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Monday, 9 February 2015

KEEP OBJECTING TO THE HOLIDAY INN CASINO MONSTROSITY

MONSTER CASINO SITE
As usual, the Kensington Society has produced a finely researched piece of work in objection to the grant of planning permission for Holiday Inn, Kensington Forum.
The public consultation ends today, but that friend of developers, Mr Bore is legally bound to accept objections UNTIL THE DAY OF DECISION.
These cannot, at this stage, be on licensing grounds. 

Michael Bach's excellent letter to the planning dept provides a litany of reasons for objecting to this monster casino. 
It is long, but well worth reading, as a masterwork in how to structure a cogent objection.

We should still continue to keep up the pressure by writing in with our objections to: daniel.massey@rbkc.gov.uk or planning@rbkc.gov.uk




Dear Mr Massey,

PP/14/08952:  The Holiday Inn, Kensington Forum Hotel, 97-109 Cromwell Road, LONDON, SW7 4DN 

Demolition of existing structures and provision of a casino (Sui Generis Use) with ancillary restaurant; facade improvements to hotel podium, associated landscaping, plant, car/cycle parking and other works.
(MAJOR DEVELOPMENT) 

I am writing on behalf of the Kensington Society to object to this proposal develop a major casino, with ancillary restaurant (2,345sqm NIA) on land that has been open land for the last 40 years.

Our grounds for objecting are:
·      historic restrictions on site development
·      the loss of open space
·      the likely impact on parking and traffic
·      the impact of the casino on the surrounding area
·      the impact of the building on townscape

Historic restrictions on site development:

The site is covered by the London Squares Preservation Act 1931, which seeks to protect London squares from development. London squares are also part of the Borough’s legacy as heritage assets. Their preservation has been supported by successive development plans at the London and Borough levels. Currently this covered by the London Plan Policy 7.18B and Core Strategy Policy CR5. The basic principle is that the loss of local protected open spaces must be resisted unless equivalent or better provision is made.

The site was redeveloped for a major hotel following a consent in June 1970 and an agreement was reached between the Royal Borough and the developer on 1 February 1971 under the London Squares Preservation Act 1931 that the retained amount of open space, after swapping it around to enable the development, was equivalent to the pre-existing space covered by the Act.  In other words, the spaces were allowed to be rearranged but the amount of open space was to be retained equal to the Victorian open plan. 

In November 1984 an application (TP/84/1585) for a 379sqm restaurant extension into the existing garden was refused, because it would worsen the appearance of the building, result in the loss of open area and increase traffic congestion. This refusal was upheld on appeal on 15 August 1985.

In June 1987 a further application (TP/87/1233), including the addition of a new banqueting suite and meeting rooms on the Cromwell Road frontage with an area of 484sqm was refused on 5 January 1988, for the same reasons as before. This appeal was also dismissed on 12 December 1988 because of the further loss of open space and the effect this would have in increasing the impact of the already very dominant building.

These two decisions confirmed that there was no scope for further development of the remaining open space on this site as there was no scope for equivalent replacement open space within the site.

Loss of open space:

The current proposal is significantly bigger than the two previous applications – with a footprint of at least 1,400sqm - and, therefore, would involve a considerably greater loss of garden land than either of the previously-refused schemes, contrary to Section 3A of the London Squares Preservation Act 1931. There is provision in the 1931 Act for exchange of land, equivalent in area and amenity value, to offset any losses. It is impossible to find an equivalent amount of open land to make good this further loss of protected open space. As a result, this proposal would not meet the requirements of the London Squares Preservation Act 1931.

In terms of the Core Strategy this loss of open space is contrary to:

Core Strategy Policy CR5: Parks, Gardens, Open Spaces and Waterways as adopted on 3 December 2014, which states that:

“The Council will: 
a.  resist the loss of existing … private communal open space and private     open space where the space contributes to the character and appearance of the area; and

c.  resist development that has an adverse effect on garden squares and communal gardens, including proposals for basement.”

Two previous schemes, which both involved a smaller loss of open space than the current proposal, were refused and the appeals dismissed. With a footprint of nearly three times the largest previous scheme, the loss of garden space on this scale is totally unacceptable. The planning history of this site more than demonstrates that this scheme should be refused.

Impact on parking, traffic and access

The current proposal for a major casino of 2,345 sqm (2,787sqm in some documents) spread over two floors, designed to handle 1,500 customers per 24-hour day, 365 days a year, and employing 120 people. No matter what the applicant’s consultant says, this proposal would be likely to generate additional traffic and, therefore, increased problems in terms of congestion and parking. This development is significantly larger than previous schemes in the 1980s – 379sqm and 484sqm respectively – which were considered to result in an unacceptable increase in parking stress.

