Newcombe House redevelopment – on balance in favour

Case Number: PP/17/05782

Property: Newcombe House

Description of Proposed Development: Demolition of existing buildings and redevelopment to provide office, residential, and retail uses, and a flexible surgery/office use, across six buildings (ranging from ground plus two storeys to ground plus 17 storeys), with a two-storey basement together with landscaping to provide a new public square, ancillary parking and associated works. (MAJOR APPLICATION)

The Pembridge Association’s View: Initially the Pembridge Association were not in support of the proposed development at Newcombe House. It was felt that whilst Newcombe House would benefit from improvement, the proposed development was not in keeping with the heritage setting and local environment. The proposed height of the built form of the completed development would cause material harm to the immediate and distant visual landscape and surroundings.

Following consultation with the Developer, the Kensington Society and Ladbroke Association, the Pembridge Association have reached the view that on balance the proposed development creates more good than harm.

We support this scheme because of the very significant public benefits that it provides to the area, namely: an attractive public square including provision for the return of the farmers’ market, a major GP group practice surgery, the provision of step-free access to the District and Circle Line south-bound platform (access to the northbound platform is not possible from this site – it would need to be achieved as part of a separate development), replaces and upgrades the offices and shops, and provides 46 housing units, including 9 units of affordable housing at social rents, which in terms of floor space exceed the previous rough sleepers’ accommodation.

We are particularly supportive of the step-free access to the District and Circle Line south-bound platform which is a huge benefit to the elderly and people that struggle to or cannot use the existing staircases.

Background: The Planning Committee previously refused a similar scheme in April 2016 because they opposed the height and the design of the building, the impact on the surrounding conservation areas, the lack of on-site social-rented housing and because of doubts about whether the NHS/West London Clinical Commissioning Group (WLCCG) were fully committed. At the appeal, the Planning Inspector considered but did not support any of the Council’s grounds for refusal, with the sole exception of the absence of on-site affordable housing. But for this latter point the Inspector effectively allowed the appeal.

The new scheme: The current proposal has addressed the issue by proposing nine units of on-site affordable housing at social rent to be taken on by Notting Hill Housing Association. The new GP surgery will provide new, purpose-built premises to replace the Pembridge Villas surgery and the Westbourne Grove surgery. We are not advocates of the height of the tall building, but we accept that, given the constraints of the site, due to the proximity to the railway line and the rights of light issues on Kensington Church Street, this is the best and least harmful way of providing the developers with sufficient office and residential accommodation to finance the public benefits they are providing; benefits that the Council itself is not in a position to provide. We must be realistic and not let this be a case of an impossible best being the enemy of a good scheme which will bring so much benefit to users of Notting Hill Gate. We are not supportive of the design of the tower, however most will probably agree that it is a huge improvement on the current Newcombe House. Moreover, it is far better designed than the first ones proposed, using a slimline top that cleverly reduces the effect of bulk and is designed so that its worst effects are restricted to a limited number of viewpoints.

The developer has been responsive to suggestions and the consultation generated a number of improvements to the scheme.

Now that the Council’s and the Inspector’s concern for the inclusion of on-site social-rent housing have been met in this new application, we consider that a refusal now would be difficult to sustain, would delay further any redevelopment whilst the building deteriorates and, much more importantly, may very well rob our community of these significant public benefits for many years to come.

On balance therefore the Pembridge Association are in support of the redevelopment of Newcombe House due to the civic and amenity benefits the scheme will provide.

JD

 

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