Sports Direct is preparing a planning application for the redevelopment of a vacant retail space in Kingston Town Centre, which will become the new home to one or more of the Sports Direct brands in Kingston. The plans will deliver a newly refurbished store that will feature a concept area showcasing the latest in sports fashion and equipment.

The Society’s response  to the application.

20/01024/FUL  : 10 – 13 Market Place Kingston Upon Thames KT1 1JP      

The Kingston upon Thames Society objects to this application
Below we set out our considered thoughts as to why the existing building should not be retained.

The applicant’s Heritage Statement sums up the current building on this site rather well: “The Site comprises a commercial building in a brick Neo-Georgian style, constructed for Woolworths stores in the 1950s. It is located in the Kingston Old Town Conservation Area (see Figure 2) on the west side of the Market Place, directly opposite the Market House. The building is not listed or locally listed and has not been identified as a building of townscape merit or making a positive contribution to the conservation area.” In fact it positively detracts from the rest of the historic buildings around the Market Place many of which are Grade 2 Listed.

This is the first time in 70 years that we have an opportunity to repair this damage done to the Historic market palace back in the 1950s. The current building should not be retained. It does not provide an adequate public realm connection between the Place and the river; it defies the character of the market place by its uniformity and lack of historic character and materials. Its foundations can barely support the proposed roofing materials (the applicant states).

The Old Town is notable for the retention of an essentially Medieval street layout within its core. Medieval building plot widths range from as narrow as 3m wide (No. 12 Church Street) to an average of between 5m and 8m. This 20th century building compromised this historic grain and harmed the character of the CA.

In contrast the Charter Key development was built with a new three-part façade facing the Market Place, of which this proposal should take note and consider doing something of the same here. 

The proposal does not conform to RBK’s own recommendations in conservation terms:

Protecting and enhancing the historic environment is key to maintaining Kingston’s attractive character and distinctiveness, especially in the Old Town Conservation Area around the Market Place. (RBK Area Action Plan 2008-2020 p21)

Conclusion

 In short this would be a missed, once in a lifetime opportunity to correct the longstanding harm this building has inflicted on our most important and treasured Conservation Area. This should not be seen as an opportunity to make a harmful building more harmful.

 Anthony Evans : Chairman

The link to the pre-planning website here

The Sports Direct proposals say: (for clarity – all text supplied by developers not Kingston Society)

Sports Direct’s proposals will also increase the retail floor area from one to two floors, helping to grow Kingston’s retail offer and attract more daytime visitors to the Town Centre.

The proposals would also deliver significant public realm improvements to Market Place and Kings Passage including new lighting and paving as well as some landscaping around the site to enhance its setting and improve connectivity between the Thames and Market Place.

The proposals will deliver 33 much-needed new homes through a sensitively designed extension to the building. Set back from the eaves to minimise visual impact, the plans will deliver 10 one-bedroom, 17 two-bedroom and six three-bedroom apartments across three new levels to be added above the existing floors.

Meeting the Council’s Vision

Kingston’s Local Plan (2012) identifies several challenges relating to the historic Town Centre, noting that measures and policies are required to maintain the Town Centre’s vibrancy and attractiveness to residents and visitors alike. A series of measures and objectives relating to the regeneration of the centre of Kingston have been outlined for the Plan period.

The Council’s overall vision for Kingston Town Centre is to create:

“A thriving Metropolitan Town Centre serving the needs of its catchment and providing a sustainable and enhanced range of town centre services including retail, leisure, employment, education and community facilities, as well as new homes and improved job opportunities, in a high quality environment, that is safe, clean, and easily accessible to all.

“High quality new development will maximise the potential of vacant, outmoded and underused sites…. Kingston’s distinctive character, especially its historic environment and riverside, will be safeguarded and enhanced. A range of improvements to transport, access, public spaces and the natural environment will enhance its attractiveness for residents, businesses, workers, shoppers, students and visitors, in the daytime and in the evenings.”

The Plan also set a target of delivering 5,625 new homes to meet burgeoning demand, with Kingston Town Centre earmarked for 1,000 homes due to its sustainable location and proximity to public transport links. This target is likely to increase once the emerging New London Plan is adopted, which sets a target of 9,640 new homes in the Borough.

Given that adopted and emerging policy strongly encourages making best use of brownfield sites and optimising sites in town centre locations for residential purposes, Sports Direct’s plans for Market Place will make a valuable contribution to meeting housing need in the Borough in a sustainable location.

Sports Direct’s proposals will help the Council to fulfil its vision for Kingston Town Centre by:

  • Delivering 3,425 m² of new and upgraded high-quality retail space. This will grow the Town Centre’s retail offer and help draw more daytime visitors to Kingston;
  • Providing much needed new homes on a vacant, unused site. This will increase local housing choice and assist residents to get a foot on the housing ladder while reducing pressure to build homes in less sustainable locations;
  • Bringing new residents to the Town Centre which will increase the activity and vibrancy of the area whilst also contributing to the Town Centre’s non-retail offer, such as bars and restaurants;
  • Delivering improvements to access and public spaces in the Town Centre, including Kings Passage, a key link between the Thames and Market Place, which will receive new lighting and paving.