2020 ONA AGM, 18 November 2020
Fri - January 22, 2021
ONA Chairman’s Report 2020
Our quiet streets in 2020
This has not been an easy year for any of us and the pandemic is still with us and, while we all have hope that it will be coming to an end sometime in 2021, there’s no guarantee. For us living in Central London, life has been very changed since the March lock-down: public transport is scarcely used, streets are emptier, many shops and restaurants have not re-opened and offices remain closed or operating with only a skeleton staff. What all this means in the longer term for London and our area of South Kensington is hard to predict but the damage done to the fabric of society will take some time to repair, to say the least. Maybe, there will be some long-term structural changes in the way we lead out lives so that some shops and offices may never re-open as we move towards an on-line existence.
In the midst of all this gloom, we did manage one spark of fun and good cheer in that, on Thursday, 9th July we held an open-air concert in Onslow Square organised by Toby Brown and enjoyed some marvellous singing by his group of wonderfully talented singers. It was a really great sight to see so many people in the square enjoying themselves and, while it was not exactly a fine evening, the downpour held off until the end!
Specific issues on which we have been engaged in the last 12 months are many and varied. Some are of major importance for the next 100 years or more such as the proposed redevelopment of the area around the South Kensington Station. Others are less dramatic but, nevertheless, are important to our members. I will shortly describe each of these issues:-
Around Station Development
TfL and their commercial partner, Native Land submitted a planning application in June to re-develop the overground area around the South Kensington Station; this Around Station Development application is separate to TfL’s below ground development, the Station Capacity Upgrade, approved with the support of ONA in 2018.
The Around Station Development application seeks to replace the bullnose with a 4-5 storey building, build new shops, offices and some residential housing along Pelham Street and Thurloe Bridge and will destroy all barring the façade of the terrace on Thurloe Street which backs onto the station. This work will would change the look and feel of South Kensington for ever. Let me stress that ONA is in favour of re-development but not THIS re-development. In 2016, TfL set out a Development planning brief after two years of discussions with the local residents’ associations (RAs) which included clearly defined development principals to which ONA agreed and welcomed. Sadly, four years on, the current application disregards these principles across the board and is a far cry from the 2016 Brief. This is totally unacceptable to us and our fellow RAs. Instead of a sensitive and respectful development which compliments the existing historic buildings, this will be a massive, tall and brutal re-definition of the area, destroying its unique character, views, ambience and heritage. Moreover, the development will NOT provide the benefit of step-free access to the tube lines despite misleading claims being consistently made by the developers that it will complete step-free access.
ONA has worked tirelessly with fellow RAs, our Courtfield Ward councillors and local MP to oppose the current application. We have engaged planning experts and have submitted powerful arguments on numerous grounds for the application to be refused. Following the unprecedented number of 1,400 objections at the end of the first consultation phase with more objections still flowing in, the Council notified us that Native Land and TfL had asked RBKC to postpone the “Factual Briefing” for an unspecified period. Apparently, the developers wanted to review their application in light of the number and content of objections received. However, despite this, the developer has continued distributing leaflets as well as holding an occasional one-day exhibition at Imperial College with the project unchanged. The latest information is that the developers recently met the RBKC planning officers behind closed doors and we were told via our Courtfield Ward councillors that “the applicant is still considering changes to the scheme, but there isn't a new proposal to see yet”. Hopefully, in the face of objections, they are seriously reconsidering a smaller scheme and one closer to the 2016 brief.
Whatever the eventual outcome, may I say a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who did their bit by filing their opposition. RBKC has received so far over 1,750 objections versus just 210 supports. This is a majority of nearly 90%!
Streetscape Review of Thurloe Street
ONA learned at the beginning of October that a Streetscape Advisory Group had met the Council in March. Thurloe Street was identified at the time as one of the locations that would benefit from improvements to the streetscape because it was “untidy and cluttered and did not function well as an entry to the area for visitors”. By way of follow up, RBKC was asked to develop some options for further discussions. When RBKC came back at the start of October with ideas, ONA and other RAs were astonished to see that RBKC’s drawings and proposals were throughout based on a Thurloe Street streetscape post the yet-to-be approve ASD application. ONA together with other RAs strongly questioned the approach as well as the sequence and timing of such discussion. As a consequence, RBKC has put the discussion for Thurloe Street on hold until the ASD application is approved or not.
