The new plans for the large Newcombe House site (outlined in red), at the corner of Notting Hill Gate and Kensington Church Street, are partly different from the approved application and partly resembles it. Picture from Google Earth. (Click to enlarge)

New owners present preliminary thoughts for the Newcombe House site:

Not as high as the approved scheme – but much more massive

After a seven year fight to turn the Newcombe House site – at the corner of Notting Hill Gate and Kensington Church Street – into a high-rise development, developer Brockton Everlast finally received governmental approval for their plan in June 2020. But then nothing happened for almost two years, and there were rumours that Brockton was trying to sell the site. Finally, in March 2022, the trade press announced that the site had been sold to Beltane Asset Management and its American investment partner Angelo Gordon for a reported £100 million, but nothing more was known for several months.

But in the middle of June 2022, representatives from Kensington Society and the neighbouring resident associations where invited to a first briefing in Newcombe House on 20 June 2022, initiated by the council’s planning department, which has had initial discussions with the new owners.

At the meeting, loose plans for the site were presented by Henry Squires of architect firm Squire and Partners, labelled as “preliminary thoughts” that they want to discuss with the residents, the council and local businesses.

The new owners do not intend to use Brockton’s approved planning application, with its mix of offices, shops and luxury and affordable housing, but plan instead to develop a new commercial site that partly retains the existing Newcombe House building. Because that’s Beltane’s speciality: to refurbish commercial properties and then let them to commercial clients, mainly as offices.

Newcombe House to be retained, but more floors may be added

However, in this case, “refurbishment” means much more than a fresh coat of paint inside and out. While the core of Newcombe House will be retained, they hope to add a few more floors to it.

The new owners and Squire and Partners obviously liked Brockton’s plan to build a large boxlike building in front of the tower, covering the small plaza by Notting Hill Gate, so they have kept that box in their “preliminary thoughts”.

Big office building replacing the car park

For the rest of the site they’re contemplating two buildings. At the corner of Kensington Church Street and Kensington Place (where the emptied Royston Court now stands) they would erect one building.

Between that building and the higher Newcombe House they would create one very large office building, which would replace not only the existing buildings along Kensington Church Street, but also cover the large car park behind them (currently used by the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays).

Stepped terrace and indoor food market

To avoid angering the militant residents in Hillgate Village (who vigorously fought Brockton’s plans), the idea is to make it a terraced building which is only two floors high by the Grade II listed District/Circle Line platform roof and then gradually increases in height until it’s even 1-2 floors higher than the buildings on the other site of Kensington Church Street. The ground floor of the new office building would become a combined shopping mall/food market, while there would be offices on all floors above.

“Potentially” a GP surgery

Brockton’s plan included a large GP surgery, which could accommodate both staff and patients from two nearby surgeries which soon must close. In the “preliminary thoughts”, a “potential” GP surgery has been penned in for the Kensington Church Street/Kensington Place corner building, but it would much smaller than the surgery in Brockton’s plan. The new owners also seem to contemplate the possibility of some affordable flats in that building, probably in case the council demands a certain amount of affordable on site.

No plans for step-free tube access

Brockton’s plan also included step-free access to the eastern platform on the District/Circle Line, but there doesn’t seem even any thoughts about step-free Tube station access in the new design.

Regarding the actual design, Henry Squire talked about turning the outside of Newcombe House into a “funky” modern rendition of 1960’s architecture, but wasn’t very specific as to what he meant. The design of the new buildings would probably draw on some of that style, but could also be totally different. Nothing has yet been decided, he said.

Food market questioned

In the discussions following the presentation, the loss of open spaces was immediately commented on, and the commercial sense of creating yet another indoor mall with eateries when several of the existing ones in London are struggling, was questioned. There was also comments about the much smaller GP surgery and the lack of step-free access to the Tube station.

However, Henry Squires, and others representing the new owners, stressed that everything is yet very preliminary, and that they want this initial meeting to be followed by an extensive dialogue about the proposals with residents, residents’ associations, businesses and key stakeholders like the NHS. They aim to submit a planning application in the spring of 2023, and over the coming months they plan to hold workshops with residents’ associations, have public displays, do online presentations (webinars), and launch a website where people can voice their views.

Farmer’s Market ends on 20 August

On 19 July, the new owners announced that, due to insurance issues, the Newcombe House building will emptied of existing tenants (who all are on short-term leases), and be put behind hoarding. A recent survey of the building’s condition had concluded that lack of maintenance during the last nine years could pose a health and safety risk. For the same reason, they have also notified the Farmer’s Market (which has continue to operate in the car park on Saturdays on an expired lease) that the last market will have to be 20 August 2022. Remaining tenants, in the buildings along Kensington Church Street, will be allowed to remain for the time being, but the owners can’t say for how long, as they are also on short-term leases.

This is a model of the approved but abandoned plan for the site. Picture courtesy of Brockton Capital and U+I. (Click to enlarge)

At the meeting, Henry Squires said that they were contemplating adding a few more floors to the Newcombe House building, up to the “shoulder” of Brockton’s tower complex. This is an attempt to visualise this. The grey buildings in the background are Brockton’s three tower buildings, the blue in front is the current Newcombe House, and the red is the contemplated addition up to the “shoulder” of the tower complex, i.e. the roof of Brockton’s eastern tower. (Click to enlarge)

The back of Newcombe House with the large car park, currently used by Farmers’ Market on Saturdays, which the new owners want to cover with a large office block. Picture courtesy of Polity. (Click to enlarge)

Newcombe House viewed from Pembridge Gardens, with the recently refurbished David Game House in front (also designed by Squire & Partners). Picture courtesy of Polity. (Click to enlarge)

First published 26/07/2022