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Sunday, 13 April 2014


This excellently constructed letter to Mr Bore by planning expert and Chairman of the Kensington Society's Planning Committee, Michael Bach, throws down a challenge to RBK&C to justify any proposed departure from its Core Strategy and the London Plan. 
It is crucial reading if one wants to understand the implications of Royal Brompton agenda.......

Dear Mr Bore,

I am writing on behalf of the Kensington Society to express our concerns about how the Council is seeking to justify a departure from the development plan – the London Plan and the Council’s Core Strategy – through a Supplementary Planning Document rather than through the Development Plan which would enable the legality of these proposals to be tested for soundness.

The Society’s main concerns about this draft SPD are:

  • the document is written in a manner which is geared to facilitate the specific development that the Royal Brompton Hospital say they propose to develop.

  • There is nothing in the Core Strategy which supports these proposals;

  • the proposals would be in conflict with the London Plan Policies 2.1, 3.16, and 3.17;

  • the proposals would conflict with the Borough’s own Core Strategy Policy CK1 to “protect land and/or buildings where the current use is or last use was a social or community use for re-use for the same, similar or related use”;

  • the draft document misconstrues the wording of Core Strategy Policy CK1;

  • no evidence has been presented on the cost of building the proposed new hospital as opposed to accumulating funds for alleged longer-term plans for refurbishing the existing hospital; and

  • loss of housing through conversion of houses currently in flats into single-family houses.

The Society considers that:

  • Draft SPD is designed as a vehicle for redeveloping the Royal Brompton Hospital’s estate – not to promote London’s leading position in the health field: 

  • The Society is concerned about the success of all our hospitals and their contribution to maintaining London’s leading position as centre of excellence for medicine. The Society is concerned to see both the Royal Brompton Hospital build a new hospital and for the Royal Marsden Hospital expand – to secure the future of both hospitals as world leaders in their fields. This is recognised in the Borough’s Core Strategy in paragraph 13.3.10, which says:

The hospitals in the area, including The Royal Marsden and Royal Brompton Hospitals, will be supported as they provide both a local as well as a national and international health care function.”

The draft SPD fails to address this – it solely geared to maximising the value of the estate of the Royal Brompton and Harefield Trust, which may be an appropriate aim for the trustees of the Trust, but inappropriate for an SPD. The Royal Brompton have paid the Council over £200,000 to enable this SPD to be produced and were undoubtedly primarily informed about the Royal Brompton Hospital’s proposals by the Hospital and its planning consultants (DP9). It appears to have been written as a promotional document.

  • Conflict with the London Plan

London Plan Policy 2.1 seeks to promote London’s global role as a centre for world-class health facilities – this applies as much to the Royal Marsden as to the Royal Brompton. This would support the Borough trying to help both hospitals, not design an SPD to solely favour the Royal Brompton Hospital.  The Council should be seeking to retain and extend the global role of the Borough’s hospitals – in this case taking the opportunity to promote the Royal Brompton Hospital and the Royal Marsden Hospital by enabling both hospitals to expand to and maintaining key buildings in hospital use – in accord with the Council’s own policy (CK1).

London Plan Policies 3.16 and 3.17 require the Council to:

  • promote the continued role and enhancement of London as a national and international centre of medical excellence and specialised facilities (3.17F)

  • If the current use of a facility is no longer needed,  take reasonable steps to identify alternative community uses where the needs have been identified (3.16E)

  • Misconception about Policy CK1

The social and community use runs with the land and the policy is very clear that it relates specifically to the protection of land and/or buildings where the current  or last use was a social or community use, for re-use for the same, similar or related use. This means that, regardless of whether a large amount of additional additional hospital space is proposed on another site, the decision to be made for disposal of a site in hospital use is still subject to the sequential test with regard to the proposed change of use. It makes no difference that there could even be an increase in hospital floorspace elsewhere in the area, the issue is whether there is still an outstanding need for hospital space. In the case of the Fulham Wing, there is a strong need for space for the neighbouring Royal Marsden Hospital to expand. This means in terms of policy CK1 any proposal for change of use to housing must be resisted. The Fulham Wing would offer 10,500sqm of hospital space, immediately adjoining the existing hospital. Even if not needed by the Royal Brompton Hospital it is still needed for hospital use. 
Any suggestion of striking an area-wide balance – probably an invention of a planning consultant – demonstrates a misconception of the sequential approach to the disposal of health facilities and social or community in both the London Plan and the Royal Borough’s Core Strategy. There is no scope for “trade-offs” whilst there is still a major need for the Fulham Wing in its current use as a hospital. 

No information about the resources needed just to build the new hospital – rather than alleged longer-term projects
There is no information on the cost of building and fitting out a new 25,500sqm hospital to justify the scale of change of use to super-prime housing explored/proposed in the draft SPD. The Society considers that until the need for this scale of change is clearly demonstrated, the Council should not be “trading-off” an extremely clear sequential test policy which is in effect a presumption in favour of retaining hospital use on the Fulham Wing site.

