…and why, perverse as it may seem, we think locals should support it!
Everyone knows about the plans to build an 18-storey tower next door to Notting Hill tube station. Hundreds of people have objected. Clearly, such a tall building is not to many people’s liking. It will loom over Hillgate Village and the top will be visible from many places locally.
Yet the Kensington Society, the Ladbroke Association, the Pembridge Association and Campden Hill Residents’ Association (although separately from the other associations) are supporting the scheme. Why?
There are 10 good reasons why we ask you to support it too:
The existing buildings are an eyesore. Even the scheme’s fiercest critic, Simon Jenkins, describes Newcombe House as a squalid 1960s block “that would discredit a Soviet suburb”. There is no financial case to refurbish the site, and the longer it goes on the worse it will be for Notting Hill Gate. The present proposal is far better than previous ones, and (as we know from long negotiations) the best we are likely to have. The constraints of the site makes it uneconomic for investors unless they can achieve equally high densities, so if we lost the height we would lose the public square, the farmers’ market and the NHS facilities. Realism must prevail. If this scheme is rejected we could lose all the benefits and still have another high tower. We would also face years more decay and dilapidation which will bring down the whole area.
The new scheme provides a large GP clinic with step-free access and modern facilities which will be among the best in the country. You may not be aware that Notting Hill faces closure of two GP practices, both of which are in premises unsuitable for 21st century healthcare. If you are an NHS patient there is good reason to support your GPs, who themselves strongly support the scheme – as does the NHS. There will be space for at least 10 GPs plus staff and equipment in the surgery, planned for 18,000 patients.
TfL have been trying for years to provide step-free access to the tube. The developers have agreed to create this on their side of the station. (They don’t own the land to do so on the west side). Thus TfL supports the scheme.
The scheme includes a generous public realm, unusual for developers, thereby substantially reducing the density of the buildings. This is why the tower has had to be higher, to compensate for the large amount of space, and other facilities, provided for public access.
The farmer’s market will be enhanced, enlarged, retaining access from Uxbridge Street and with a new vista from Kensington Church Street as well as improved fire and emergency access. The original market occupiers of the car park site, London Farmers’ Markets, support the scheme.
Affordable housing at social rent will be provided in association with Notting Hill Housing Trust, with three 3-bed flats, three 2-bed flats and three 1-bed flats in one of the two Kensington Church Street buildings. A further ten flats will be provided elsewhere. Notting Hill Housing Trust will also benefit from a substantial cash injection for more social housing. The Notting Hill Housing Trust supports the scheme.
Whether or not you like the styling of the buildings – which is necessarily subjective – the quality of both the architecture and materials is very high. Any replacement scheme, if there is one, is unlikely to match this quality, and certainly could not do so without the tower. The Notting Hill Gate Improvement Group supports the scheme.
It is unlikely any other scheme could be financially realistic. The developers are fully-funded from the start, so they do not have to pay interest and can invest 100% in the scheme. Most other developers could not make a return on investment without even greater density of buildings and might well seek a higher tower. Since the planning inspectorate has already given the green light to 18-storeys we could end up with something even taller under another developer.
While all building work entails dislocation, all of the work can be accommodated on site. There will be no road closures. The developer has given the council assurances that all demolition and construction traffic into and from the site will be from Kensington Church Street and NOT through any part of Hillgate Village. This cannot be guaranteed for other developers in future.
The scheme retains and upgrades significant commercial space, which is essential for jobs in the borough, securing jobs and bringing money into the community local shops and restaurants.
Above all, we are trying to be realistic. The developers have worked with us (and consulted the local community unusually widely) over several years to improve the plans and they have gone as far as we believe they can to accommodate our suggestions. If only all developers tried so hard to cooperate with local interests. It is our view that they will almost certainly obtain permission for this revised scheme if it goes to appeal – which will simply waste another year without reaping any advantages.
None of us would have chosen such a tall building here – but given the effort that we and local associations have invested over four years, we genuinely believe that this is the best we will obtain, in quality, local amenities, mix of building uses and social housing and improvements to the public realm.
We urge you not to take the easy option of objecting but to consider carefully why our local doctors, transport chiefs, the farmers ’ market, Notting Hill Housing Trust, others and we are in favour and ask yourself…if not this, then what?