The Imperial West development lies just across the border in Hammersmith & Fulham. Kensington and Chelsea Council are not the planning authority, and so have limited influence on the outcome.
What part is the council playing, in trying to protect this part of North Kensington from being blighted by high rise devekopment?
Our local ward councillors in Notting barns Ward, especially Cllr Judith Blakeman, have been very supportive of the campaign to oppose Imperial’s plans. The Council too has registered its objections to that part of the White City Opportunity Area Planning Framework which suggests that very tall buildings are appropriate beside Westway.
The Royal Borough submitted formal comments to London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham in June 2011. Among the statements made were:
‘RBKC strongly objects to proposals for tall buildings set out in the OAPF, especially as these present an inappropriate scale in this part of London. RBKC is not convinced that the north of the OA, along the Westway, is a gateway to London.’
‘RBKC objects most strongly to proposals for taller buildings (12 – 15 storeys) and towers of approximately 20 – 30 storeys along the Westway (as set out in section 4.4.2 of the OAPF), especially those that disrupt views into and from the Oxford Gardens Conservation Area’.
‘The Oxford Gardens Conservation Area (characterised by 2 storey terraces) is located in close proximity to the northern boundary of the Opportunity Area and the Norland Conservation Area (characterised by 4 storey terraces) is located to the south east of the OA. Great care must be taken when considering the location of taller buildings in the OA, especially taking into account views to and from conservation areas.’
The extent to which these comments have had any effect will become more clear when LBHF publish the revised version of the White City OAPF. This was scheduled to happen in October 2011, but it now looks likely that the new OAPF will not be published until the early months of 2012.
In the meantime. RB Kensington & Chelsea have submitted comments to LB Hammersmith & Fulham on the ‘scoping’ application submitted by Imperial for Phase 2 of Imperial West.
RBK&C have commented ‘In terms of the impact of high buildings RBKC Core Strategy Policy CL2 (j) (v) must be included – this requires any proposal to demonstrate that the building has a wholly positive visual impact on the quality and character of the Borough‟s townscape when viewed from the Royal Borough. Saved UDP Policy CD63 should also be referred to which considers the effects of proposals and views into and out of conservation areas and the effect of development on sites adjacent to such areas.
Kensington & Chelsea Council are one of the formal consultees for the Phase 2 application at Imperial West. The St Helens Residents Association hopes and expects that the council will continue with its robust opposition to the current planning application.
The position may be complicated by the ‘Triborough’ arrangements between the two councils (along with Westminster City Council) to share a range of services and management arrangements in order to reduce costs.
The planning function is one that the three Boroughs have said will not be shared, and that each Council will continue to set its own planning policies and make its own decisions Paragraph 9 of the ‘sovereignty agreement’ signed up to by the three councils states ‘The boundaries of the areas for which each Council is responsible will not change. Each Council will continue to speak up for its own residents, even where there is an apparent conflict of interest between the boroughs’.
Imperial West looks like being a case where the views of Hammersmith & Fulham on the one hand, and Kensington & Chelsea on the other, will be very different. Yet there remains some nervousness amongst local residents that political deals have been done, between the two councils and with the Mayor of London. This applies to Imperial West and to other major developments in which both councils have an interest, at Earls Court and at Westfield 2.
Recent decisions by the Mayor for London, which have temporarily checked the progress of the Earls Court and the Hammersmith Town Hall/King Street schemes, have provided some reassurance that GLA planners and the Mayor will act independently of H&F’s aspirations.
Local residents in North Kensington will be continuing to watch very carefully what happens next in the planning processes for the series of developments on the Hammersmith/Kensington border, and which are subject to a GLA view. If there are signs that political allegiances are over-riding objective planning policies, or that deals have been made, the level of public outcry is sure to increase.