For the attention of the Assistant Director,
Strategic Planning & Infrastructure.
Planning Department RBK
KINGSTON UPON THAMES
21st July 2020
19/02323/FUL : Canbury Place Car Park 12-52 Kingsgate Road, 13-43 Richmond Road Kingston Upon Thames KT2 5AAHybrid application for up to 445 no. residential dwellings comprising:Detailed applicat...
Planning Officer: Karen Coles
Response to the updated application:
Issued on 21 Jul 2020
I write on behalf of the Kingston upon Thames Society, which wants its formal objections to the above amended scheme taken into account.
The height of the main block of the scheme at 17 storeys + Ground floor is excessive in a context where most of the recent developments are only 6-8 storeys high (Regents Court, Sopwith Way, 6 storeys; Royal Quarter Kings Way, 6; Berkeley Homes, Kingsway, 6; Berkeley Homes facing Kingsgate Road, 8). Despite the applicant’s arguing that the building will hardly be seen from numerous vantage points, we do not agree with this statement. At 17+1 storeys it WILL be visible from those crossing Kingston Bridge, the footpath alongside Home Park & in the distance from Richmond Park’s protected view. It will also dominate the view of Kingston Station looking from the town centre (from the south). In connexion with this, we suspect that the illustrations on p. 26 of the Design & Access Statement Addendum are ‘wide angle’, which misleadingly minimises the impact of the heights of the development compared to the existing buildings. The east elevation on p.27 gives a more realistic view of the harmful impact of the development on the surrounding townscape.
The architects maintain that they have made “changes to the articulation of the facades introducing visual breaks “ & by “ identifying the communal amenity floor “ [11th floor] the Society maintains that the design of the various facades is bland & unrelieved at best, with nothing to commend them. They lack any proper architectural skill & imagination despite the views given by the Design Review panel. It is very regrettable that neither the applicant nor the Council have published the Design Review Panel’s reports in full as part of the application, denying the public important information relating to this application. This suggests that the Panel may have made other relevant comments which the public are denied and that have not been addressed by the applicant.
RBK’s Views Study – which incidentally has never been released for public consultation – states at Para 4.58 that there should be “sensitive integration “ etc. etc. This scheme - due to its excessive height & harsh elevations – cannot be described as being “sensitively integrated into its surrounding buildings”.
RBK’s Policy CS8 states that “the Council will protect the primarily suburban character of the Borough.. buildings of high quality..”. The Council will seek opportunities for “…sensitive enhancement ..” New development should relate well to its surrounding.. Tall buildings MAY be appropriate but in some areas they will be inappropriate or too sensitive for such buildings..” The Society suggests that this scheme will be clearly seen by residents across the north Kingston area with roads such as Acre, Gibbon, East, Kings’ & Richmond Park Roads all being significantly affected.
The North Kingston area & the roads mentioned above & the area adjacent to Canbury Gardens & the Thames are primarily 2-3 storeys high, suburban in character. The Council’s Policies support this statement. RBK’s adopted Policy DM12 states that “Development in Conservation Areas which affects heritage assets should “promote high quality design.. enhancing locally distinctive Heritage Assets [HA’s] the Society recognises that this site is not within a CA but it will be clearly seen from the Canbury, North Kingston, Kingston Town Centre CA’s. These are designated “heritage assets ”within the meaning of the NPPF.
The NPPF Para 127 states that “...buildings should be visually attractive as a result of good architecture .. & be sensitive to local character & history including the surrounding built environment & landscape setting”.
Chapter 16 of the 2019 NPPF describes HA’s as being “ an irreplaceable resource & should be conserved in a manner appropriate to their significance so as to be enjoyed for their contribution to the quality of life ..” etc. etc.
The architects allege that there will be little or no harm to the 2 adjacent Listed Buildings – Kingston College building & the Regal cinema on Richmond Road & that the scheme “ preserves “the special architectural & historic interest” of these two buildings & the Conservation Areas affected by the development”. This assertion seems to lack any credibility because the heights and overbearing massing of the new development will be overly disproportionate to the Listed buildings. The Society would argue the exact opposite were it be given the chance to do so, saying that there will be “substantial harm” caused to all of the surrounding area both adjacent to it & across a much wider area. The Society totally refutes the applicant’s statement at their Paras 6.8 & 6.9 of the Heritage Impact report.
