Cambridge Road Estate: Christmas planning application

                                                                          CRE by solstice moonlight S. Seyghal

The planning application  was passed last Tuesday night at the Guildhall, 8 for, 1 against. The proposal is for 2,170 units with 6,477 habitable rooms (average 3 rooms per unit). Kingston Council's CEO took to Twitter and claimed there were only 6 resident objectors to the scheme, until he was spotted and challenged by a vigilant resident.

His response to the this challenge was  'it is very important that the council and it's development department address the concerns sympathetically of the 27% of residents who voted no to the scheme'. (A total of 22 if you follow the CEO's illogic).

At the planning meeting held only four days before Christmas, stringent Covid restrictions were implemented and we sat isolated by open windows with ticket holders only in the public gallery. There were 4 speakers from the community and the developers spoke for the proposal watched by their entourage (who probably charged over £3,000 for this appearance judging by those invoices that haven't gone missing).

It appears to be standard practice for those speaking before the Planning Committee to receive five minutes between each 'side'. However, given the scale of the application, the Chair agreed  to extend the speaking time to ten minutes. This meant the developers will also had ten minutes to put forward their case.

In my allotted 1.5 minutes I objected not to the regeneration per se but to the decimation of the important natural and amenity features to honour and acknowledge their loss as follows:(see full objection).

 The plans will have a profound impact on the urban environment and cumulative impacts on many sites including the cemetery SINC .From survey, to evaluation, the bat work has evidence shortfalls. Some of you have attended the walks on the estate and know this. Bats won't survive the increase in the urban gradient.

CRE has a sparrow population amongst the largest in Kingston. A nation's priority species that falls under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, so it is the council's duty to ensure the birds needs are met. Sparrows are not found on London's regenerated tower blocks.

Whilst claiming only 61 trees will be felled, this does not count the 50 in the gardens of the 40 terraced houses, or those in the way of the new water pipes. The use of mesh on the root plate of blocks A, B and C to enable them to be built on, is not in accordance with British Standard: 5837.

The mitigation proposed is not optimised, who will oversee the Net Gain and will there be any money left for its provision?

On Monday (while councillors were having their own walkover the estate) I walked the estate with the Greater London Assembly Chair of the Planning and Regeneration committee. We visited a carbon net zero house and we walked the 2 km of  Public Rights of Way * that are not supported by this application Twitten Ditty. We walked past the Piper hall and saw the food parcels through the windows. We saw people queuing for their jabs at the Hawks Road Clinic. The J-pitch was full of children playing at half-term. We discussed the loss of amenity that now faces us all.

Developers allotted 10 minutes 

When your sitting in the gallery, there is no opportunity to comment on any of the developers assertions but there is one that should be remarked on and that is the 'provision of wetland'. The Flood Risk Assessment made it clear that there was no opportunity for swales as the site was on clay. The Mayor's planning team objected to this and swales will have to be implemented, much to Countryside's chagrin, as they see this as counter to their neat and tidy-appeal to investor- gated estate - style. So they call it wetland.

Additional objections raised by the 98 objectors to the application included: 

The increase in land footprint, requiring many trees on the estate to be cut down despite bat activity on the site;
The C02 contribution from demolition of the embodied carbon (and rebuilding) at a time when Kingston council has accepted we are in a climate emergency;
The project may be blocked by the Mayor of London because it doesn’t meet the requirement for social housing (42% when it needs to be 50%) Scroll down to see Sian Berry's letter on this point:
The viability assessment indicates that the value of the land will  decrease and there is a budget shortfall of £18m (down from £50m);
A possibility that the developer (Countryside) will build the private element of the estate and then go bankrupt, leaving the council to finance the council house element of the design strained balance sheet ;
The proportion of council homes compared to full priced ones and the standard/size of the council homes.

But there are some serious additional Fire Safety points and loss of amenity, which were stressed by Cllr Sumner who requested this application be resubmitted in 2022 so that it is compliant with post-Grenfell fire safety standards.

'I’m not a Fire Safety expert but I did go through the Fire Strategy report with very senior Building Control professionals with direct experience of tall buildings and have contributed to the Grenfell enquiry.

In the tallest blocks theres a massive question mark over the use of a single central stair case, the “stay put policy”, use of dry instead of wet risers, 30 minute fire doors and the lack of consultation with London Fire Brigade.

Is this legal - under current legislation yes because the council submitted the original application last year before post Grenfell rules came in. But it’s probabily not best practice and doesn’t deliver the excellence I expect for our tenants.On the plus side they have incorporated the change of law around sprinklers in flats.

'I asked the committee to resubmit the application so it would be judged on the new fire safety guidelines and wait until the new guidelines/ rules on Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (the stay put policy) is released in the new year.

A few weeks ago  Norbiton councillors on the Planning Committee stressed how the proposed height / massing of the Regents Wing would be overbearing and result in overlooking / lack of privacy for Wolverton Avenue residents, which was why that developers were told to go back to the drawing board'.

Over to the Mayor now to try and make this more palatable.

* there are 2 km of Public Rights of Way (PROW's)  now entered on the Definitive Map. However, my application to have the recognised had to be those paths I had used for >20 years, which amounted to 890m of them.


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