Kingston School of Art (Richmond Road) is selling adjacent land to developers planning to build 128 new flats with space returned for new teaching space and college facilities. A two and three hour public ‘consultation’ is planned for 12 and 14 January at The Canbury Arms Kingston, 49 Canbury Park Rd, Kingston upon Thames, KT2 6LQ

Hollybrook developers is proposing to redevelop the land behind the College of Art to build new homes and offer much needed college space. The developers say:

Our scheme will meet a combination of residential and academic needs in the Royal Borough. A central public square between the two buildings will provide a lively and exciting space to exhibit art. We have been exploring this with Kingston College and hope that it will prove an extension to the college’s well known Penny Gallery. Alongside this will be a new versatile studio for the college, which could be used as a new facility for textiles. Visit our drop-in public exhibitions at The Canbury Arms Kingston, 49 Canbury Park Rd, Kingston upon Thames, KT2 6LQ on Thursday 12 January 2023 from 5:30pm to 7:30pm and Saturday 14 January from 11am to 2pm.

The developers website is here. The exhibition panels will be online from 12th January and are also below:

We attended a so-called consultation on site and were unimpressed both with the scheme and the consultation. Our full response is below:

Response Richmond Road Consultation 10th January 2023

Consultation

The NPPF Chapter 4: Decision making / Pre-application engagement says:

  1. Early engagement has significant potential to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the planning application system for all parties. Good quality pre-application discussion enables better coordination between public and private resources and improved outcomes for the community.

‘All parties’ here, we believe, is not only developers, planning officers and a Design Review Panel, if consulted, but most importantly of all the local community. Who are, actually, the real end users for development and the true client of council officers and other third party consultative services.

For consultation to be meaningful there needs to be the real possibility that plans will be amended to reflect offered opinions. Showing proposals that have never included input at an early stage from key community stakeholders merely emphasises the tick box nature of your approach and underlines your lack of a community-facing approach to engagement.

‘Improved outcomes’ is of course open to interpretation but the thrust of existing and emerging policy indicates that placing local communities at the heart of the planning system is the goal of the Levelling Up bill as debated in parliament on November 17th 2022 where Michael Gove said in Parliament:

The reforms are based on five key principles. First, delivering high quality and beautiful buildings, restoring a sense of community and pride in place. Second, enabling the right infrastructure to come forward, boosting productivity and spreading opportunities. Third, enhancing local democracy and engagement by empowering local leaders, increasing accountability and giving communities a stronger say over development. Fourth, fostering better environmental outcomes. And fifth, allowing neighbourhoods to shape their surroundings, empowering communities to restore local pride in place.

Perhaps the most extraordinary omission is that given this is Art School land there is nothing to suggest the input of our young creative students.

Codesign and community engagement are clearly required by the NPPF:

“… the creation of high quality buildings and places is fundamental to what the planning and development process should achieve”.

This heightened emphasis on design quality is supported in the chapter entitled, ‘Achieving well-designed places’ which states that early and sustained engagement with stakeholders and communities should reflect local aspirations.

Paragraph 128 states, “Design quality should be considered throughout the evolution and assessment of individual proposals. Early discussion between applicants, the local planning authority and local community about the design and style of emerging schemes is important for clarifying expectations and reconciling local and commercial interests. Applicants should work closely with those affected by their proposals to evolve designs that take account of the views of the community. Applications that can demonstrate early, proactive and effective engagement with the community should be looked on more favourably than those that cannot.

It is our hope that developers will understand that early collaborative engagement is likely to be to their advantage and not something they should be loath to do. The City of Westminster for example has a clear recognition of the both the need and the benefits. Their ‘Early Community Engagement in Westminster’ says:

2.2: Effective well thought out early engagement can reduce conflict, allow communities to have their say at a stage where their views can genuinely influence design decisions and consequently result in better development that is more responsive to local need and resilient to future changes in local behaviour and demand.

And at 2.4: When done well, early community engagement improves trust and relationships between developers and local communities, building greater overall support for development and a greater appreciation of the positive benefits that can be delivered for existing local communities by well-designed development.

