrible indictment of the Council's policy toward the town.

The plans represent a huge expansion not only of retail space but also of 1,200 housing units, inevitably this will put additional pressure on existing services. How will this new population be supported? There are already desperate shortages of schools spaces, health facilities and other social infrastructure. Assurances that there is both the space and the funding to adequately serve the new population, as well of those of us already here, is essential. While we recognise that not all can be accommodated in the town centre a clear strategy is necessary.

While we have highlighted some serious concerns we are broadly sympathetic towards the plan and are glad that the Council have produced it. There is clearly still some work to do on the detail and to address the concerns raised by us and others. Given that substantial changes are likely to the brief, we would like to see a second round of consultation before the final document goes to committee for approval.

Former Gala Bingo / Regal Cinema site on Richmond Road

Revised plans for this site have been submitted and the Society has responded as follows.

The Kingston upon Thames Society recognises the importance of this site both for its historical features and also its prominent position on the relief road. We also recognise that it has been left to rot for some time and that this means that there is some urgency in bringing the building back in to use and also that some compromises are needed to provide the funding required.

We welcome the intention to restore the main façade on Richmond Road and to reinstate, as far as is possible, the art deco interior. We are pleased that in the revised application the developer is proposing retain the upper auditorium as a single coherent space and we think that this is an improvement on the previous proposal.

The restored cinema is a key feature of the proposal and we would like the Council to impose a condition on the developers to ensure that this is provided.

We believe that the proposed mixed uses for the building are appropriate for the area and are consistent with its previous uses as a cinema and bingo hall.

The roof extension is obviously the main point of contention in the design and while we would rather that it was not there we accept that the residential element is needed to make the scheme financially viable and so we can reluctantly accept this element. We note that the extension will be most obvious from along Sopwith Way and that this will be seen by many people visiting Kingston and passing through.

We are also pleased with the design of the apartments and we note that they are of a good size, i.e. significantly larger than the minimum design guidelines that some other developers keep to. For example, the two-bed apartments on the fifth floor are 165 sqm whereas similar flats in the proposed gas holder development are only 72 sqm.

The Society has not specifically considered the impact on residents of the additional traffic movements or of the building works and we trust that the Council will ensure that any adverse effects are kept to a minimum.

HM Remand Centre, Latchmere Lane

Planning Applications 14/12144 (Scheme 1) and 14/12146 (Scheme 2) HM REMAND CENTRE, LATCHMERE LANE, KT2 5NX

The Society supports the principle of redevelopment of this site for residential use and agree that the proposals are generally in scale and in character with the existing housing near by. While we are disappointed that the design of the new dwellings is not more inspiring we acknowledge the applicant's desire to reflect local styles.

We are pleased that Latchmere House will be refurbished as part of both sets of proposals and welcome the improved permeability of the schemes with the provision of pedestrian and cycle routes to and through the site.

While we consider both schemes to have some merit, we recognise the shortcomings of Scheme 2, which although offering more affordable housing, does propose an additional highway access into Latchmere Lane that raises significant concerns.

Therefore while Scheme 1 disappointingly proposes fewer affordable housing units, on balance we consider this to be the better proposal overall and wish to support it.

However we also note that a development of this size will impose significant additional pressure on local public services that are already over stretched.

Gasworks Site Housing

Having inspected this application we wish to support it. We regard to be of high architectural quality and will make a distinguished contribution to the environment of that part of Kingston. We note that it contravenes the height restriction set out in the recently produced North Kingston Development Brief but the gradation of heights, culminating in one twelve storey block seems to us to be a perfectly acceptable solution. We also like the landscaping of the proposed walkway which will improve the environment of the area.