The whole of this part of Courtfield Ward suffers from parking stress – more than 90% of the residents’ parking spaces occupied - and in the evenings, when single yellow lines and pay-and-display parking are available for anyone to park from 6.30pm, almost all available space is occupied. Residents’ parking spaces are exclusively for residents until 10pm and from 8.30am the following morning. Despite the very apparent parking stress, the “opportunity” to park would fail to discourage people seeking local on-street parking spaces.

The area cannot accommodate an additional traffic-generating use of this scale.  Whilst the ability to find on-street parking would be constrained by the limited availability of such spaces, it would increase the competition with residents returning home after 10pm and increase the congestion and amount of driving in search of car parking spaces.

The submitted Parking Management Plan (para 4.8) suggests that on-site parking at the hotel (20 spaces) and at the Millennium Hotel (50 spaces if available) could provide off-street parking for a significant proportion of valet parking, but that 30% of cars would be self-parked in the locality. The proposals for staff parking, given the high proportion working “unsocial” hours, are totally unrealistic – expecting them to park in off-street car parks, when they may well seek free on-street parking in the neighbourhood. Whilst the number might be reduced by the Travel Plan for staff, not the casino clients – say from 20% to 10% - that could still leave as many as 15 cars of staff members looking for spaces on-street, if they could find them!

The bottom line, if the Parking Management Plan is to be believed, is that this development, as a result of 30% of customers and staff coming by car seeking on-street parking spaces, would cause exacerbate an already difficult situation – absolutely no evidence is provided of the existing levels of “parking stress” in the neighbourhood; it is promised once the casino opens!

The Core Strategy, the Transport Supplementary Planning Document and the saved UDP policies support our objection:
 
Policy CT 1: Improving alternatives to car use
The Council will ensure that there are better alternatives to car use by making it easier and more attractive to walk, cycle and use public transport and by managing traffic congestion and the supply of car parking.
To deliver this the Council will:
b. require it to be demonstrated that development will not result in any material increase in traffic congestion or on-street parking pressure;
Policy CL 5: Amenity
The Council will require new buildings, extensions and modifications and small-scale alterations and additions, to achieve high standards of amenity.
To deliver this the Council will:
d. require that there is no significant impact on the use of buildings and spaces due to increases in traffic, parking, noise, odours or vibration.

Access:

The restaurant entrance and the separate casino entrance face Cromwell Road, one of the busiest roads in the Borough.  A taxi or a valet driven car stopping on this road would add further to the already existing congestion.  We understand that the casino is positioning itself as a venue for hen and stag nights, office parties, etc– and where are the coaches going to disgorge the revellers? 

We also understand that the applicant has applied for a taxi rack on Ashburn Gardens.  How the truth comes out.  The applicant has realised that there will be an increase need for taxis.  Ashburn Gardens and Courtfield Road are residential blocks.  The casino is to operate 24 hours which means these taxis will be constantly starting and stopping, often in cold weather leaving their engines running, people telling the taxi driver where to go before entering the taxi then slamming doors.  To allow a taxi rack to serve late night – and early morning – casino clients will disturb the peace and quiet of the evening and early mornings, and is objectionable. 


Impact on the townscape of the surrounding area:

The proposal is to build a two-storey block filling all of the Cromwell Road frontage garden area to form a podium round the existing hotel.


Impact on the openness:

The pavement along Cromwell Road is wide allowing both the pedestrians clear passage and space for the bus stop and numerous telephone booths, all of which are benefits to the public.  The applicant’s statement says “The open area of pavement and limited landscaping at the Cromwell Road frontage provides little benefit in terms of amenity.  The Cromwell Road is extremely busy (being 4 lanes) and noisy and is certainly not an environment where one might wish to loiter or seek solitude”. This obviously misses the point of what open spaces provide –it is not always a place to sit or even loiter.  It is a visual amenity, a relief from congestion and a place for planting which reduces carbon dioxide.   The solid face of a building set forward of the other buildings adjoining the site will give no relief – it will be a solid mass – a bunker - creating a tunnel effect. 

Loss of amenity:

This application seeks to slip in further changes to the remaining garden to the south of the hotel. The existing area along Courtfield Road and Ashburn Gardens has a line of London Plane trees with a fence separating the open area with a paved path from the street.  The plan of the existing within the application is false – it does not show the pavement along Ashburn Gardens and appears that the open area is only on Courtfield Road.  It is not economical with the truth – it is bold lie, a falsehood which should not be allowed.  The pavement area under the Plane trees on both the roads has been used by the public from the time when the hotel was built.  The original plan was to allow the garden area open to the public though over time both the area have been reduced by the encroachment of paved café areas and access reduced.  The landscape plan within the application furthers this erosion to the point that the existing and much used and loved pavement is incorporated into the enclosed area – the future is evident – the public will be restricted from free access.   This is a major loss of a public amenity.  This alone is a deal breaker.

