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Legal challenge to StQW Plan

An application has been filed for judicial review of the decision by Kensington and Chelsea Council to advance the StQW Draft Plan to a local referendum on February 25th 2016.

This is not wholly unexpected.  It was clear that some parties were going to be very unhappy about the decision of the independent examiner of the StQW Plan, that the remaining three St Quintin ‘backlands’ meet the national criteria to be designated as ‘Local Green Space’.

The judicial review application has been filed by William Legard, as one of the members of the Legard family registered as owners of the land at Nursery Lane.  It is not yet clear whether Metropolis Property Ltd, the developer who submitted a planning application last May to build 21 townhouses on this green space, will take an active part in the legal case.

The Legard family was informed in December 2013 that a neighbourhood plan for the area including their land was being prepared.   They did not respond to the query from the Forum as to their intentions for their land at Nursery Lane, but instead arranged for the site to be marketed by Knight Frank as a residential development opportunity.  

No attempt was made by the Legards, Knight Frank, or their planning consultants to discuss plans for the land with the StQW Forum.  We made very clear from the start that this site, and the two other remaining St Quintin backlands, were likely to be designated in the neighbourhood plan as Local Green Space, and were not suitable for housing development.

Such a view was hardly radical or extreme.  It followed the policy adopted by the Council in the 1990 Oxford Gardens Conservation Area Policy Statement, that these three pieces of land should not be developed for housing.

The Legards and developers Metropolis Property Ltd thought that they knew better. Detailed plans were drawn up for a housing development and exhibited locally in December 2014.  Local opposition was vociferous.  A petition to Save our Green Spaces gathered over 2,500 signatures.  At a debate at the full Council meeting in April 15th 2015, the Council committed to leaving the decision on the future of the land at Nursery Lane to the independent ‘examiner’ of the StQW Draft Plan.

At a public hearing on 22nd September, held by examiner John Parmiter FRICS MRTPi the landowners and developers had the chance to set out their case for a housing development at Nursery Lane.  The StQW Forum responded, pointing to the fact that this piece of land had never been developed, and had been rated as an agricultural hereditament during its 50 years of use by Clifton Nurseries.   The idea of it being a ‘residential development’ site was the creation of the owners and Knight Frank, seeking to exploit the enormously high values for residential land in this borough.

The independent examiner concluded that all three of the St Quintin backlands meet the tough criteria set in the National Planning Policy Framework for designation as Local Green Space.  The Council subsequently endorsed this decision, and confirmed that the StQW Draft Plan meets all the necessary legal requirements to be voted on at a local referendum.  If supported by a simple majority vote, the Draft Plan will be adopted by the Council and used when future planning decisions are made.  Local Green Space designation will give strong planning protection to all three of the remaining St Quintin backlands.

It is understandable why the Legard family are not happy at this outcome.  A lot of money must have been spent on working up a detailed planning application.  It is not clear whether the Legards or Metropolis will lose out on this.  More money is now being thrown at a legal challenge.  But the StQW Forum does not have a lot of sympathy for either landowner or developer:

  • the Legards made a previous attempt to build housing on this site. This was rejected at a planning appeal in 1982
  • this piece of land was inherited by the Legards, by marriage, from the St Quintin family who laid out this part of London in the late 19th and early 20th century. The family did not have to pay for it.
  • It was agricultural land when the streets of the St Quintin Estate were built, when the Legards inherited it, and remains so in 2016.  It is a ‘greenfield’ site in planning terms, and will remain so as Local Green Space.
  • After all these decades, the family could easily have awaited the outcome of the StQW Neighbourhood Plan, and known the up to date planning status of the land, before attempting to sell it.
  • instead, they tried to make a quick sale and see a planning application pushed through the system in order to realise a very large capital gain.

It is for the Council to defend the judicial review application and to demonstrate that its decisions on the StQW Draft Plan have been fully considered and properly made. The StQW Forum is an ‘interested party’ in the case and has retained a planning barrister to represent the forum in Court.

We hope that all our members, and other residents in the neighbourhood, will ensure a good turnout for the referendum on Thursday 25th.  Voting is at St Helens Church from 7am to 10pm.

