When our elected Councillors make their decisions on 5th November we urge them to compare what St George’s plans looked like in October 2014 and what is proposed 3 iterations later.
They are adamant that the proposed plans have changed drastically. They point out minute adjustments around the edges, height or even materials. But all you have to look at is their marketing agent FortyShilling’s report published soon after the July 2014 consultation. After seeing their original ideas, 83% of Kingston residents told St George that:
They want improvement to public space
Preservation of Architecture and heritage
More community facilities
Only 17% wanted upmarket shops and restaurants.
Ignoring all the above, the October 2014 public exhibition showcased 17 floors of high-density mini tower city with absolute minimum attention to connectivity and local heritage. Using the Heritage buildings on site as their shield, developers refused to accept their plans had a blind spot on the immediate conservation areas.
Their consultation showed 75% of residents disliked 17 floor height and architecture grounds. What did they do with that knowledge? They decided to raise it to 21 storeys!
We all know the rest, 2 months later, after much public outcry, they had to revise the plans to 19 storeys and told us that they had listened. And in June, at the 11th hour, they deferred.
Then what happened? We don’t know. Instead of discussing with stakeholders, they disappeared for a few months and, despite all our efforts, we did not get any feedback on their development process.
Back in September, true to form, St George came back with another bulky, high-density impenetrable planning application. Yes, it was not 19 storeys anymore, the ‘fag packet’ was replaced by some 16 storey apartment blocks. But they failed to address any of the original and more important issues we raised in numerous discussions. Such as heritage, density, affordability, connectivity etc.
Worth pointing out that after the June deferral they changed their architect. JTP partners replaced with PatelTaylor architects, (Design Partners of the notorious Shell Centre) We believe the changes that the new architect, Andrew Taylor, brought to us were simply new clothes for the same emperor and has failed to provide any meaningful response to concerns raised.
National Planning Policy Framework paragraph 66 states that applicants should evolve their proposals to take account of the views of the community. But the basic design has never evolved, just changed in height like a yo-yo.
They failed to make clear their consultation is restricted to a closed list of alternative options. Like the bulky footprint of the site will not be redesigned and permeability will never be allowed.
They confused 'Consultation' with 'Informing'. 'Consultation' on finalized and submitted plans is not consultation.
Now we are back to where we started: the appearance, height, massing and affordability are very similar to the first schemes we saw. This is proof that consultation hasn't caused the design to change significantly. It has merely been a tick box exercise, and to say otherwise is just 'spin'. For this reason it should be refused.