Building

The height of the building would be 10.8m and would extend from corner to corner of the site covering the entire existing open garden area.  It is presented as two-storey building but it would, in fact, be taller than a three-This storey building.  It would dominate the street, all feeling openness would be lost as well as the garden.  As noted the pavement along Cromwell Road will be reduced considerably. The artist’s impression of the building facing Cromwell Road is also economical with the truth – the two entrances, the signage, the bus stop and multiple telephone booths are all gone – but where?  There is no mention of a new bus stop on Cromwell Road.  If the bus stop and telephone booths were to remain the pavement would be too narrow.  What is presented in the artist’s impression is not what is proposed on the plans and is not what would be built if approved.  Do not be fooled by the gloss of the artist impression. 

The proposed building sits uncomfortably on the site, and would be much too large for the site and for the area.  It would dominate visually and this would be compounded by the strident cladding of fake stone and oversized glazing. The long street façade has no reference to the area or the heritage of the site.  It appears as bunker.   The cheap, illegible entrances would cause are lost in the façade and will require signage to be found.  There is no mention of the signage but one can envision LED flashing lights for both the restaurant and casino entrances. 

This massive, mean building would not enhance the area or improve the host building.  Perhaps the only aspect going for the existing building is that it is set back from Cromwell Road and, therefore, is not “in your face”.  This proposal would bring the building out flat against the narrowed pavement and contrary to the claim, would emphasise the unfortunate host building.  The applicant presents the design as a solution to what they themselves call “an eyesore”.  This instead is a carbuncle attached to an eyesore. 


Summary

This application has all the shortcomings of two previously refused applications whose appeals were both dismissed on the basis of:

·      the loss of open space protected under the London Squares Preservation Act 1931 and the development plan – London Plan and the Core policy to resist the loss of open space;
·      their impact on parking and traffic; and
·      their impact on the townscape and public amenity.

However, this application is much bigger, would result in a much larger loss of garden area, generate more traffic and parking problems and have an adverse impact on the character and appearance of the area.

The Kensington Society urges the Council to refuse this application.



Michael Bach
Chairman: Planning Committee

Kensington Society


10 comments:

  1. Excellent work as usual by the Kensington Society in general and Mr Bach in particular. After the recent welcome rejection of the Candy Bros' and Riblatts' divisive development plans, there's at last hope that the planning committee will seek to control rampant developers.

    We residents must support the Kensington Society by objecting en masse to this grossly inappropriate and unwelcome proposal.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Excellent evidence. And lots of precedent giving reasons and promises why this must not go ahead. The critical question is "Who will Chair the Planning Meeting?". If it is the rodent Cllr Warwick or the weasel Cllr Mackover, the case is lost. Let us hope that Bach's brief is read before the meeting and the Tory Councillors consider his arguments and come to a judgement instead of being instructed how to vote by the Chairman at his pre meting briefing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A call to Cllr Mills10 February 2015 at 10:18

      Cllr Mills, please take the time to read the Kensington Society evidence before the meeting and make your own mind up. And if necessary, elbow your Tory colleagues to sit up and take notice.

      Delete
    2. Don't waste your time with Cllr Mackover. He can't read

      Delete
  3. Bore, assisted by Warwick/Mackover, must be stopped on this one.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Bore/Warwick/Mackover

    Developers delight.......

    ReplyDelete
  5. Let's hope the planning department does the right thing and refuses the application under delegated powers. Then it will never go to the Planning Committee. The department refused the terrible Book Warehouse application under such powers so we have confirmation that they know how to do it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Councillors on the Planning Committee have no excuse. This is a well researched and closely argued objection by the Kensington Society. Their case seems to be watertight. Bach has done the homework for the Councillors. They need to take time to read the evidence and brief themselves before the meeting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Planning Department is in the pockets of the developers and Bore and Co produce such a huge mass of paper before each meeting that it never gets read. Its usually a stitch up. Bore tells Warwick how to vote and Warwick tells the Tories how to vote. Game, set and match.

      The Kensington Society needs to short circuit the stitch up and mail evidence directly to the Councillors. And get some publicity beforehand (The Residents Association already did this and last night there was a big spread in the Evening Standard about the Casino). This is the way to create some transparency and some democracy.

      Delete
    2. Save the postage on Cllr Mackover. He is useless.

      Delete

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