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Tuesday, 22 October 2013


An Oasis of Charm Threatened

The Kensington Society held a recent meeting to discuss the proposed Lancer Square development. It's worth reading the reactions and comments expressed at the meeting. 
There is just until Friday to email ref PP/13/05341 - and in your own words and with your own observations, object to this wholly unnecessary development funded by Arab and Chinese money

Lancer Square Redevelopment 
1.     Old Court Place Access

A considerable amount of discussion took place concerning the main access route to the scheme which is to be via Old Court Place.   All the local residents who know the street extremely well felt the street was too narrow (to be further narrowed by the introduction of a pavement in front of the affordable residential units) to accommodate the proposed two way additional residential traffic for the 14 affordable houses and the 37 residential units and their attendant service support vehicles, the on-site underground car parking as well as the vehicles servicing the offices and the retail element.    The street is also currently often congested with large delivery lorries servicing the high street retail units.   Additionally the fire engines needed constant and uninterrupted access which it was felt would be jeopardised by the proposed two way system.   Currently there were seldom any cars travelling in the direction of the high street.   The problems of creating additional traffic entering Kensington Church Street (left turn only) and Kensington High Street were pointed out.    Whilst the architect said that ttp (the transport consultants) felt it would work and their report was on the website, the residents did not accept this.     It was pointed out that the traffic movement slide was not accurate eg it did not show there was a left turn only at the Kensington Church Street junction and it did not appear to show that cars leaving the car lift bay were entering the one way section and could not, it seems, in fact turn right.             

2.     Inner Central Road Pedestrian Safety

Residents felt the shared central road (pedestrians/cars/delivery/service vehicles) which runs through the centre of the development was unsafe especially for families with children (which represented a large proportion of users in the area ) particularly  as there was to be no pavement with only a change in surface paving to indicate the road.  They pointed out that currently the public spaces were safe and traffic free and family friendly which would no longer be the case.  

3.     Building on the Southern Piazza/Pedestrian Highway

Building on the southern piazza (the area opposite Café Rouge/Costas), deemed to be part of the highway was opposed as it presented good public sunlit space and the proposal did not provide a comparable alternative route.   The removal of the tree in this area was regretted as it was pointed out the on-site replacement trees would be height constrained given the inadequate soil depth.    
4.     Building on the York House Place Footway

The meeting felt very strongly that extending the building line to the north and as a result narrowing the first approximately 24m of public footway on York House Place was totally unacceptable as it was the main heavily used western pedestrian access route to Kensington Palace/Gardens and on a straight line from the pedestrian crossing.    The building line should not be advanced onto or indeed nearer any section of this pedestrian footway as any encroachment would feel oppressive particularly given the proposed substantial additional height on this elevation.     This was an opportunity to improve the footpath rather than narrow it.   

5.     Health Club and Office Access via York House Place Footway

It was felt that the York House pedestrian footway was inappropriate as the main entry point for the health club and as an access point for the offices which would open directly onto this footway.   
6.     Reduction of Public Space Area and the Inner Garden

The significant reduction of the public realm was strongly opposed. The current plaza is a rare example of a piazza style open space (781 m2) within RBKC and as such is used frequently by both residents and visitors who use the cafes and restaurants that line this space. The proposals will remove this space and replace it with a formal garden (417 m2) which is of different character and use and does not facilitate community interaction as the current space does.  It was noted that the current plans do not contain dedicated amenity space for 0-5 year old play to the compliant m2 as set out by the London Housing Guide. The garden does not also comply with SBD regulations for child play and as such it will have railing or similar at 2.2M high around its perimeter. It was also noted that the current TPO’d trees that are to be removed as part of these proposals are to be located in this space. Due to the small garden being enclosed between two large buildings the trees will not be able to achieve the same size as those being removed. A small garden surrounded by railing is not an adequate replacement for a large and permeable plaza and community space.

8.     Increase in Building Height and Mass

The residents were unhappy with the additional height and the massing effect of the   proposed building line and the oppressive effect on the surroundings.  On the west façade this had been taken to almost the highest point of the pinnacle.  The existing development was lower to the north and the south (and the southern piazza was completely open) which reduced the impact of the height and massing and allowed more sunlight into the centre and rear buildings but this would not be the case with the straight lines of the scheme which was minimally set back at the north and south facades.

9.     Subterranean Developments

The meeting was unhappy that the developers were proposing to create two subterranean levels – at present only the retail element had a basement.   
It was not felt that comparable office space (in terms of square footage) was being provided as such a large proportion was in the basement lit by a series of light-wells (the light pollution effect on the light wells facing 3a Palace Green was pointed out).    