  • Loss of housing through conversion of houses in Foulis Terrace into single-family houses:
The Society is concerned that the Council would be compromising its policy for retaining HMOs and even the diversity of size of units. Changing from an HMO housing hospital staff to private single-family houses would involve a considerable loss of housing units.
Implications for the Draft SPD:
Whilst the Society supports the development of a new hospital on the site of the Sydney Street campus, we are totally unconvinced that this requires the disposal and change of use of the Fulham Wing for which there is a clear and continuing need for it to remain in hospital use. 
Paragraph 1.7 of the draft SPD acknowledges that “to fund consolidation, the hospital would need to sell some buildings and redevelop other sites in its ownership.” 
The Society objects to the second sentence of para 1.7 as it seems to be not merely a factual statement but implying that the increase in total floorspace would result and that would offset any “losses”. If that were the intention, it suggests a misunderstanding of how Policy CK1 should work.
Para 1.11: This mentions the London Plan, but fails to mention the policies that relate to this development.
Para 1.13: The Society fundamentally objects to the statement that “the plan taken as a whole therefore clearly meets the aims of Core Strategy CK1” - this is a fundamental misreading of the policy which does not deal in trade-offs but requires the retention of the existing social or community use (a hospital) if there is a clear continuing need for the use – which there is in this case. The new hospital does not justify the change of use of the Fulham Wing as long as there is still a clear and continuing need for it to remain in hospital use.
Para 1.14: Policy CK1 is very clear – it specifically deals with the existing or last use of a building or site and the sequential test relates to the successor user of that building or site. The question of change of use to housing would only arise if the preceding tests had been exhausted. 
Para 1.15: The Society has not seen the Hospital’s viability report, but is concerned that the numbers being bandied around are far larger than the likely cost of a new 25,500sqm hospital. We understand that the Royal Brompton has suggested that more money may be needed to “refurbish” the existing hospital in Sydney Street in 10-15 years time. This is highly speculative and has been added to justify wider redevelopment than needed to enable the development of a new hospital. The Society objects to the apparent acceptance of the proposed direct conflict with CK1 with regard to the proposed change of use from hospital to housing of the Fulham Wing. 
The Society objects to paras 2.54-2.65 about the Fulham Wing which would appear to be promoting a departure from the Development Plan – changing policy through an SPD 
Finally, since these proposals seem to be promoting a departure from the development plan, these proposals to exempt these sites from the requirements of Policy CK1 these changes should be brought forward through a Development Plan Document where a departure from the plan could be debated properly. Attempting to override such a strong development plan policy through an SPD is unacceptable as well as premature. Such changes should be taken through an amendment to the Local Plan.
Yours sincerely

Michael Bach
Chairman: Planning Committee
Kensington Society


  1. K&C planning is in the pockets of the developers. There is no point in Bach and the Kensington Society wittering on. They have been wittering for years and have not had one single success in changing decisions or policy in the Royal Borough. Bach writes a nice report but it is money that talks. Game, set and match

  2. Mr Bach is correct in his analysis and objections. The problem is that the Kensington Society has no power to make a difference, the issue is too complicated for the media and our Councillors are incapable of doing anything.

    1. What is the point of Mr Bach writing to Mr Bore? Why does he think he is in a position to make a difference?

  3. Too many words in this report. Induced boredom and exhaustion. The Kensington Society needs a campaign manager who knows how to communicate and grab attention.

    "Town Hall planners abandon hospital patients in favour of developers" for example.....

  4. Michael Bach has exposed some core issues between the interests of developers and residents. And it is most worrying that there seems to be a manipulation of the Planning Department that is going on. Something as serious as this requires a clarification statement from Cllr Paget-Brown who is Leader of the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

  5. It's time the resident association stopped pissing in the wind and out up their own candidates. They really love rolling over and getting their tummies tickled with sill Gold Stars for being good, yet moan because councillors 'go native' and forget who they are supposed to be representing.
    The only agents of change will be coucillors supported and sponsored by resident associations.

  6. So the Kensington Society has written a letter to Mr Bore. Now what? What influence does the Society have? Who listens to it? Is there a single scrap of evidence that the Society has ever been listened to by Mr Bore and planning?

  7. Michael Bach's letter is not meant to be a 'good read.' It's a detailed rebuttal of complex legal issues. Congratulations are due to him and the Kensington Society for a detailed explanation of how RBKC planning policies are routinely manipulated in favour of developers. On this occasion the policy was effectively written by the developers. Mr Bach's letter is a devastating document!

    The core strategy has been similarly manipulated elsewhere, but this time the truth is out there for all to read. It's time K & C residents got behind the Kensington Society and next month, voted for A.N. Other.


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