Neighbourhood plans are all about allowing local people to decide what development should happen where in their area, on the basis of sound evidence and extensive consultation.  This is what has been achieved within the StQW Draft Plan.  It is not for a single landowner to impose their own preferred financial outcome on a collective and well-reasoned community view.

 

 

Success for the proposals in the StQW Draft Plan

Neighbourhood plans are being put together by parish councils and neighbourhood forums in many parts of the country (over 1,500 now, with 100 that have reached the stage of independent examination).   Yet there remain very few plans in London that are close to the finishing line.

This may be because planning in London is more complicated.  Or developers more powerful.  Or local authority planning departments more resistant to the idea of ‘amateur planners’.  The pattern across different boroughs varies significantly, giving some support to this last possibility.   But a major reason may be because local resident and community groups feel that a neighbourhood plan cannot make any real difference.

We hope that the experience of the St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Forum shows that a real difference can be made.  Several proposed policies in our neighbourhood plan were opposed by the Council at the start.  Some policies continued to be ‘strongly opposed’ by the Council right up to the stage of independent examination.

But we have stuck to the principle, as set out by the Government and stated in the National Planning Policy Framework, that Neighbourhood planning provides a powerful set of tools for local people to ensure that they get the right types of development for their community. 

The Examination of the St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Plan has confirmed this principle.  It supports policy proposals on which the Council argued a lack of ‘general conformity’, but where the level of detail in the relevant Council policy could not be justified as ‘strategic’.  The ‘general’ in general conformity means what it says, as the High Court decided in the Tattenhall case.  Neighbourhood planners should be encouraged by this outcome.

The Examination has also tested the national criteria for designation of Local Green Space, in a situation where a landowner and developer (on being notified that a neighbourhood plan was in preparation) then attempted to beat the Draft Plan to the finishing post via submitting a full-scale planning application for a housing development on an undeveloped backland site.

Detailed research on the planning history of a site, coupled with very strong evidence of local interest and support, can indeed prove a ‘powerful tool’ which developers cannot simply brush aside.  The Local Green Space designation has been supported by the Examiner in this case.

Similar situations have arisen in many rural areas and around villages and market towns.  We are not aware of this scenario arising before in a London context.

Neighbourhood plans involve a lot of work and the processes involved can be slow or strung out by reluctant planning authorities.  The Government is taking steps to speed up and streamline the process, in the new Housing and Planning Bill.  Meanwhile the StQW Neighbourhood Forum will be preparing for the next stage, of a local referendum that will seal the outcome for which local residents and businesses have worked long and hard.

Date of examination hearing nears – final discussions with RBKC

In the final weeks before the public hearing on September 22nd, which forms a critical part of the current ‘examination’ of the StQW Neighbourhood Plan, final exchanges with the Council are continuing.

On the positive side, the Council’s Planning Department has confirmed that its officer representative at the hearing will not be making any further submissions on the policies proposed in the Draft Plan for the land at Nursery Lane.  The Council has adopted a neutral position leaving these proposals to be decided by  the Examiner, John Parmiter.

The Legard family as the owners pf the land at Nursery Lane, and the prospective developers Metropolis Property Ltd, have both been granted the opportunity to be at the hearing as ‘participants’.  Both will be sending their planning consultants to the session, to argue against the StQW proposals to protect this green space.

Consultants Rolfe Judd Planning, acting for Metropolis Property, have retained Nigel McGurk as their representative.   Nigel McGurk has previously acted as ‘examiner’ for many neighbourhood plans across England and gave evidence at one of the early High Court cases on neighbourhood plans (that for Tattenhall, in rural Cheshire).  He has a lot of expertise on neighbourhood plans.  It seems evident that Metropolis Property are willing to continue to invest heavily in using consultants to try to secure a planning permission for their proposed housing development at Nursery Lane.

On the StQW draft policies for Latimer Road, the Council has said that it will continue to object to all parts of this section of the Draft Plan.   Further attempts at dialogue with the Council have got nowhere.   In response to a FoI request in early August, the Council has released to the Forum a set of documents which make clear that:

  • As part of the ‘Partial Review of the RBKC 2010 Core Strategy, the Council’s own policies are likely to move towards more mixed use in the Borough’s Employment Zones, in line with the National Planning Policy Framework.  (In other words the Council is itself moving in the same direction as the proposals in the StQW Plan – so why does it continue to oppose these?)
  • Despite this convergence of views, the Planning Department remains vehemently opposed to any part of this shift of policy being progressed through a neighbourhood plan.  We are told that we should continue to wait for the Council to adjust its policies to its own timetable – a process which has been extremely slow since the Council first consulted on how to update the ‘enterprise’ section of its 2010 Core Strategy, back in 2013.

