23/01636/FUL | The conversion and change of use of the former pumphouse building, Seething Wells and associated land to office use; and ancillary works including landscaping. 

The Kingston Society has registered these comments on the RBK planning portal:

On behalf of the Kingston-upon-Thames Society I wish to submit the following objection to planning application ref 23/01636/FUL at the site of the Seething Wells Filter Beds on the Portsmouth Road in Surbiton.

1. The proposed office use and associated car parking is not compatible with the designation of the land as Metropolitan Open Land in the London Plan, the Kingston Core Strategy and the emerging Kingston Local Plan. In particular the proposal is contrary to policy DM5 part d of the Core Strategy which requires that ‘development proposals do not harm open spaces which contribute to the character, appearance and heritage value of the Borough’s open space network and which ‘form part of an area of value for wildlife, sport or recreation.’

2. The proposed development severs the existing building and its immediate surroundings from the rest of the former Seething Wells Filter Beds site which is a site of nature conservation interest within the Riverside South Conservation Area. It would prejudice the development of the application site as an interpretation centre for the Seething Wells Filter Beds site’s overall nature conservation interest and historic interest as a key founding location for the provision of a safe and healthy water supply for south west London.

3. The proposal would accordingly be contrary to Policy S1 (Surbiton Neighbourhood) of the Council’s Core Strategy (2012) which states

A. that the Council will work ‘in partnership with Thames Water, stakeholders and the local community to ensure that the former Thames Water Filter Beds…..are enhanced to reduce flood risk and made safe for community use whilst taking account of nature conservation interests.’

B. that the Council will work ‘with partners to provide for nature conservation, leisure and nature conservation and an extension of the riverside walk at the former Thames Water Filter Beds.’

C. that the Council will ‘enhance and protect Surbiton’s architecture and local identity by…..safeguarding and improving features that contribute to the leafy character of the Surbiton Neighbourhood by…..where appropriate, enhancing important ecological and landscape features, in particular the River Thames (and) the former Thames Water Filter Beds.’

4. The Riverside South Conservation Area Appraisal dating from 2002 and prepared in association with the designation of the conservation area on behalf of the Council by CAP Studios concluded that ‘the character of the area as a whole is of special architectural and historic interest on account of (among other things) the industrial/public health heritage which is represented in the buildings and structures at Seething Wells Water Works.’ It is clear that this heritage includes the building which is the subject of the current application and the adjoining filter bed structures and other ancillary structures. The use of the building for an office entirely independent of the filter beds critically would sever the historic functional link with the filter beds and further erode the quality and character of the conservation area which has already been eroded by the applicant’s neglect of the railings to the filter beds and removal of water and vegetation from the filter beds.

5. With regard to the emerging Local Plan, it is relevant to note that the technical background study and evaluation of Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) confirmed the significant contribution made by the overall filter beds site to the strategic objectives of MOL. It is clear that the introduction of an office use unrelated to the purposes of MOL together with the related car parking and activity surrounding the building would significantly undermine the purposes of its MOL designation.

6. It is also relevant to note that the Local Plan has been the subject of a number of representations from local community groups which are currently under consideration to bring the overall filter beds site including the application site into a positive heritage/nature conservation/public access use based on a number of studies which have been undertaken following the refusal of previous development proposals on the site following public inquiries.

7. Community groups including the Kingston Society have been working with the Council through the Seething Wells Members Steering Group to bring about ways to bring about such a solution. Support has been offered to the River Thames Scheme project which is being progressed by the Environment Agency with Surrey County Council and other local authorities including RB Kingston for the Filter Beds site to be allocated as a site for enhanced biodiversity as part of the overall project. Further consultation is expected on this later this year.

9. For the above reasons the Kingston Society considers that planning permission should be refused for the proposals submitted by Cascina.

Tony Lancaster

1 August 2023

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Last Updated on August 2, 2023 by Kingston Society