She explained that benefits, including a boost to the local economy, the provision of high-quality office space, ‘substantial’ benefits of additional housing including affordable housing, and heritage benefits including ‘better-revealing heritage assets’ outweighed the harms, and would ‘simply allow for the proper functioning of this underground station’.
In an appeal decision, inspector Zoë Hill conceded that, despite the proposal’s ‘conflict’ with some policies – including heritage policies – within the development plan, on balance the development ‘would accord with the policies of [the plan] when read as a whole’.
The Planning Inspectorate has approved the practice’s controversial proposal for shops, offices, and 50 homes around the west London tube station, more than two years after it was rejected by the local authority.
‘When complete, it will create an experience befitting the gateway to London’s internationally renowned museum and cultural quarter.’
The council said the proposals – which were met with fierce opposition from 22 local groups, five councillors, and the local MP – were rejected at committee due to the ‘impact of the architectural design, height and massing of the proposals on the conservation area and listed building’.
But the client, a joint venture between Transport for London (TfL) and Native Land, lodged an appeal against the decision in June 2022.
The developer added that the proposals had been carefully considered, working alongside historic building specialist Julian Harrap Architects, and had received nearly 700 letters of support, including from the Natural History Museum, the V&A, the Science Museum and Imperial College.
The two-part appeal, which was scrutinised during an inquiry between January and May 2023, has been mostly successful – the planning inspectorate has granted the appeal for the majority of the proposed development, it confirmed in a decision published on Tuesday (12 December).
Kensington and Chelsea Council’s planning committee rejected the scheme, which includes demolition of the historic Bullnose building and part-demolition of the Thurloe Street Building, in November 2021, despite the plans having undergone six rounds of consultations and three amendments since they were first submitted in 2020. The application was also recommended for approval by planning officers.
The station was built between 1867 and 1868 to designs by John Fowler, but features later additions and alterations including an Edwardian arcade with a glazed barrel-vaulted roof, designed by George Sherrin.
Hill concluded that ‘harms’ such as the impact on daylight and sunlight, some of which would be mitigated or resolved by a Section 106 agreement, were ‘of very limited weight in the planning balance’.
When the appeal was initially lodged, a spokesperson for the developer said the scheme would ‘complete the delivery of much-needed step-free access to the ticket hall, and District and Circle Line platforms, together with 50 new homes with 35 per cent affordable housing, offices for small and medium-sized enterprises, and shops for small and independent retailers’.
However, the inspectorate dismissed one part of the appeal, declining to allow planning permission for two new shopfronts to be created within the station’s listed subway.
Scott Anderson, head of property development at TfL’s property company, Places for London, said he was delighted by the approval for the plans, which he said would ‘enhance the South Kensington station buildings and surrounding streets, while embracing the historic context of the area and honouring its legacy’.
He added: ‘The station sees millions of journeys being made by people from across the world, acting as a gateway to some of Britain’s most important and treasured cultural institutions, and these improvements will help them to experience London at its finest.’
Native Land chief executive Alasdair Nicholls added: ‘This is a high-quality scheme that will protect the heritage of the station while bringing a renewed sense of place to South Kensington.
Submissions of various proposals for the site have spanned a period of two decades; a rotunda-type scheme above the station arcade by Terry Farrel was scrapped in 2003, after which John McAslan + Partners revealed new plans for the site in 2009, and in 2016 BuckleyGrayYeoman revealed new proposals, including a redesign of the station entrance, restoration of shop fronts and the redevelopment of residential units on Thurloe Street.