The StQW Forum will be arguing at the examination hearing that local residents and businesses should not have to keep waiting.  The whole point of neighbourhood planning is to give local people ‘powerful tools’ to shape planning policies for their neighbourhood and to ensure that these are responsive and up to date.  The relevant legislation and Government guidance is designed to achieve this outcome.   So the discussion on the 22nd is likely to prove lively.

Draft Neighbourhood Plan Policy Amendment

On one small matter, the Forum has reached agreement with the Council.  We have agreed revised wording for draft policy 2d in the Neighbourhood Plan as follows:

2d) to resist the introduction of non-permeable surfaces to front garden areas (above size limits within Permitted Development rights) other than for the replacement of existing main paths or where approved hard standing for parking and crossovers is already in place.

This change has been agreed to reflect the fact that it is fairly straightforward for building owners to find and use permeable surfaces when replacing or renewing concrete hardstanding in front gardens.

The Forum supports the principle that front gardens should not be paved over or made impermeable (above the area allowed under Permitted Development Rights, and for the very attractive tiled paths which are a feature of the Conservation Area).

The cumulative effect of impermeable surfaces increases the risk of flash flooding of the Counters Creek main sewer system, under increasing strain from the scale and number of new developments in White City East.

A reminder that the public hearing on the StQW Draft Plan will start at 10.00 on Tuesday 22nd September, in the rear part of St Helens Church.  A copy of the agenda, including the questions that the Examiner will be asking, can be downloaded from a link on the home page of this website.

Public hearing on the StQW Draft Plan 22nd September 2015

The St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Plan has reached the stage of ‘independent examination’.  This follows the 6 week ‘publicity period’ during which Kensington and Chelsea Council published the Draft Plan on its website and invited further comments.  This consultation ended on July 16th 2105.

The Draft Plan and supporting documents, along with responses to the final consultation exercise, can be found on the RBKC website at  PDFs of these documents can also be downloaded from the front page of www.stqw.org

The Draft Plan is currently being reviewed by independent examiner John Parmiter FRICS MRTPI.   His role is to ensure that the Plan, with any modifications that he considers necessary, meets the ‘basic conditions’ for a neighbourhood plan as set down in the 2011 Localism Act.

His examination will include a public hearing, to be held on Tuesday 22nd September 2015 and starting at 10.00 hours.  The venue is St Helens Church (rear part of the church itself), St Helens Gardens W10 6LP.

The purpose of the session will be for John Parmiter to ask questions of interested parties (the Council, the StQW Forum, and a selection of participants invited by the Examiner).  While held in public, there will not be an opportunity for general discussion of the Draft Plan or its individual policy proposals.

John Parmiter has prepared an agenda for the public hearing which can be downloaded from this link St Quintin NDP Agenda.final.  This gives approximate timings when specific issues will be explored with participants at the session.

Subject to the agreement of the Examiner, the StQW Draft Plan will then be voted on at a local referendum.  If supported by a majority, the neighbourhood plan will be adopted by the Council and its policies used in deciding on planning applications in the StQW neighbourhood area.

Nursery Lane planning application

This post has been updated since developers Metropolis Property/London Realty submitted a planning application for the land at Nursery Lane, in late April.  The closing date for comments to RBKC was June 5th.  The Council continued to accept comments after this date to allow time for the StQW Forum to see the planning advice previously issued to the developers (finally released on June 9th, following a Freedom of Information request first submitted last December),

The plans submitted with the application have changed little from those exhibited at the Pavilion pub last December.  There are 20 houses rather than 21, now in mock Victorian rather than mock Georgian style.  The proposed basement, to include a ‘family room’ in each house and a parking space, extends across 71% of the site area.   65 of the 79 trees would be felled if the scheme went ahead, including all the weeping willows.