It would be refreshing and unique to find a developer actually invested in community and not simply profits. Some years ago when Kingston first became the plaything of developers our then council leader said “So, I have met with St. George and I told them that I wanted them to be Kings not Vikings, to come and build a new town with us but not to come like the Vikings to destroy.”

On a matter of detail the exhibition boards contain not nearly enough information to permit clear understanding, particularly the building A, the tower. You acknowledged the tower design is an iteration and is not the finished proposal. It is not helpful that the supplied elevations do not correspond with the only uncropped CGI image of building A, nor that the view is only from Kingsgate Road, entirely omitting its three other facades. The plan would indicate that building A has a ‘dog leg’ element at front right which may be at ground level only but this is not exhibited clearly.

Whist we understand the online exhibition materials are available we think that five hours of public consultation is meagre. If you have the support of the college these boards and your attendance could have been presented for longer and had a more meaningful exposure.

Design quality

We were largely unimpressed with your architectural design. Given its very close proximity to the Queenshurst site, the new art school and the Victorian part of the art school we do not feel you have in any way created a style that sits comfortably with the existing surrounding buildings nor strengthens the contribution to place.

You have not understood, as the Queenshurst development has, that materiality, permeability, articulation and granular detailing as espoused by the New London Vernacular reflects a convergence of styles rooted in Georgian design principles, that leads to a harmonious and visually soothing design.

There is a complete lack of creativity, or fresh thinking, no attempt to make a building of note and character, to push the envelope of design and make a positive contribution to the architectural landscape of the town centre.

Of very few pluses we do acknowledge that at ground level there is some small but worthwhile articulation. Additionally, we also value your proposal to use off site manufactured panels.

You did not make available the DRP comments, nor reveal your response to their input but in any event your submission is banal and poorly designed. It is clear to us that even if ‘beauty’ is undefined by both the NPPF and LU and Regeneration Bill you have not met that requirement in any way.

The NPPF sates: Design quality should be considered throughout the evolution and assessment of individual proposals. Early discussion between applicants, the local planning authority and local community about the design and style of emerging schemes is important for clarifying expectations and reconciling local and commercial interests. Applicants should work closely with those affected by their proposals to evolve designs that take account of the views of the community. Applications that can demonstrate early, proactive and effective engagement with the community should be looked on more favourably than those that cannot.

The Levelling-Up and Regeneration bill in chapter 2 Policy Objectives says: 2. Building beautiful and refusing ugliness: Good design and placemaking that reflects community preferences is a key objective of the planning system.

In Chapter 6 – Asking for beauty section 1:

As the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission made clear, beauty is not a cost to be negotiated away once planning permission has been obtained. It is the benchmark that all new developments should meet. It includes everything that promotes a healthy and happy life, everything that makes a collection of buildings into a place, everything that turns anywhere into somewhere, and nowhere into home.

Hight, scale and massing

Although until the new Local Plan is agreed there is no tall buildings policy for Kingston, there is a statement of where tall building might be located. Kingsgate Road is not one of those sites. Instead of elevating your modest proposals for improvements to the so-called ‘linear park’ and the creation of a 20 square metre open space perhaps the two buildings might more evenly carry the burden of your far too dense proposals. We fear for the residents of Queenshurst with a tower so close to them and cannot imagine that they will support your scheme.

Other considerations

You were not able to state what your affordable contribution would be, though we applaud your wish for a tenure blind standards of building.

You cite Kingston as an Opportunity Area but we would remind you this was largely predicated on Crossrail 2, now nothing more than a pipedream at best and indefinitely shelved. We expect the Local Plan to challenge the GLA imposed housing targets and no longer support the creation of endless apartment blocks, still unaffordable for most residents.

You made no mention of CIL and would be interested to know what contribution you would expect to make to local infrastructure.

Summary

We regret we do not like your scheme: it is poorly consulted, poorly designed, and poorly situated. In its present form we will be opposing this scheme at application stage but hope you might consider more meaningful consultation with both us and the North Kingston forum.


Below aerial view of site, note item 3 is not college property and is subject to separate purchase by developer



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Last Updated on January 17, 2023 by Kingston Society