At 6.18 the applicants allege that their scheme follows RBK’s Action Plan requiring “the highest standards of design in all new developments”. They suggest that the setting of landmarks & Conservation Areas have been preserved. Again we disagree with this statement & with their allegation that the setting of HA’s have been preserved by this scheme. It will unavoidably cause substantial harm to the character of the adjacent older buildings, the wider street scene and neighbouring amenities (chapter 12, NPPF 2019).
The Kingston upon Thames Society has fought against inappropriate new developments across the Royal Borough for many years. We are on record opposing that Kingston Borough be declared an “Development Opportunity Area” some time ago which has resulted in a host of Applications such as this one being submitted with the tacit understanding by the developers that it may succeed.
We deplore this state of affairs & sincerely hope that Councillors will read our opinions above & refuse this Application outright.
Response to the original application:
Issued on 13 Nov 2019
The Kingston upon Thames Society objects to this application.
We agree with the very strong objection made by the Kingston Town CAAC and we also strongly object to this application for the following reasons:
The height and massing of the proposed development would cause substantial harm to Kingston Old Town Conservation Area (CA1) under paragraph 195 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and conflict with Historic England/ CABE’s guidelines on Tall Buildings, the London Plan, and RBK’s own Core Plan (CS8 and DM12)
The height and massing of the development may cause less than substantial harm to Riverside North (CA25), Riverside South (CA24), Liverpool Road (CA5), Park Road (CA15) and Fairfield/Knights Park (CA6) Conservation Areas under paragraph 196 of the NPPF. But please note, as the courts have confirmed, less than substantial harm does not equate to a less than substantial objection
The height and massing of the development may result in less than substantial harm to Grade I listed All Saints Church and Grade II* listed Market House, Cleaves Almshouses and Lovekyn Chapel under paragraph 196 of the NPPF but, again, this does not mean a less than substantial objection
There are insufficient public benefits from the application to justify this harm to Kingston Town heritage assets
The applicant’s heritage statement does not identify all the heritage assets affected by their proposals contrary to paragraph 189 of the NPPF. Omissions include views to/ from all three Royal Parks (Bushy, Hampton Court & Richmond) in the area.
The proposed very bland & repetitive elevations, which show little or no architectural interest, & hardly any variation in appearance across the whole scheme
Furthermore, the proposed scheme does not conform to the Council’s North Kingston Development Brief published in October 2016. Delivering that brief was a condition of the Council’s sale of the development site to the applicant and, among other things, placed a maximum height restriction of 12 storeys and promised a substantial new public realm. Whereas the current scheme proposes a 25-storey tower and a limited public realm.
The Society sets the reasoning for our objection below.:
The Kingsgate site is a small area of land north of Kingston railway station that currently comprises a car park and a set of small shops/ businesses. Adjacent to the site is the Grade II listed former Regal Cinema, currently undergoing re-development. Designed by well-known theatre architect Robert Cromie, this building is a well-preserved example of an inter-war art-deco cinema. It does not have a specifically designed relationship to the application site and therefore we agree that the principle of redeveloping Kingsgate, e.g. for affordable housing, has some merit but that would be subject to the height, massing and design of the proposals in question being appropriate.
However the height of the proposed development is vastly inappropriate to the area and, indeed, the borough as a whole. It would have a serious harmful impact on the special interest of many of the conservation areas, listed and locally listed buildings in Kingston Town. While the applicant has made some efforts to reduce the harm done to the setting of the Grade II listed Regal Cinema, by proposing that the neighbouring block would not dwarf this heritage asset, this concession comes at the cost of a 25-storey, 84 metre tall tower far taller than anything which currently has permission in Kingston Town or the Borough as a whole.
In addition, the mass of the proposed development is overwhelming, particularly when combined with the recently completed Queenshurst blocks immediately adjacent.