You can access the full planning application here with its many supporting documents (Heritage Study, Arboricultural Study, Transport Study, Environmental Study etc).  Click on ‘Documents’ to see the full list.

Nursery lane 2015 site plan

Approval to a basement of this size would be an exception to the Council’s updated Basement Policy, which allows for only 50% of coverage of a site or garden area.  The developers argue this is justified on  a ‘large site’.   Providing one parking space per car for 20 houses would also be an exception to the Council’s latest parking standards, which would allow for only 12 spaces,  And providing no affordable housing on site would be a third exception from RBKC policies.

‘Pre-application advice’ and ‘design comments’ were provided by officers to Metropolis Property, suggesting improvements to the scheme, in September and November 2014 and in January and March 2015.  In none of this material did planning officers express themselves as fully satisfied with the proposals.  But the principle of developing the site for market housing (with no affordable units and with a giant basement and 20 parking spaces) appears to have been considered acceptable.

The planning advice provided by the Council made no mention whatsoever of the fact that this piece of land lies within a designated neighbourhood area, for which a Draft Neighbourhood Plan has been prepared (and published for final consultation on the RBKC website).   This seems a strange omission by the Planning Department, and one which we are pursuing further.

While the site owners (the Legard family) have been aware of this context since late 2013, we do not know at what stage it dawned on the developers that the Council ceased to be the sole arbiter of what happens at Nursery Lane once the neighbourhood area was designated in July 2013.

Neighbourhood planning was introduced by Parliament in 2011 as a means through which local people have a much greater say on what form of development they want to see where, within their neighbourhood.  The StQW Draft Plan spells out why Nursery Lane is not an appropriate site for new housing, whereas other sites in the neighbourhood are.

The Nursery Gardens Action Group has raised funds from neighbours and residents for professional and legal advice.  This has been supplemented by very welcome matched funding from the Kensington Society.   The Society plays an active part in conserving and  improving the built environment in the Borough, and welcomes new members, see at http://www.kensingtonsociety.org/

The Nursery Gardens Action Group, supported by the StQW Forum, retained planning QC Matthew Horton to advise on the planning application, including its timing in relation to the Draft StQW Neighbourhood Plan.   The legal opinion from Matthew Horton QC can be found here Nursery Lane W10 – Opinion – 12 June 2015.final.  This has been submitted to RBKC, and we expect the Council to take serious account of its conclusion – that no application at Nursery Lane should be decided until after the independent examination of the StQW Draft Plan takes place (due in September 2015).

Matthew Horton QC also confirms our view that Nursery Lane is not ‘previously developed land’ and should continue to be viewed as a conservation asset.

Artists impression of April 2015 proposals

Artists impression of April 2015 proposals

All the proposed houses have front dormer roofs — not a feature of this area and one not permitted by the Council for most existing houses, under conservation policies.

Nursery Lane section

 

Letters of objection to the Metropolis application were submitted to the Council by some 90 local residents.  A copy of the final objection letter from the StQW Forum can be found here StQW to RBKC On Nursery Lane application. Final, and that from the St Helens Residents Association here SHRA_to_RBKC on Nursery lane.final.

The whole process to date relating to this planning application highlights some of the dysfunctions in the present planning system:

  • potential developers seek (and pay substantial fees for) ‘planning advice’ from the local authority
  • this advice may or may not be adequate in researching the context and planning history of the site (and in this case failed to include a letter which we sent to the Council in May 2015 setting out likely planning obstacles including the wish of the StQW Forum to see the St Quintin backlands designated as Local Green Space).
  • Developers are ‘encouraged’ to consult local amenity groups at an early stage, but are not required to do so.   London Realty made no contact with local residents until November 2014, by which time a fully detailed set of proposals had been prepared with all the associated costs involved,
  • The Council treats meetings with developers, and planning advice, as commercially confidential.  As a result it communicates nothing of such discussions and negotiations back to local residents associations and amenity groups.
  • Hence both the developer and the Planning Department may be working in the dark, in terms of views of local residents, and of ward councillors.
  • Given public expenditure cuts, local authority planning departments have become increasingly reliant on income from the fees received for providing planning advice.  This creates a growing risk that ‘the developer calls the tune’ when it comes to major applications.

