Planners in Kensington & Chelsea have approved a sheltered housing scheme for a site in Knightsbridge, after initially turning down the application.
The scheme is not only a novel replacement for a multistorey car park previously on the site behind Harrods, but also demonstrates what is likely to become a growing trend for supported housing to suit elderly and frail residents. It has also been approved as providing community benefit, therefore escaping the need to contribute towards affordable homes.
The scheme was proposed, and will be developed by Beaumont Properties, a subsidiary of major Singaporean property investor City Developments Ltd, a group that includes Millennium & Copthorne Hotels, and acts as a residential developer.
It will deliver 34 flats that come with a care facility, designed for over 55s who need support with daily living. The scheme will include basement parking for 11 cars and 40 cycles, and communal facilities including a pool, health and fitness lounge.
The site has been in use as a multistorey car park since 1969, under a sui generis use.
The proposal was originally turned down in January 2016, with five reasons for refusal. These included concerns about safety, structural safeguarding of nearby buildings and nuisance caused during construction; the extra care use, and mix of units; and potential parking problems.
Among the concerns of planners, was that the 11 two bed and 18 three bed units were an inappropriate mix. Their planning report noted: “The proposed mix of units is inappropriate in terms of meeting the borough’s needs and the justification provided for the three bed units is incompatible with the model of care envisaged through extra care provision.”
As a result, consultants Colliers worked with Kensington planners to deal with each of the issues. The mix of units in the scheme was amended, removing three bed units and resulting in a revised provision of 4 one bed units, 28 two bed flats and 2 larger two bed flats. The block also includes two separate guest rooms to accommodate visitors or nursing staff.
A series of further reports and conditions have resolved issues surrounding construction, while the section 106 agreement will now state that residents are not eligible for car parking permits locally.
The apartments will be sold on long leases, with the proviso that at least one occupant is 55 years old or more, and requiring residents to sign up to, and actually receive, a minimum care package.
The scheme reflects a need noted recently by Peter Box of the Local Government Association, whose recent housing commission report cited the requirement for greater provision of homes suitable for the elderly. In a July speech to the assocation’s annual conference, he said: “The housing aspirations and needs of our older people are not yet being catered for by private developers. We have opportunities to build homes that are attractive to older people – and support future ageing in ways that reduce health and care costs; helping improve the quality of life – and the well-being of older people – and helping put health and social care services on a more sustainable footing.”
Box noted that 800 extra care housing units built by Oxfordshire County Council had saved the authority an estimated £120 per week each, compared with placing individuals in a care home.
LPA Perspective: This scheme is notable in that is one of the early moves into a market that the LGA has flagged up as being poorly served by the private sector. It is unclear if CDL – for whom this scheme is the first with assisted living – is planning more, similar projects in the UK, or if this will be a one-off.
More such projects will likely be needed, and should find a ready market. In some cases, they will free up larger family homes, as the older generation trade across to assisted living accommodation in their declining years. So far, there are few private sector brands, aside from established name McCarthy and Stone, and newcomer Pegasus Life.
However, there are likely to be few assisted living schemes sited in such high value locations as this. And it may be that Kensington & Chelsea finds a challenge in ensuring the flats are bought and occupied by individuals who really need the assisted living service, rather than extremely rich foreigners who simply want a summer bolt hole round the corner from Harrods.
In contrast with other London boroughs, notably the City, which consider construction nuisance to be a temporary issue, and therefore not a planning matter, Kensington & Chelsea covers these issues under its planning remit. Three of its five original reasons for refusing the scheme were down to construction management issues – and temporary nuisance to nearby residents.