The Book Warehouse development about to begin
Almost two years after the Book Warehouse development (66-74 Notting Hill Gate) was approved by the council, it is finally about to begin. Scaffolding has gone up all around the 1930s building in the Pembridge Gardens corner and the three victorian buildings next to it.
The site is still owned by the Panamanian tax haven company Stranton Properties S.A., through a subsidiary in Gibraltar, although on 5 April 2017 the owner registered with the Land Registry changed from Stranton Properties Ltd of Gibraltar to Stranton Properties Number Three Ltd of Gibraltar, for the payment of £1. The owners of the Panamanian company are not known.
However, on 18 November 2016, Jersey-registered Luxx – Notting Hill Gate Development Ltd bought a 299 year building lease for £11.5 million from Stranton Properties of Gibraltar for the site, according to the Land Registry. A press release from law firm Fladgate, states that the actual buyer is Luxx London Investment Ltd, an investment company which is majority-owned by London-based property developer Luigi Becherini. Since 2 February 2017, one of his many UK-registered companies, the dormant Luxx Europe Developments Ltd, is the applicant on all building applications related to this project, while Luxx Europe Construct Ltd is named as “client” in letters from the architects to the planning department.
The first proposal for the site – dominated by a very tall building in the corner and with the three Victorian houses replaced by a modern building – was strongly objected to by local residents and eventually refused by the planning department in December 2014. So the developer went back to the drawing board and eventually returned with a newr design, which was submitted in September 2015 and approved by the council’s planning committee in January 2016.
The approved plan, which shows that the developers have taken note of the local views, means that the façades of the three Victorian houses (66-70 NHG) will be retained (including the 19th century hand-painted advertisement for Marmalade on the side of 66 NHG), although they will be largely gutted inside. Only the rather bunker-like corner building from 1934 (72-74 NGH), which has housed the Book Warehouse for many years, will be replaced, and the new building will match the height of the surrounding buildings (19 metres). The refused corner building would have been 26 metres high, and thus towered over the neighbouring buildings. It also had a totally square footprint, whereas the new corner building retains the slanted corner so typical of the current building. Because of this, the approved building looks like an evolution of the current one.
The current complex contains 10 small flats, most of them having only one bedroom, while the new complex will have 19 small flats, most of them studios or one-bedroom flats. The ground floors will continue to be shops and restaurants, while the other floors will be residential. The old building had some more commercial space than the current, as it also contained some offices.
The construction time was estimated to 16 months when the application was made, which should mean that the project could be completed by the end of 2018 or in early 2019. However, the January 2016 approval contains seven conditions which have to be fulfilled before the development can begun, and so far only one of them has been discharged (deemed fulfilled) by the planning department, while three condition discharge applications have been refused. So the actual start may take another couple of months.