There have been two major planning applications in Kensington in recent months on which pre-application advice has led developers down a path ending up with refusal of an application by the Council’s full Planning Committee, at which a majority of councillors have voted against the recommendations of planning officers.

Proposed developments at the Odeon cinema site in Kensington High Street, and at Dukes Lodge beside Holland Park, are now the subject of planning appeals – expensive and time-consuming events for all sides.

The Kensington Society, this Neighbourhood Forum, and other amenity bodies in the Borough all feel that there must be a better way of handling pre-application discussions and advice.  This should involve earlier and more open dialogue between developer, planning staff at the Council, and local residents and amenity bodies (particularly where a neighbourhood forum is in place).   We are working with the Kensington Society on how other London boroughs approach these issues.

Meanwhile we await the fate of the Metropolis application for Nursery Lane.

 

 

Nursery Lane April 2015

Nursery Lane April 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Neighbourhood Plan nears submission to RBKC

Following the statutory 8 week consultation on the StQW Draft Neighbourhood Plan, a further public meeting was held at St Helens Church hall on February 5th.  Around 80 people attended  (including Dalgarno ward councillors Pat Healy and Robert Thompson) to discuss the outcome of the consultation.

Consultation responses were received from 90 residents and businesses.  Some commented on many aspects of the Draft Plan, others on a few.  The only negative responses received from local residents were on the proposal to encourage redevelopment of Units 1-14 in Latimer Road, with housing above commercial space at ground floor/mezzanine levels.  There were worries about increased building heights on the western side of the road, and the idea of a 14m ‘maximum height guideline’.

The meeting saw a presentation on how the present light industrial units could be sensitively redeveloped with two storeys (the second set back) above commercial space.  A revised draft policy on building heights, dropping the 14m figure, was discussed and agreed by a large majority of those attending.

The StQW Consultation Statement

This is one of the documents which will shortly be submitted to the Council, along with the ‘Submission Version’ of the StQW Neighbourhood Plan.  You can see the final draft at this link Consultation Statement.V2.  The Annexe containing all the consultation comments (and the StQW response to each) is at this link Consultation statement annexe.V6 .

We are expecting the Council to start taking this material into consideration when deciding planning applications in the StQW area, from now on.   The StQW Draft Plan and these responses will gather increasing ‘material weight’ in planning decisions, during the stage of independent examination of the Draft Plan and the lead-in to a local referendum.

Latest on the land at Nursery Lane

Many of the StQW consultation responses supported the proposal that the remaining backland sites on the St Quintin Estate, including Nursery Lane, should be designated as Local Green Space.   Planning officers at the Council have recently advised that the RBKC policy statement protecting these backland sites from housing development (as set out in the Oxford Gardens CAPS document) now carries ‘very little material weight‘ when planning applications are decided.

Given this context, the Forum’s open meeting on the 5th also decided that an extra Open Space policy should be added to the StQW Draft Plan.  This will re-iterate that these 3 pieces of backland should not be developed for housing.

No planning application has yet been submitted by London Realty/Metropolis Property Ltd, following the December 2014 exhibition of proposals for a housing development at Nursery Lane.  It appears that the developers are still negotiating with the Council’s Planning Department.  London Realty are not answering our emails asking who are now the owners of the land.  Clifton Nurseries have advised that they will do a further clear-up before leaving the site.

RBKC response to the StQW Draft Plan

The present position is that the only opponents to the proposals in the StQW Draft Plan are the Council’s Planning Department and two sets of planning consultants.  CgMs Consulting, acting for the Legard family, are opposed to the Plan’s policies for the land at Nursery Lane.  Rolfe Judd Planning, acting for Metropolis Property Ltd, have submitted very similar objections.  This comes as no surprise.  Their representations, and our responses, can be read in the StQW Consultation Annexe at the link above.

The continued objections from RBKC are more surprising.  The StQW Draft Plan proposes more new housing than would be achieved though the Metropolis scheme for 21 houses on Nursery Lane.  And the Plan’s draft policies for a wider range of activities and uses in Latimer Road are well supported by local businesses and residents alike.  The Council continues to object to what it perceives as ‘conflicts’ with 2010 RBKC policies on employment and ‘enterprise’ — but does not explain why it believes these polices have worked well in Latimer Road and need no change?

