• Chelsea planners take tough line

Cadogan Estates and planning consultant Gerald Eve have won planning permission at the second time of asking, to redevelop the Curzon cinema and Habitat block on King’s Road, SW3.
The approval comes as local planners dig their heels in, over the quality of developments along the famous Chelsea shopping street. A recent appeal victory on another King’s Road site with a different developer saw Kensington & Chelsea officials win a fight over viability calculations and affordable housing.
The permission (ref PP/15/04338) will see the block at 196-222 Kings Road partially demolished and replaced with a truly mixed use scheme. There will be a new cinema, three floor shop, offices, and roof top bar. A new pub will front King’s Road, replacing the existing Trafalgar, while 47 new flats will be created, five of them affordable units. The King’s Road facade of the Gaumont Palace, the original theatre built on the site in the 1930s, will be retained.
A previous application was turned down in November last year, with the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea’s planners declaring the proposals deficient in several areas. And it follows a further battle by planners with a redevelopment proposal on another cinema site along King’s Road, where the council won a planning appeal, over its uncompromising stance on affordable housing contributions.
There were five complaints, noting the replacement cinema was inferior, as was the proposed replacement pub which the applicant wanted to move to the side street frontage. There were concerns about the prominence of the rooftop bar, over affordable housing contributions and a lack of information about pressure on local infrastructure.
However, at October’s planning committee meeting, the applicants were commended for having dealt with all the issues, and the revised proposal was passed. Local groups the Chelsea Society and King’s Road Associations supported the redevelopment. Concerns raised about the operation of the rooftop bar were dealt with by conditions.
The redevelopment’s creation of a total of 47 homes would be a net increase of 39 units, at a density below London Plan Policy guidelines. Cadogan Estates successfully argued that its provision of just five affordable homes, in addition to a CIL payment of £1.65m, was the maximum the development could feasibly provide. While the earlier scheme had offered nine affordable homes, and a larger commuted payment, Cadogan successfully advanced an argument that convinced the committee. They asserted the revisions to the scheme would increase overall project costs, while construction costs generally had increased in the intervening year, hitting the overall scheme profitability.
Cadogan Estates’ success contrasts with a recent battle over a site at 279 King’s Road, where developer Ilona House Securities had hoped to redevelop a site to deliver another cinema, retail and 11 flats. There, (ref PP/13/03515) the applicant had declared the scheme was only viable with an affordable housing contribution of £200,000. The council, assessed a development surplus that could provide more than £1m towards affordable homes.
At issue was a difference between valuers, as to the residual land value of the developed site. Consultants for Ilona declared this to be a £0.72m deficit, while the council’s experts said their calculation was a £1.92m surplus. Disputes remained over likely rents of the retail space, the acceptable level of profit from a development, financing costs, residential sales agency costs, unexpired commercial income, inflation and construction contingency.
The planning inspector declared Ilona’s contribution would fall well below the “maximum reasonable amount” they could be expected to provide, finding that assumptions in the developer’s calculations were tilted in its favour. Her verdict was: “There remains an identified surplus of over £1 million, which could contribute toward the provision of affordable housing in the borough. I regard this figure as more indicative of the maximum reasonable amount.”
Speaking after the decision against Ilona Securities, cabinet member for planning policy, cllr Timothy Coleridge, said: “This decision supports the council’s rigorous approach. Developers should be clear that we will leave no stone unturned to make sure we get as much affordable housing as we can as part of new developments.”
At 279 King’s Road, the battle continues, with a second scheme, submitted in November 2014 and refused in February 2015, awaiting another appeal decision.

LPA Perspective: Kensington & Chelsea is fighting hard on two fronts. First, it is keen to ensure that King’s Road retains its unique character, with a mix of uses, and high quality buildings. Second, it is keeping up the fight over the financial contributions it believes it can extract from developers, towards affordable housing.
Cadogan Estates, having miscalculated the reception its first proposal would receive, has recovered well. The council liked what it saw by way of a response to earlier complaints, and was prepared to cut some slack on its affordable housing rules, in order to get a much better quality development. Rooftop bars are all the rage, while the council was keen to ensure that King’s Road keeps its pubs.
Meanwhile, further along the road, the battle lines appear to be drawn once more, as a planning inspector has been called on, for a second time, to adjudicate between a developer and the council.

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