An artist’s rendering of the site, viewed from Notting Hill Gate. Astley House (the Barclays Bank building) is only indicated with dotted lines, in order to show all the buildings. Picture courtesy of Squire & Partners. (Click to enlarge)

The plans for the new and larger Newcombe House are shaping up

After having presented a very loose idea to the local resident associations in late June, the new owner of the Newcombe House development site in Notting Hill Gate, office specialist Beltane, came back with a much more detailed presentation in early October – and it was obvious that some of the views expressed in June had been taken aboard. However, although the highest point will be 17 metres lower than in the approved previous plan, this complex will overall be much larger and more dominant.

At the June meeting, Beltane and their architect (Squire & Partners) presented their “preliminary thoughts”: to refurbish the existing Newcombe House and keep it as an office building, but with 1-2 more floors added; to add a large boxlike building in front of Newcombe House; to create a very large office block that would cover everything between the tube station and Kensington Church Street (including the current car park); and to erect a new Royston Court at the corner of Kensington Church Street and Kensington Place, “probably” containing social housing and “possibly” a GP surgery.

The new office building would be stepped up on the western side: it would only be two floors high by the tube station roof and then gradually increase in height until it would be 1-2 floors higher than the buildings on the other side of Kensington Church Street. Most of the ground floor of the building would be an indoor food court (i.e. an area with several food outlets along the walls, sharing tables and chairs in the middle), with the office workers in the buildings obviously being the food court’s main target group.

After the June presentation, the main issues raised from the resident associations were the loss of open spaces; the plan for an indoor mall with eateries when several of the existing ones in London are struggling; that the boxlike building north of Newcombe House would mean the removal of the very large tree outside Waterstones; that the “possible” GP surgery would be much smaller than the surgery in the approved plan; and the lack of step-free access to the tube station (which also was a feature in the approved plan).

Much more detail

At the October presentations, the “preliminary thoughts” had been turned into something much more solid, and it was obvious that some of the views at the June meeting had been taken into account.

As the plan now stands, the refurbished Newcombe House will have 15 floors (three more than today), making it 55 metres high instead of the current 46 meters. The 7-floor boxlike structure, stuck unto Newcombe House’s northern front, will be “indented” at the corner, to make room for the existing large “Waterstones tree”, and parts of its ground floor will be replaced by pillars to create a covered outdoor “public square”. From it, a 7-metre wide passage (called ‘covered street” by the developer) will go straight through the new office building to the short Newcombe Street, surrounded by various use class E spaces. That building, which towards Kensington Church Street will be 6 floors high in red brick and have arched windows on the ground floor, will midways have another wide passage that crosses the main passage and ends in a 9-metre wide open area next to the tube station.

Use class E allows almost anything

Use class E, introduced in 2020, covers almost everything: shops, supermarkets, cafés, restaurants, offices, banks, estate agents, children’s nurseries, nail bars, acupuncture clinics, gyms, light industry… Consequently, those spaces can be used for almost anything, and that use can change drastically without the need for council approval. In reality, however, the ground floor spaces in this building will probably be a mix of food outlets and shops.

Finally, at the corner of Kensington Church Street and Kensington Place, there will be an 8-floor building, mainly consisting of social housing and a “potential” GP surgery on the ground floor. However, the surgery (if built) will be much smaller than the one in the approved plans.

Lots of balconies

The refurbished Newcombe House will have lots of large balconies with greenery, and there will also be leafy roof terraces on all the buildings – in order to provide the office staff with plenty of outdoor spaces.

The new office building’s stepped up height from the tube station roof will now be much steeper, which residents in Hillgate Village, on the other side of the tub station roof, probably won’t appreciate.

The narrow Uxbridge Street alleyway, running between the tube’s electric substation and David Game House, is also part of the site and will be landscaped and have cycle bays and seating.

No step-free planned

There are still no plans for step-free access to the tube. The developer says it can’t be done, although Newcombe House was identified as a possible site in the Notting Hill Gate Station entrance relocation feasibility study, commissioned by London Underground in 2013, as the ticket hall is located under the street just in front of Newcombe House.

What happens next?

During the autumn, the developer plans to continue discussions with locals and businesses, hoping to submit the planning application in early 2023 and get a final approval before the end of 2023. If so, the work would start in the spring of 2024 and take two years. So, in the spring of 2026 the buildings should be ready for occupation.

Click on one of the pictures in the gallery above, in order to step through them in full size and read the captions. All pictures based on those presented by the developer.

Newcombe House as it looks today…

The Newcombe House complex as it looks right now. The red line shows the border of the site. Newcombe House, at the top of the site, has 12 floors, Royston Court, at the bottom, has five, and the two lower buildings between them have one and two floors.  Picture from Google Street View. (Click to expand)

At the moment, the Newcombe House complex consists of the 46 metres high Newcombe House (built in 1958-60) at the corner of Notting Hill Gate and Kensington Church Street; two low buildings along Kensington Church Street (1 and 2 floors); a large car park between them and the roof of the Notting Hill tube station’s southern platform (which since 1999 has hosted a farmers’ market on Saturdays); and, finally, the 5-floor Royston Court at the corner of Kensington Church Street and Kensington Place.

All the buildings have until recently contained offices and/or shops, except Royston Court, which for many years had 20 social rented studio flats for former rough sleepers, but these flats were emptied several years ago, with the tenants being housed elsewhere by the council.

…and the approved but abandoned plan

A CGI image of what the approved but abandoned scheme would have looked like along Kensington Church Street. In comparison, the new plan has increased Newcombe House to the height of the lower of the two towers, and the two buildings along Kensington Church Street will be seven and eight floors, while the corresponding buildings in the approved scheme would have had four and five floors. Picture courtesy of Brockton Capital. (Click to expand)

The previous plan, by developer Brockton Capital, was finally was approved in July 2020 after seven years of applications, refusals, approvals and three public hearings.

If that complex had been built, all the existing buildings on the site would have disappeared. Newcombe House would have been replaced by one 7-floor building and a two-height tower where one part would reach 55 metres and the highest 72 metres. Attached to the two-height tower, there would be a 4-floor boxy office building facing Notting Hill Gate. A wide passageway through that building and the tower would lead into a large public square where the car park used to be and where the farmer’s market would return on Saturdays.

The buildings along Kensington Church Street would have been replaced by one 4-floor and one 5-floor building, with a passageway between them to the square behind. On the west side of the square there would be a long 3-floor house and on the southern side there would be a boxy 3-floor office building.

Brockton’s Newcombe House complex would have contained 55 flats, whereof 23 affordable, plus 5,000m² office space and 2,600m² retail space. Most importantly, it would have had a very large 3-floor doctor’s surgery, the square would have continued to host the farmers’ market on Saturdays, and there would have been step-free access to the eastern platform on the District/Circle Line.

However, after the approval (which came in the midst of the Covid pandemic) the developer went very silent and nothing happened for almost two years, while rumours emerged that the site was up for sale. 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.

First published 19/10/2022