The independent examination of the StQW Draft Plan

This is the next stage of getting the StQW Neighbourhood Plan into place as part the the statutory planning framework for the Royal Borough.  The task of the independent examiner is to make sure the Draft Plan meets the ‘basic conditions’ for neighbourhood plans, as set out in the 2011 Localism Act.

It is the Council’s responsibility to appoint the Examiner, with the agreement of the Forum.  The Council’s Director of Planning has made very clear his own objections to the Draft Plan (see his views at J Bore email 5th Feb 2015).  We have responded with two letters, the first of which asks the Director to stand aside from the next stages on the StQW Draft Plan, and for another Council Department to work with the Forum on the choice of Examiner.  Our second letter responds to the Director’s views (including his view that Nursery Lane is an appropriate site for a housing development) and can be seen at this link StQW to RBKC. JB re Feb 6th email part 2.

The Examination needs to be visibly ‘independent’ and this will not be possible if the Planning Department choose the Examiner, given their history of antipathy to the preparation of the StQW Plan.

The attitude of the Planning Department towards the work of the StQW Forum has been very disappointing over the last 9 months.   RBKC officers do not appear to understand the intentions of Parliament in creating this opportunity for local people to prepare neighbourhood plans, not the detail of the legislation and guidance which supports the process.

We hope that these latest issues with the Planning Department can be resolved swiftly, enabling us to submit formally to the Council the StQW Draft Plan and accompanying documents.  The Council is then required to publicise the Plan on the RBKC website for 6 weeks, allowing a further and final opportunity for comments prior to the Examination.

We will be continuing to press the Council to progress efficiently these last stages of of their statutory responsibilities towards the StQW Neighbourhood Plan, so that a local referendum can be arranged before the Council’s summer recess.

 

 

Nursery Lane – development proposals emerge

In early December, the Forum was notified by a development management firm London Realty that proposals had been drawn up for a housing development on the land at Nursery Lane. An exhibition of these proposals was subsequently held at the Pavilion pub in Wood Lane on December 12th/13th.

Despite invitations to the exhibition describing the scheme as ‘low density’, the proposals are in fact for 21 four bedroomed houses.  This is two less than the housing development submitted by the Legard family in 1982, refused by RBKC, and dismissed by a Planning Inspector on appeal at a public inquiry.

The latest scheme involves a basement (for each house and for car-parking) that would extend under the majority of the site.  All the existing trees on the site, including the willows, would be felled.

The StQW Draft Neighbourhood Plan proposes designation of this piece of land as Local Green Space, along with the two other remaining backland sites in this part of the St Quintin Estate. Council officers have supported this designation in respect of the West London Bowling Club and the green space behind Kelfield Gardens, but not (to date) for Nursery Lane.

It is not clear why Council officers take this view.  The Oxford Gardens Conservation Area Proposals Statement contains a very clear policy commitment that these remaining backland sites are an important amenity for the area, and should not be developed for housing (see at page 18 of the document at the link above).

The StQW Forum has asked that Councillors are now involved in confirming the Council’s position on this piece of land.  The Council will be making further comments in response to the Consultation Version of the StQW Neighbourhood Plan, and we want this response to be decided by elected members, and not officers.  The detailed case for designation of the Nursery Lane land as Local Green Space is set out on this website at  Annexe C of the StQW Draft Plan (scroll down this link to Annexe C).

 

London Realty proposals for Nursery Lane, W10

London Realty proposals for Nursery Lane, W10

The Nursery Lane Action Group has set up a petition headed Save our Green Spaces on the RBKC petitions web page, asking the Council to protect all three of the remaining backland sites by supporting the proposals for designation as Local Green Space in the StQW Plan.  This step would give the Council the up to date policy tools needed to honour its longstanding commitments in the Oxford Gardens CAPS document. The StQW Draft Plan identifies other locations in this neighbourhood as being more suitable for housing (primarily Crowthorne Road and Latimer Road).

The best way to ensure that the land at Nursery Lane is not developed is to

  • sign the petition on the RBKC website (link above)
  • send in a consultation response on the StQW Draft Plan by January 25th, supporting the proposed designation of this land as Local Green Space (by email to info@stqw.org)
  • copy your email to Dalgarno ward councillors at Cllr.Healy@rbkc.gov,uk and Cllr.Thompson@rbkc.gov.uk
  • vote for the StQW Neighbourhood Plan at a referendum later this year.

