Following the RBKC planning committee’s decision to refuse the Kensington Forum Hotel (i.e. Holiday Inn on Cromwell Road) application on 27 September 2018, due to the size and height of the two hotel towers in the complex, London mayor Sadiq Khan called in the application in November, as his office felt that it had many advantages for London and that discussions with the developer could make it even more palatable.
Legal challenge required new call-in
However, in December Khan’s office was faced with a legal challenge from RBKC, as his call-in letter stated, among the reasons for the call-in, that Kensington & Chelsea had only seen 153 new homes being built in 2016-2017. RBKC pointed out that the true figure was 319 homes and asked the High Court of Justice for a judicial review, as the council felt that the call-in letter contained “a material error of fact”.
On 16 April, the issue was settled in the High Court, with Khan’s office accepting the mistake, so a week later, on 23 April, the deputy mayor for planning, Jules Pipes, issued a revised call-in on behalf of Sadiq Khan which didn’t mention the number of homes built in RBKC, but simply stated that Khan was taking over the decision of this application in accordance with article 7 of the Mayor of London Order and the powers conferred by Section 2A of the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act, due to the development’s scale and the impact it may have on the implementation of the London Plan.
Revised application with all flats affordable
Discussions between Khan’s planners and the developer, about how the plans could be improved to better meet the GLA goal to drastically increase London’s stock of affordable housing, had obviously been going on since the first call-in, because on 1 May the developer submitted a revised application which increases the number of residential flats on the site with almost 50%: from 46 to 62, and they will all be genuinely affordable rented (i.e. socially rented). The previous application only contained 11 such flats, while 26 would have been full priced leaseholds and nine would have been intermediately affordable leaseholds (i.e. sold at up to 80% of full price).
There will be no changes to the hotel tower, with its 749 rooms and suites, or to the “aparthotel” tower, with its 340 serviced flats (which will be part of the hotel).
Slight height increase of the podium
The increase in number of residential flats has mainly been achieved by making the 2- and 3-bed flats slightly smaller and by increasing the height of the podium – the long building which the two hotel towers sit on – with two floors, to 44 meters, at its southern, residential end. There will, however, be no increase in height of the two towers, which with 102 and 77 meters respectively will be the tallest and the fourth tallest buildings in the borough, with Trellick Tower (98m) and Chelsea Waterfront Easter Tower (85m – to be completed in 2021) in between. The chimney on Lots Road power station and the St Mary Abbots Church spire are also 85 meters high, but can’t be regarded as buildings.
If the application is approved by the mayor’s office and the project then goes ahead, the developer estimates it will take five years to demolish the current hotel and built the replacement complex. i.e. if work was to start next summer, the new complex wouldn’t be ready until sometime in 2025.
More details about the call-in can be found on the mayor’s website and the new application can be found on the RBKC planning website.