THINK will put aside our anger, frustration and disappointment after the TMO vote and EGM for now and share some good news from last Thursday – after a gruelling six hour meeting. the planning committee has rejected the proposal for the Holiday Inn Forum in Cromwell Road.
We posted about this here on the day (details of plans included in the post):
At the same time as the awful TMO meeting and vote was taking place, RBKC’s planning committee was meeting in the chamber to decide over these controversial plans.
THINKers arrived to a chamber packed with concerned residents and took seats that had been reserved for the few supporters of this scheme (who had not bothered to turn up).
Graham Stallwood, executive director for planning and development and Philip Elliott, senior planning officer at RBKC had recommended that the council approve the scheme.
We spotted the applicants , or rather developers right away, as they gave off more than an air of arrogance and were disrespecting the rules of the chamber by bring food and drinks in and THINK regretted not bringing cameras to take photos of them shoving sandwiches into their greedy mouths and littering the place – so no fancy lunches for them this time – but what we noticed even more, was how chummy Mr Elliott and the people from Rockwell and Queensgate appeared to be with other.
People at the meeting were treated (or not) to slideshows from both the developers and from residents objecting showing pictures of the proposed development not only towering over and dominating the area not just in height but also protruding right out towards the street.
The applicant had claimed that their proposals would “animate adjacent streets” Well we heard animated loud gasps of shock and horror from local residents in the chamber upon seeing pictures of the planned two towers – and these were the supposedly favourable pictures that the applicants had themselves submitted!
One of the applicants also conceded that there will be a “noticeable change” of loss of daylight for nearby properties – yes, very noticeable for those whose homes would only be 60 metres away and considering the plans were for two buildings and not just the one. There were marked contrasts as to claims about on both sides about the loss of light and the impact of this. The applicants’ surveyor had claimed the changes “would not be perceptible in Spring”
The developers had talked up the increased space in the outdoor area that the plans would have brought, but Michael Bach from the Kensington Society, opposing the plans – pointed out that the increased space in the garden was “not a gift from the developer – it is the minimum requirement”.
The plans to build a much bigger and more luxurious hotel with 749 rooms, and 340 serviced apartments also concerned many residents about the increase in traffic and pollution in an already heavily congested area. In fact we heard the applicants admit that the plans for conference facilities at the hotel could see traffic in the area increase by a third.
The applicants had made a big song and dance about how their scheme conformed to the London Plan. Well Cllr Quentin Marshall, the committee chair pointed out to them that they had ignored the RBKC local plan which did not permit such a tall tower. The committee also had concerns that the application had not taken the second building into account – oh dear, who didn’t do their homework?
They had also claimed that the extra jobs provided by the bigger hotel would be of benefit to this area – well it was pointed out to them that Kensington isn’t exactly an unemployment hotspot.
As for housing, the developers had included a token small number of so- called affordable” housing and just 11 homes for social rent – a figure that Courtfield councillor Greg Hammond called “derisory”
Cllr Sina Lari (Labour -Golborne Ward), gave both the people opposing the development and the supporters and developers of the proposed scheme a real questioning – so much so that it startled some of the developers and planning officers , and some of them ended up struggling to find answers to his questions!
He raised the very good point that the proposals were not at all in keeping with the area and actually added to the transient feel that the local community in an area already with many hotels and tourists would like to see rather less of. So much for the developers claiming that the plans would enhance the area.
Cllr Lari coming back up with ” and one more thing” a few times put us in mind of a certain TV detective and here is a THINK photoshop picture of the usually immaculately dressed Cllr Lari as Columbo….
Cllr Cem Kemahli (Conservative – Royal Hospital Ward) also gave the developers a hard time, notably over traffic and idling engines – particularly over hotel guests using taxis . The developers appeared very keen to avoid trying to answer his points.
Finally after six and a half hours, the committee voted to reject the plans (with one abstention from Cllr James Husband (Conservative – Abingdon Ward) who thought the application had some benefits such as housing provision.
We left at 11:30pm and missed the end of the meeting so sadly did not get to enjoy the sight of the arrogant developers slumping off with their tails between their legs….
One thing we will mention is that local Labour MP and councillor Emma Dent Coad, had sent a letter objecting to the proposals which was mysteriously “lost” by RBKC. The letter was eventually found on the day itself when Emma noticed her objections were not published and the Labour group made the council investigate its whereabouts. This led some newspapers to wrongly believe that Emma supported the plans.Well THINK utterly condemn this disruption of the objections procedure by playing dirty tricks – whoever this is should be ashamed of themselves.
We thank the planning committee for not accepting the planning officers’ recommendations and rejecting the scheme, but most of all we thank the local residents and the Stop The Towers campaign for fighting a good, strong and informative campaign – good on them.We also hope that Sadiq Khan will not be seduced by developers’ promises of a token few flats for social rent on the site and will let the council’s decision stay.
For now at least, residents of South Kensington can rest and get on with their lives without the destruction of parts of their local area and the disruption to peoples’ lives that this development would have brought them for years to come.
But we know that the developers Queensgate Investments have thrown millions at this proposed project and are unlikely to throw in the towel without a fight. THINK will be watching them very closely and we will expect them to come back at some point with significant amendments made to their plans.
Residents and campaigners can be rest assured that when the developers do put up a fight over this, THINKers will be firmly on the side of the locals – and we will be keeping a very close eye on the activities of the planning officers and developers .