‘Healthcheck’ of StQW Neighbourhood Plan

The Draft version of the St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Plan has been reviewed by Chistopher Lockhart-Mummery QC.  Such ‘healthchecks’ are recommended for draft plans, to ensure that the various requirements and conditions set out in legislation are met.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors now organises a pool of experts, who undertake these reviews at £375 a day.  We feel fortunate to have had input from such a well-respected planning QC, and this is helping us in our current discussions with RBKC planning officers on the various policy proposals in the StQW Plan.

The report from Christopher Lockhart-Mummery can be seen here.  It supports our view that the proposals in the StQW Plan, while proposing some variations to RBKC policies on conservation and on Latimer Road, have a good prospect of being accepted at the independent Examination stage as being in ‘general conformity’ with the ‘strategic’ policies of the Local Plan and London Plan.

Please note that the version of the StQW Plan reviewed is a slightly later one than that currently published on this website.  We will now be making further edits, to reflect comments from the ‘healthcheck’ and our latest discussions with RBKC planning officers.  The next version published here will be a formal ‘consultation draft’ on which responses will be invited during a minimum 6 week statutory period of public consultation.

Latimer Road underpass

Proposals for a pedestrian/cycle underpass beneath the railway line, from the southern end of Latimer Road through to Wood Lane, have been around for several years.  Funding for this project is one of the ‘community benefits’ from the Imperial West scheme.  Both RB Kensington & Chelsea and LB Hammersmith & Fulham support the proposal, as an improvement in connectivity between local neighbourhoods.   Walking and cycling times between many destinations will be reduced.

After a very long wait for anything to happen, a planning application has been submitted to both local councils.  The applicant is Imperial College, who are meeting the £4m costs of the project.

We are not happy at the lack of informal consultation on the detailed plans for the underpass (which we were promised back in April).   But now the proposals are here and any interested residents will need to send comments to the Council by November 4th.  These can be sent online via the RBKC planning application page at this link or by email to planning@rbkc.gov.uk or direct to the Case Officer (barry.valentine@rbkc.gov.uk),

Underpass entrance Latimer Road

The St Helens Residents Association consulted its membership on the principle of an underpass back in 2011.   At that time, the email responses which the Association received were 20 in favour and 10 against.   Similar results have been found when we have asked for a hand vote at more recent meetings of SHRA/StQW Forum.

On this basis, the StQW Draft Plan supports the proposal for the underpass.  We have sent in a set of comments on the planning application, which can be seen at this link StQW to RBKC re underpass. Oct 2014.V2

Every resident and business in the area is entitled to their own opinion on the subway.  The pros and cons have been identified as follows:

  • will bring footfall, vitality and better security to Latimer Road, helping to revive the currently deserted southern end of the street and to re-fill vacant commercial floorspace
  • for much of the StQW neighbourhood, will significantly cut down walking times to and from White City Underground station (Central Line), Hammersmith Hospital, and Westfield.

The concerns that have been raised locally are:

  • more cycle and pedestrian traffic along Oxford Gardens (if people don’t use the cycle route alongside the Westway Sports Centre)
  • greater accessibility to the neighbourhood could bring an increase in street crime and burglary
  • pressure on residents parking could increase, from drivers parking on the RBKC side of the underpass when visiting Imperial West, QPR football ground, or other destinations in LBHF.
Plan of underpass

Plan of underpass

 

The subway will be 6m wide and 2.85m high.  It will be straight, and we estimate the length as 30m.  It will be well lit, and covered by five CCTV cameras along it length (we have asked who will be monitoring these).  The entrances will be landscaped.

Cycle and pedestrian routes through the subway will not be segregated, other than by different surface treatments.   We have asked why this is so, given the potential for pedestrian/cycle conflict and resultant accidents.

The underpass will have a significant impact on this neighbourhood, over time.  This part of the Oxford Gardens Conservation Area has been cut off from Hammersmith, by the railway line, since the 1890s.  The initial impact may be modest, but will increase as the new development sites in White City are built out.

