On the face of it, it would be difficult to get any closer to the perfect brief than the Canbury Business Park site, given its proximity to both Kingston Train Station and Cromwell Bus Station. And with substantial office space, a medical centre and a number of Discounted Market Rate flats, the proposal might appear to address some of the important business and housing needs in the area. With the widely-acknowledged acute housing crisis directly affecting boroughs like Kingston, where hardly anyone who doesn’t already own a house can afford to buy, one could be forgiven for asking why anyone would not welcome a scheme like this.
One simple answer is alluded to in the very same budget speech by Mr Hammond:
“Infrastructure to facilitate higher density development must be ...delivered.”
The proposed plans show no such commitment. Not a bit. No direct answer to the issue of extremely poor existing public transport services, nor any acknowledgement of the already dire traffic congestion problems in the immediate vicinity - both of which would be exacerbated further by this development.
In essence, we are presented with just another Kingston Futures-backed, pro-developer identikit development, with buildings ranging in height from 4, 7 all the way up to 14, offering nothing to average people on average salaries looking to own their first home in the borough. A miserly level of ‘affordable’ housing is offered in the form of 22% Discounted Market Rent units, no solutions are presented for expanding local school capacity (instead putting a very real and very large question mark over the future of the existing Educare Small School on Cowleaze Road), and no sympathetic response is made to important local heritage.This last point, local heritage, is significant: Canbury Business Park is located almost exactly where the Sopwith Aviation Company had a large factory (formerly an ice rink) - indeed the original facade of that company’s office building still stands directly opposite the site. Kingston has a rich aviation heritage with Sopwith, Hawker and BAe being located in the town from 1912-1992, and a significant portion of it located directly at Canbury Park Road. There is an enormous missed opportunity here, with the proposal offering absolutely no acknowledgement whatsoever of this unique and cherished heritage. In fact, owing to the over-indulgent generic mass and bulk of the proposal, the original Sopwith office facade will become even more diminished and consigned to history than it is currently.
It is disheartening that, after all the experiences of recent planning controversies in Kingston, between residents and the Council/developers, we are once again facing yet another round of the same old problems. But of course, all is not necessarily lost: these plans can go back to the drawing board - they can be improved. Instead of saying ‘this is much loved and needed’ etc and posturing against genuinely concerned residents, the planners and developers in this town, with its best interests at heart, should sit down and listen to what the community is really asking for and address their concerns seriously and promptly.
We have queries and questions regarding several areas, so please read on here