Wellcome Trust – Re-development of Nos. 40 and 63-81 Pelham Street
No.40 Pelham Street is the long, low built building on the right hand side approaching Brompton Cross. It has been used as a garage and offices above. It needs refurbishing and ONA approves Wellcome’s plans with few exceptions. Overall, we think this will enhance the appearance from the street. No.61-83 is a large 5 storey office block on the other side of the street abutting onto Crompton Court on Fulham Road. Here, the proposal is to pull down the existing building and replace it with a 6 storey office block. The design is largely acceptable but the height and mass of the building will be overpowering in a narrow street. Also, the proposed roof gardens (and rear office windows) will face the backs of the houses in South Terrace giving rise to potentially intrusive overlooking. ONA has made clear its objections and is continuing to participate in the consultative process initiated by Wellcome Trust. Here, I should record that, in all of this process, Wellcome’s representative, Jamie Trevedi-Bateman, has been greatly appreciated by the RAs in promoting an excellent dialogue and being willing to listen to our reservations. Very sadly, he has now left Wellcome Trust and we trust that his successor will adopt the same positive approach. We expect Wellcome to file the application for the redevelopment of both buildings in the New Year.
Holiday Inn, Cromwell Road
ONA has continued to register its objection to the horrific proposals to replace this huge building with one even taller and more massive, replacing one tower with three towers. We think the existing building to be already far too tall and are absolutely opposed to anything bigger. Unfortunately, the Deputy Mayor has approved the plans (the High Court threw out the Mayor’s prior approval). ONA and 21 other RAs, together with the Council, the Ward Councillors and our local MP are now lobbying the Secretary of State to call-in the case for a review by a government-appointed inspector. Currently, the petition to the Secretary of State needs more signatures – the target is over 1,000 and, as of today, it stands at 540 so please voice your objection by signing and sharing the petition by following this link http://chng.it/kkTbdKvP
Estate Agents’ Boards
ONA has supported RBKC in its application to extend the ban on these boards. The ban was originally imposed 10 years ago and is due for renewal. We have made the point that, apart from the eyesore they cause, the current on-line websites have now replaced the need for boards. Hopefully, our arguments and those of the Council will prevail.
Extended Parking Controlled Hours
Over many years, there have been calls for the hours of residents’ parking controls in and around Onslow Square/Cranley Gardens to e extended over weekends, particularly Sundays. The Council carried out a comprehensive survey and opted for one of the proposals i.e. to extend Saturday’s controlled hours to 6.30pm and, additionally around Onslow Square, on Sundays between 9.00am and 6.30pm.
However, in the consultation, the Council did not make clear its intention, as a quid pro quo, to remove a number of residents’ bays and replace them with pay and display bays. After representations from ONA, the Council was able to find numerous places where the residents’ bays could be extended and it is hoped that this will be a satisfactory compromise.
Pigeons on the Station forecourt
ONA has raised with RBKC the feeding of pigeons on the Station forecourt which has resulted in flocks of birds sitting all day on the pavement. The bird lime and general mess, as well as sick birds, has been getting steadily worse and a number of our members have registered their concerns. The Council has taken to washing down the pavement which is a good start but, until the feeding stops, the problem will not go away. We are pressing for the Council to follow Westminster in passing a bylaw making it an offence to feed the pigeons.
V&A Telephone boxes
ONA and other RAs are objecting to a planning application to turn these boxes into coffee vending kiosks. The museum is also objecting.
These include the usual objections to ultra-late licensing hours, late night usage of outdoor tables and chairs, planning issues and the like, all of which are quite time-consuming.
Your Executive Committee members, Laura Mosedale, Susanna Trostdorf and myself have done our best to represent your interests over the last 12 months and are willing to serve for another year but we are very thin on the ground cannot go on for ever. We would really welcome some practical help so, if you have any spare time, please do consider our urgent need for support.
Finally, may I advise those of you who may not already know that out founder and Trustee Emeritus, Bill Taylor died earlier in the year aged 103. Bill was, as I am sure you will remember, a very familiar sight for many years, latterly bent nearly double but always immaculately dressed with a beautifully rolled umbrella! His foresight in starting ONA has made a huge contribution towards this area retaining its special character and appeal. He will be sorely missed.
17th November 2020