10.  Loss of Retail Space 
The material loss of genuine retail space (particularly the café amenities) was also regretted.   It was not correct to include (as the slide had shown) the gym area within the retail calculations as, unlike a retail shop, it would not be freely open to the public.


  1. Yet more mindless greed. Lancer Square in its current layout is a successful, modern interpretation of an old idea. It must not be lost to our community for the financial gain of a handful of investors. We cannot permit good modern developments to be demolished every couple of decades, because someone can make a fast buck. It's unsustainable at every level. We must all object to this application before the Friday deadline.

  2. The Borough is in the grips of property developers who are intent on exploiting sky high residential property values to "re engineer" our street scapes without the slightest regard for the community. Why should they worry about the community? Their shareholders pay them to maximise profits.

    Unfortunately the Councillors and the Planning Officers in Hornton Street, who are supposed to be guardians of the residents, are in the pockets of the property developers. This is where the problem lies.

  3. The business model of the developers is very compelling. High end residential property values have sky rocketed in Kensington to between £3000 and £4000 per square foot. This is three times as much as the value of office and retail space. (In some parts of London residential is selling for £6000 per square foot).

    So the developers, flush with cash, go hunting for office and retail developments in prime sites like Lancer Square which is an innovative community "space" that is less than 20 years old. They buy it for £1000 per square foot. Knock it down and then double the floor area by building high with £4000 per square foot residential. Which is then bought by wealthy foreigners who use the flats as an investment and never live there. The community then has to put up with loss of amenity and another little ghost town of which there are a number of examples in the Borough (eg Wycompe Square, Thornborough Gdns, the old Quaeen Elizabeth College).

    It sucks. And the pathetic Councillors and Planning Officers wring their grubby little paws and whimper "we cant do anything"

    1. It is worse than that. The Officers and the Planning Committee manipulate residents and the result of "consultations" to ignore resident views in favour of the powerful developers who hand out all manner of inducements

    2. Time for a clean up and clear out of the Planning Committee. Cllr Warick and Cllr Pascall should be dumped. They long ago lost sight of residents. Quality like Cllr Mills and Cllr Freeman should be brought forward.

  4. The biggest scandal of all is cooking. The whole of Notting Hill Gate is about to be knocked down and redeveloped. This center of "Cafe Society" and supply center for 200,000 residents (shops, restaurants, transport, essential services) is about to become a high end residential desert. Pre marketing is already completed by the film "Notting Hill Gate", and plans pre sold to the Councillors by the kind of reprehensible conduct exposed by the FOI requests. And of course the whole rotten system underlined by the immortal words of Cllr Weale. "We agreed to consult but not to listen".

  5. Land values are sky high because of the Tory Council's longstanding policy of refusing to build social housing, either as part of large scale developments or elsewhere in the Borough. If they had, such developments as these would have been far less financially attractive - and local people would have good homes.

  6. Get ready to say goodbye to the two lovely mature trees that live outside the Kensington Odeon and are about to be chopped down because of this Council's love of money.

  7. It's not enough for residents to rid themselves of a few councillors, Tory or not. There's an at least equal problem with certain planning officers.

  8. The problem is that too many Councillors and Officers consider themselves to be "referees" who enjoy the demi God status of handing out patronage as the mood takes them. They forget that they are elected and appointed by residents who also pay for them and their job is to be activists for the residents.

    A major programme of change is required in Hornton Street and this is a great challenge for the new Leader, Cllr Paget-Brown

  9. Lancer Square is lovely - these proposals are grotesque. Where is Prince Charles when you need him? Surely he can be persuaded to join the campaign against these horrors on behalf of his son and grandson?

  10. Lancer square itself is not very interesting but the Georgian revival building facing Kensington Church street is one of the most beautiful and well-built buildings I know and it's loss will diminish the streetscape enormously. It is a fine example, on an equal footing with the nearby library, and replacing it with a bland, and for some reason always much larger, building is offensive and shocking.

  11. I feel that most people commenting here haven't even seen the new proposals and are opposing any development as they fear change or are just following the herd and making ill informed statements. No one wants to see developers making fortunes at our expense but the new proposals actually pay greater homage to the site's barrack history and the new retail, office and residential space will bring far more pedestrian traffic and revenue to the area than what currently exists. As for the current square, an 'oasis of charm' it is most certainly not! A few shrubs in planter boxes in a large paved area hardly makes for a relaxing or peaceful hideaway! The new proposals for an enclosed formal garden with seating, water features and varied planting is infinitely more beneficial for the locality, attracting wildlife as well as lunchtime coffee drinkers. Why on earth would you oppose adding more planting and wildlife to central london? Utter madness!


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