We have not yet been given a timetable for construction of the underpass, if planning permission is granted next month.  Both RBKC and LBHF Ciuncils will be deciding separately on the planning application.

 

 

Old Oak consultations and impact on StQW neighbourhood

A whole series of public consultations is taking place on the Old Oak area (north of Wormwood Scrubs).  These flow from plans to locate the HS2 and Crossrail transport hub at this location, subject to the approval of the HS2 Bill currently in Parliament.

Mayoral Development Corporation

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, has been consulting on proposals to establish a Mayoral Development Corporation for the Old Oak Opportunity Area.  This body would steer plans for development across the area, from Park Royal in the west to Wood Lane in the East.

The StQW Forum has submitted comments opposing the Mayor’s proposals, as a MDC would take away planning powers from the three London Borough Councils involved.  We share the view of Hammersmith & Fulham Council that a MDC would prove more remote from the views of local people, and less democratically accountable.  We do not share the current Mayor of London’s vision for a ‘mini-Manhattan’ at Old Oak, involving building heights of 50 storeys.  Nor do we believe that high density development at Old Oak should be allowed to damage or encroach on Wormwood Scrubs, as a Metropolitan Open Space.

QPR plans for New Queens Park

Queens Park Football Club (back in the Premier League this season) are consulting on ambitious plans for a new 40,000 stadium and associated housing and commercial development on land to the north of Wormwood Scrubs, between Old Oak Lane and Scrubs Lane.  The Club do not own a significant slice of this land, which is held by Car Giant, who have their own ideas on development.

Nevertheless, QPR has assembled a team of planners and consultants to draw up a masterplan for the site.  Details remain sketchy at this stage, but events are moving fast and masterplanners Farrells intend to submit a planning application shortly after the proposed Old Oak MDC goes live in April 2015 (if this happens – given opposition from the Borough Councils).

The StQW Forum is flagging up with Farrells the major problems of traffic congestion on the existing road network around Old Oak, and in particular Wood Lane/Scrubs Lane and the junction at North Pole Road.   We are also resisting the idea (being built into revisions to the London Plan) that Old Oak is a suitable location for a new cluster of very tall buildings and ultra high density of residential and commercial floorspace.

Overground connections at Old Oak

Meanwhile, Transport for London is also consulting on options for an interchange at Old Oak, between the Overground (West London Line and North London Line) and the HS2 and Crossrail platforms.   This is an important consultation for the StQW area.   Access to public transport in the StQW Neighbourhood is compararatively low for Inner London, as our nearest Undergrounds are at Latimer Road and White City and we have no Overground station nearer than Shepherds Bush.  Our neighbourhood was better served in the late 19th century, with a St Quintin and Wormwood Scrubs rail station (closed after bomb damage in the 1940s).

Of the 3 options set out in the TfL consultation material, we think that Option C is by far the best option.  This includes a WLL station at Hythe Road, and drops earlier ideas of a very expensive ‘Boris viaduct’ running across the northern boundary of the Scrubs.

Option C is also supported by Hammersmith & Fulham Council and by the Friends of Wormwood Scrubs.  It is important that as many people as possible respond to the consultation, which runs until 24th November.  The material is well set out, including the arguments for and against each of the 3 options.  There will also be an exhibition of the proposals at The Atrium, Burlington Danes Academy, Wood Lane, W12 0HR on Wednesday 8 October 1600-2000 and Saturday 11 October 1000-1400.  

We will also be continuing to lobby, via the StQW Neighbourhood Plan and other routes, for an additional WLL station at ‘Westway Circus’ (i.e. beneath the Westway roundabout and next to the planned underpass between Latimer Road and Imperial West.  We strongly believe that Scrubs Lane/Wood Lane. already congested before a series of major developments are constructed, will not be able to take anything like the additional traffic generated by Westfield 2, the St James development, the Stanhope scheme at the BBC, and the remaining phases of Imperial West.

The idea of a station at Western Circus is being promoted by the West London Line Group, as part of the current Parliamentary debate on the HS2 Bill.  This group has a track record of high quality technical research end evidence gathering, which has led in the past to stations being added to the West London Line.  We hope that their efforts, and those of our ward councillors, and StQW Forum members, will succeed again.