The applicant has submitted a heritage statement to support their proposals which fails to identify all of the heritage assets that would be adversely impacted by them and dismisses key views in order to justify them. In the absence of a comprehensive, accurate heritage assessment we set out our specific concerns as follows:
CA1: Kingston Old Town
The principal impact of the development would be on this Conservation Area.
Kingston Old Town is Kingston town’s first and foremost Conservation Area, significant as the historic centre of Kingston, the character and appearance of which is evident from its street pattern, narrow plot widths, materials and the range and quality of building designs therein. In particular, the height of these buildings, which are mostly between two and four storeys, greatly contributes to the special character and appearance of the area, which is noted in the Conservation Area appraisal. Views to, from and within this Conservation Area are also crucial keys to its character and appearance.
The core of Kingston Old Town is the Medieval Quarter which features a high number of listed buildings, including the Grade II* listed Market House and Grade I listed All Saints Church. The enclosure of this area by buildings of relatively low height means that much of the modern development of Kingston is screened from it. However, the proposed 25-storey Kingsgate tower would loom over it, as a solitary modern building of extraordinary scale, visible from within the Medieval Quarter, in stark contrast to those buildings which form part of the Quarter’s character. The appearance of this area, which has developed over the course of the 15th through 19th centuries, evident in its low building heights, would be significantly harmed by the proposed structure, which would undo its special interest. In particular views of the Market House, which is identified as an important historical focal point, would be blighted by the proposed tower. There is no doubt in our minds this would result in substantial harm.
In addition to views from within this Conservation Area being harmed, the 25-storey tower would also have a negative impact on views to and from the Conservation Area. The applicant’s heritage statement dismisses any adverse impact on views of All Saints Church. Yet the proposed tower would be clearly visible e.g. from the riverside, where the Church is a landmark and an important identifier of Kingston’s historic development. Furthermore, the existing views of the riverside are very pleasant with many of its buildings of a similar scale and mass. But the proposed tower would dwarf these structures and impair the landscape by its alien interaction with these buildings.
In their report on the recent Surrey House appeal (which was dismissed very recently), the independent Planning Inspectorate found that scheme, a substantially smaller development than Kingsgate, was consistently above the six to eight storey guideline of the Eden Quarter, and would have a poor relationship with the smaller scale of the nearby Kingston Old Town townscape and fail to achieve the graduation in heights, modulated roofscape and variety of architecture expected. They concluded the scheme would dominate the setting of this Conservation Area and associated heritage assets and thereby diminish their value and significance. The planning Inspector cited paragraph 193 of the NPPF which requires great weight to be given to an asset’s conservation, irrespective of whether the potential harm from development amounts to less than substantial harm. In this case the significance of multiple heritage assets would have been harmed without being outweighed by public benefits and the scheme was rightly refused.
In summary, the proposed 25-storey Kingsgate tower would have a serious adverse impact on Kingston Old Town and also on the Grade I listed All Saints Church and Grade II* listed Market House. In particular views from within the Medieval Quarter, which is limited to the two to four storey buildings which enclose it, would be lost. These views are an important aspect of the character and appearance of this key conservation area and there is little doubt the construction of a nearby 25-storey tower would result in substantial harm to the special interest of the Conservation Area and its listed buildings under paragraph 195 of the NPPF.
CA’s 24 & 25: Riverside South & Riverside North
While the principal impact of the proposal will be on Kingston Old Town Conservation Area, the height of the tower will impact on other Conservation Areas in Kingston Town. This will include both Riverside South and Riverside North Conservation Areas.
These Conservation Areas derive their character and appearance from the tranquil nature of the river and the largely sympathetic development which has accompanied it.
In the case of the Riverside North CA there are a number of “Local Areas of Special Character” and locally listed, if not listed, buildings together with many others that make a positive or at worst neutral contribution to this area of generally small scale two to five storey structures. The Conservation Area Appraisal notes that the eight storey Albany flats on Lower Ham Road have a harmful impact on the area. The “Trafalgar Building” also falls within this category with its harmful impact on the openness of Canbury Gardens & views from far & wide, including Richmond Park. But even this building is ‘only’ 12 storeys and 42 metres in height, half the height of the proposed 25-storey tower in Kingsgate. As acknowledged in the applicant’s heritage statement, the 25-storey tower would be visible from within Canbury Gardens and would cause harm to the openness of this space. This may result in less than substantial harm to the setting of the CA25 under paragraph 196 of the NPPF, the
The Society repeats that less than substantial harm does not equate to a less than substantial objection.
