This is what the artist imagines the westward view of Notting Hill Gate will look like afterwards, with the refurbished Astley House (the Barclays Bank building) in the foreground on the southern side, and the new Newcombe House behind it. Picture courtesy of Brockton Capital and U+I.

Sadiq Khan approves the Newcombe House project

On Tuesday 18 September, after seven years of discussions, revisions, two refused planning applications and one planning inspector decision, London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, decided that the Newcombe House project, at the corner of Notting Hill Gate and Kensington Church Street, should be allowed to proceed. Unless someone can successfully convince a court that there are grounds for a judicial review, because the mayor has acted outside his powers, hasn’t followed the correct procedure, or have taken a totally unreasonable decision, his decision cannot be overruled.

Khan took his decision after a two hour public hearing in City Hall, proceeded by a public consultation in July and August. You can see the whole 2-hour hearing here.

The project allowed is not exactly like the application refused by the RBKC planning committee in January 2018, but a revised version submitted in July in response to Khan’s decision to “call in” the application in March. In his 26 March letter, where Khan explained why he had decided to “call in” (i.e. take over the decision from RBKC) the latest application, he made it clear that although he was largely positive to the plans, he hoped to be able to squeeze further concessions from the developer, which he felt that RBKC had neglected to do.

So when the developer began discussions with the GLA planning team, it was agreed that the height on some of the buildings could be increased in order to provide more affordable housing on site. And in July, the developer presented the revised plan, which will provide 23 affordable flats on-site instead of 9, a further 10 affordable two-bedroom flats off-site, more office space and improvements for the large GP surgery, such as giving it two lifts instead of just one.

In order to achieve this, one of the two buildings along Kensington Church Street (KCS1) will have five floors instead of four and the doctors’ surgery building (WPB3) will have seven floors instead of five.

While the increased height of KCS1 will hardly be noticeable, as the added floor will replace a planned roof garden, the two additional floors on WPB3 will be visible from certain angles. WPB3 was originally planned to have seven floors, but two were removed before the first application in 2015, so the revised plan reinstates those two floors.

The surgery will take the three top floors of WPB3, while first and second floor will be offices. The surgery will also be serviced with two lifts instead of only one, and the total surgery space will be slightly larger than in the 2017 plan.

The 23 affordable flats will consist of 15 socially rented and eight let at London Living Rent (LLR) levels. The 15 socially rented flats (12 one-bed and 3 two-bed) will all be in KCS2 (the building at the corner of Kensington Church Street and Kensington Place), while four LLR flats (2 one-bed and 2 three-bed) will cover the first floor of KCS1. WPB1 (the three storey building along the tube station) will house the remaining four LLR flats (3-bed duplexes) above the ground floor shops.

The revised plans mean that the housing mix will change drastically: from 37 full market price leasehold flats and 9 affordable rented, to 32 full priced leasehold flats and 23 affordable rented.

Eleven of the full priced leasehold flats (5 one-bed and 6 two-bed) will be situated on floors 2-5 of KCS1, while the corner building (CB, i.e. the tower) will, as before, have 21 larger full market price leasehold flats (18 three-bed flats and 3 four-bed duplexes) on floors 4-17.

The provision of office and retail space remain largely unchanged from the application, i.e. almost 5,000m² office space and 2,600m² retail space. Also, the farmer’s market will remain in the public square as planned, as will the step-free access to one of the Circle Line/District Line platforms.

When the mayor delivered his decision, he said:

This is a well designed scheme that delivers significant public benefits, including a new public square and a GP surgery. I’m clear that we must deliver good growth which ensures that existing communities are respected and that careful consideration is given to impacts on their lives and livelihoods. I have therefore carefully considered all the evidence available to me, including the visual impact of the development on the surrounding townscape and historic environment. I’ve also listened carefully to the concerns of residents. In my view, the proposed design is a significant improvement on the existing, and the scheme delivers a number of public benefits. I consider that the significant public benefits offered by the applicant outweigh any harm to heritage setting and townscape. This is a scheme that will deliver many good things for Londoners on an accessible and well-connected brown field site where we must be directing our growth. For these reasons, I agree with my planning officers’ recommendation and grant planning permission for this development.

And in a statement after the hearing, he added: “Since taking office, I’ve been clear I will use all the levers at my disposal to increase the supply of council, social rented, and other genuinely affordable homes that Londoners need across the capital. London’s housing crisis won’t be solved overnight – but I hope this will send a clear message that I expect developments to include more genuinely affordable housing and other benefits for local people.

On Tuesday 18 September 2018, the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, held a two hour public hearing in City Hall’s auditorium “The Chamber”, before deciding that the highly contested Newcombe House project could go ahead.

The GP surgery building, WPB3, will be two floors higher than previously planned. The surgery will occupy the three top floors and will have two lifts. Three-storey WPB1 will have four London Living Rent flats above the ground floor shops. Picture courtesy of Brockton Capital and U+I.

Of the two buildings along Kensington Church Street, KCS1 will be one floor higher than KCS2. KCS2 will have 15 socially rented flats, while KCS1 will have four London Living Rent flats on the first floor. Picture courtesy of Brockton Capital and U+I.

Article published 02/10/2018