Northcare submits application at Nursery Lane

Our previous post gave the background to the latest attempt to develop this ‘backland’ site behind Highlever Road, Brewster Gardens and Dalgarno Gardens. A care home company based in Scotland held some consultation sessions back in March on their proposals to build a 72 bed luxury care home north of the existing sheltered housing at 1 Nursery Lane.

Savills have subsequently submitted a planning application on behalf of Northcare.  This is now published on the RBKC website with a reference PP/23/02302. 

After RBKC successfully defended its decision to progress the StQW Neighbourhood Plan to adoption, back in 2017/18, we thought that the designation of this backland as one of three Local Green Spaces made it safe from development.  As recently as November 2022 we were told by landowner William Legard that ‘the family have no future plans for the Nursery Lane site at this moment in time’.

It now seems that Northcare have taken out a 2 year option to develop the site.  Their team of consultants held a first pre-application session with RBKC planners back in January 2022.

The advice of RBKC officers at three pre-application meetings has now been published along with all the application documents. The Council has said consistently that officers would be unable to support the proposal if an application were made.

Despite this advice Northcare have chosen to plough on. Having spent large sums on consultants and architects before making any contact with StQW, the Northcare’s development director explained at the March 2nd exhibition of their plans ‘we are now heavily invested in this project’. 

Savills are the planning consultants and have a reputation for delivering on behalf of their clients. They are an expensive firm to use.   In this instance, we share the view of RBKC officers that arguments of ‘very special circumstances’ in terms of extra care provision will not outweigh the protection of a Local Green Space designation made relatively recently (2016).  ‘Very special circumstances’ have been used to gain permission for care homes on Green Belt land.  But the NPPF criteria for Local Green Space designation are different.

It was a hard fought local campaign to achieve Local Green Space designation for this piece of land. The site has never been developed and is not a ‘brownfield site’.  One of the three criteria for LGS designation is that the land in question must be demonstrably special to a local community and holds a particular local significance, for example because of its beauty, historic significance, recreational value (including as a playing field), tranquillity or richness of its wildlife.

The independent examiner of the StQW Draft Local Plan held a public hearing in 2015, at which StQW and Metropolis Property (at that time promoter of a housing development on Nursery Lane) gave evidence.  The Examiner inspected the site, which was in a poor state at the time after several mysterious occasions of unauthorised entry and fly-tipping.

Having considered all this evidence, including views from Historic England, the Examiner said in his final report to the Council Overall, I conclude that from the content of the evidence in Annexe C, from the substance of the significant number of representations in favour of the designation and my own site visits, that the site is indeed demonstrably special to the local community; and that it holds a particular local significance for them. It also meets the other two criteria. I therefore conclude that the designation of the Nursery Lane site as Local Green Space meets the Basic Conditions.

In the 2017/18 High Court case on a judicial review application by the Legard family, Mr Justice Dove reviewed the same set of arguments and counter-claims.  His 2018 judgment records that Thus I am satisfied that the Examiner’s reasons were clear and adequate, and further that the conclusions which he reached were arrived at following a proper interpretation of paragraph 77 of the Framework (the section of the then NPPF on Local Green Space).

Savills have provided a Planning Statement and Montagu Evans a Built Historic Environment Statement. These documents are too large to upload to this website but can be found on the RBKC planning file. Both of these reports try to undermine the carefully considered conclusions of a Neighbourhood Plan Examiner and a High Court judge.

Consultants Concilio, who organised the February/March consultation sessions and survey, have prepared a Statement of Community Involvement which is unusually objective and accurate for firms who handle ‘engagement’ on planning applications.  This states that The vast majority of people did not want to see this site developed. The residents were steadfast in their desire to keep this land in its current condition. We were able to get some comments on the design, and the community spaces, which we will take on board. However the key takeaway was that residents would be difficult to convince of the need for development of this site. The full document is also on the RBKC planning file.

The published closing date for responses on the Northcare planning application is May 26th.  It may be that no decision is made by RBKC until after the public hearings on the Examination of the RBKC New Draft Local Plan.  Northgate/Savills made representations last autumn that the LGS designation for Nursery Lane should be ‘removed’.  It is up to the appointed Planning Inspector (Louise Nurser BA (Hons), Dip Up, MRTPI) to decide whether she wants to hear evidence on this question during the forthcoming Examination in Public hearings in June and July.  We will be there from StQW to take part in the hearing, should this situation arise.

To comment on the Northcare application you need to do no more than send a brief email to quoting PP/23/02302. 

It will help simply to say that the land at Nursery Lane is designated as Local Green Space, and that this strong planning protection for all three remaining backland sites in our neighbourhood remains important to local residents.  

Were this site to be developed, the potential at the Bowling Club and the Methodist Church site behind Kelfield Gardens will be eyed up next by developers.  Views on the need for an expensive private care home at Nursery Lane can be added in an objection.  Please include your name and street address.

The petition to RBKC organised by the Nursery Gardens Action Group back in 2015 amassed 2,500 signatures.  We need to show for a second time that the land is demonstrably special to the local community, and unsuitable for a care home which will be unaffordable to all but a few.  One day in the future a set of good uses for this open space will emerge, and StQW/SHRA members are not short of ideas. 

It is not NIMBY to want to retain pieces of open space in North Kensington, especially after the long and complex process of achieving Local Green Space designations has been undertaken through sustained community effort.