The Riverside South Conservation Area forms a key approach into Kingston, with views toward the centre of the Town. The northern part of this Conservation Area includes a number of high quality 19th century buildings, the Grade II* listed St Raphael’s Church and Grade II listed Hermes Hotel and 3 Surbiton Road. While there has been some modern development, the area’s 19th century origins are still very evident. Despite the application site’s distance from the Conservation Area, the height of the proposed 24 storey tower means it would still be visible and have a detrimental impact on CA 24’s character. Again this may result in less than substantial harm to the Conservation Area and its aforementioned listed buildings under paragraph 196 of the NPPF, but that does not mean a less than substantial objection.
CA5’s,6 &15: Liverpool Road, Fairfield/Knights Park, & Park Road
Liverpool Road, Fairfield/Knights Park and Park Road Conservation Areas all derive their special interest from their 19th century origins linked to the growth of Kingston Town. The character of these areas is evident from the materials, design and scale of their housing and commercial units. They are still very much identifiable as Victorian areas albeit with some encroachment from 20th century development particularly in Fairfield/Knights Park Conservation Area. The latter is close to a number of existing and permitted taller buildings although much less tall than the proposed 25-storey Kingsgate tower. This tower may cause less than substantial harm to the character and appearance of these Conservation Areas but, again, this does not mean a less than substantial objection to it
The applicant’s heritage statement assesses inexplicably only the impact of their proposals on All Saints Church, Guildhall and 23/ 24 Market Place, rather than on all heritage assets which would be adversely affected by them. It is not clear whether the applicant has conducted any search of the Historic Environment Record, which should have been required before this Application was even validated, never mind ready to be determined by Planning Officers.
This grave omission is particularly evident with regard to the Grade II* listed Lovekyn Chapel and Grade II* listed Cleaves Almshouses. Both heritage assets are set amongst other buildings of a small scale ensuring they are not alienated from their surroundings. The proposed 24 storey tower, however, would loom over both buildings and impact adversely on how they are both viewed. This may result in less than substantial harm to both structures under paragraph 196 of the NPPF but, again, still a substantial objection.
In addition, there are many other Grade II listed and locally listed buildings not included here which would be impacted adversely by the development. Consequently the Society argues that the applicant’s heritage statement is not fully compliant with paragraph 189 of the NPPF.
The heritage statement is also seriously deficient because it does not assess the impact of the proposed development on views to/ from the Royal Parks, namely Bushy Park, Hampton Court Park and its Grade I listed Hampton Court Palace, and Richmond Park.
While there are a number of public benefits associated with this application, including affordable housing, some limited public realm provision, and regeneration of the Kingsgate site, in our opinion these are wholly insufficient to outweigh the level of harm the proposed development would cause to the heritage assets in Kingston Town. The loss of Kingsgate Road, a main thoroughfare out of Town, is also considered by us to be a major disbenefit of the scheme.
The proposed new route to Richmond using the Seven Kings Way will load an enormous extra load onto that fairly narrow & winding road, which then arrives at a set of traffic lights currently controlling traffic entering & exiting the Sainsbury’s car park & the Nuffield Gym, as well as cars arriving & leaving the adjacent RBK multi storey car park & many other residential properties in adjacent roads. This would cause significant extra-long delays for local residents & others trying to get to the Sainsbury’s store & to Richmond Road. The resulting potential traffic chaos would cause yet another public disbenefit.
The Society strongly advises Councillors & Officers to refuse the current application under the NPPF, together with Guidelines on Tall Buildings issued by Historic England & CABE, the London Plan, and the Council’s own Core Plan CS8 (Character, Design & Heritage) and DM12 (Development Affecting Heritage Assets).
For and on behalf of the Kingston upon Thames Society
Anthony Evans : Chairman
30 Presburg Road
New Malden KT3 5AH