Newcombe House: Third public hearing held in November
The Newcombe House scheme, at the corner of Notting Hill Gate and Kensington Church Street, is one of the most fought over and drawn out projects in London’s modern planning history.
The first discussions between the developer, the council and the GLA were held in 2013, the first formal application came in 2015, and four years later the project is still stuck in a battle between the developer, the council, local residents, the London mayor and the government. During the first and second weeks of November, the scheme’s third public hearing was held in the Grand Plaza Kensington Hotel.
The hearing was the result of the then housing secretary James Brokenshire’s decision in December 2018 to block the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s approval of the third version of the scheme, by issuing a holding direction that prevented work to begin until he had decided if he would call in the application. His call-in came in March 2019, meaning that the Planning Inspectorate should do another planning inquiry of the Newcombe House scheme, in addition to the one made by the inspectorate in February 2017, and the one done by the GLA on behalf of the mayor in September 2018.
To all intents and purposes, the remit of this third hearing, lead by Planning Inspector Christina Downes, was to re-examine the third version of the scheme, which was the one submitted to the GLA hearing and approved by Khan – the version that contains much more affordable housing, a second dedicated lift for the GP’s surgery and an increase of the surgery floor area. Each of the three participants – the developer, the GLA and the council – was represented by a QC and back-up legal teams, leaving little room for the public in the hotel’s bleak conservatory room. On the first two days of the hearing, it was standing room only.
The first day was taken up with a large number of individuals, political representatives, representatives of local amenity societies and residents’ associations who spoke – some at significant length and force – against the proposals.
The Kensington Society has taken a very close interest in the development of the proposals over many years. In spite of its 18-storey tower and hundreds of objections from individuals who hate the idea of a large tower block in the area, the society has remained consistent in its support of the proposals because of the much-needed public benefits which will stimulate a much-needed, and long-awaited regeneration of this important local centre, namely:
- an attractive public square, including provision for the return of the farmers’ market,
- a major GP group practice surgery,
- the provision for step-free access to the District and Circle Line south-bound platform. (Access to the northbound platform is not possible from this site; it would need to be achieved as part of a separate development),
- the replacement and upgrading of the offices and shops, and
- the provision of 55 housing units, including 23 units of affordable housing at social rents, with a proposed legal agreement with Notting Hill Genesis to provide a further 10 affordable socially-rented homes off-site with nomination rights to the council.
One of the society’s trustees, Peter Mishcon, gave evidence on behalf of the Kensington Society and the Ladbroke Association.
The Planning Inspectorate has not yet announced a target date for publication of the inspector’s decision, but we anticipate the decision will be published in April or May of 2020.
The Newcombe House scheme’s third public hearing was held in the Grand Plaza Kensington Hotel’s bleak conservatory room in November, lead by Planning Inspector Christina Downes. On the first two days of the hearing, it was packed.
This picture shows the difference in height between the current Newcombe House (in blue) and the scheme, where the highest of the scheme’s six buildings will be 26 metres higher than the current building, but much more narrow. Picture created from drawings in the application.
The artist’s vision of what the public square in the Newcombe House complex would look like. The three-storey building on the left would have four London Living Rent flats above the ground floor shops, and the GP surgery would occupy the three top floors of the building behind it. To the right of that building, the tower block is visible. Picture courtesy of Brockton Capital and U+I.