Members of Westminster’s Labour group have raised a number of major concerns about the proposed plans for the redevelopment of the historic Whiteleys shopping centre on Queensway.
Both Cllr Guthrie Mckie and Cllr Adam Hug have submitted objections to the proposed plan and have called for the council to have further dialogue with campaign groups such as Save Whiteleys Heritage and Get the Development of Whiteleys Right!.
Labour Group leader Cllr Adam Hug said, “There needs to be more time for local residents to work with the council and the developers to deliver a scheme that meets local needs. At the moment the plans for Whiteleys don’t help the local community enough. The lack of affordable housing, the loss of valuable retail space, and changes to historic features, alongside impact on light and the potential flooding risk, all need to be addressed. Whiteleys is crucial to the future of Queensway and the wider area so Westminster and the developer must get it right.”
In his planning objection Cllr Adam Hug wrote:
‘I am writing to express my objections and those of local party members in the area about the proposed development of Whiteleys, building on the initial objection raised by Cllr Mckie. This is a scheme that is increasingly a matter of concern for local residents as evidenced by the petitions Save Whiteleys Heritage (610 signatures at time of writing) and Get the Development of Whiteleys Right! (574 signatures) and concerns from SEBRA, the Victorian Society, Heritage England, the Twentieth Century society and a number of other groups. Many of the local residents’ groups do not feel the developers have been responsive enough to their concerns.
That this proposal for the redevelopment of Whiteleys currently makes no provision for affordable housing (either on or off-site), despite creating 103 luxury units and a hotel as part of the redevelopment, is a matter of deep concern. The legacy of William Whiteley was the creation of Whiteley Village, managed by the Whiteley Homes Trust, which provided homes for nearly 500 ‘older people of limited means’; therefore it is not in the in keeping with the spirit of Whiteleys to ignore affordable housing in the way the developer plans. Westminster Labour group cannot accept a position for a major development such as this, which is not at the very least compliant with the council’s planning policy, which would provide for at minimum 30 affordable homes. There is a real risk also that such properties could be sold off-plan overseas, so Westminster Council must insist as part of any scheme that any housing is locally marketed. There is also a risk that with no affordable housing and overseas sales much of the housing will become a dead space, rarely occupied and dragging vibrancy from the area. Whatever the eventual retail/housing mix in the new scheme, there must at the very least be a policy-compliant level of affordable housing delivered as a result.
The loss of retail space from 13,204 sqm to only 4,775 sqm is of great concern. The developers own papers describe the existing use of Whiteleys as an anchor for local retail, and this is an anchor that has been allowed to rust by the running down of the property prior to redevelopment (with the long-term plans limiting the desire for stores to locate within the centre). The claim that the gym and crèche provide social and community use stretches credibility unless there is a clear plan set out about how these facilities can be used by the wider public. The retention of the cinema (although there are issues about its position discussed later) and the A3 restaurant space are however welcome, as is the desire to better integrate the frontages with the street (though concerns remain about the loss of covered internal space providing shopping opportunities in bad weather).
As Save Whiteleys Heritage and others note, the existing ground floor atria and staircases are well liked and valuable elements of an important grade II listed heritage asset, while some elements are being retained (including being incorporated into the hotel with limiting public access) other important features are being lost. Although some steps have been taken to amend the plans to keep more of the existing roofline and façade, the distinctive roofline will be radically altered by the addition of extra floors on top of the existing building adding an additional 10 metres (42.47m to 51.69m) of housing units on top of the existing roofline (with further additions of a pavilion at 56.37m and the dome at 61.49m adding almost an additional 20 metres over the current roof at its highest point). The changes to the western elevations in particular would cause a significant and worrying impact on the residents of Kensington Gardens Square, who would suffer a significant loss of light in breach of BRE guidelines, and the development would significantly change the way of life in this quiet residential area.
The provision of 139 parking spaces at a ratio of 1.35 spaces per unit seems excessive and a poor use of space. There is real local concern about the impact of building down to create three floors of basement (expanding from the existing one floor of basement) with the impact on the water table and the risk of local flooding. Local residents want assurances that this point has been fully examined.
There does not seem to be a clear plan to generate local employment in the construction phase and future management of commercial opportunities in the building. Also it should be noted that the floated Section 106 contribution of funding towards public realm improvements on Queensway, while significant and welcome, would also significantly benefit the developers’ own property values, a point to be strongly considered when agreeing an appropriate level of contribution.
Given these outstanding concerns and the strength of local feeling I strongly urge the council to look at delaying the committee meeting from its provisional date of 29th March to enable further discussions with the residents and more work to take place to improve the scheme.’
Cllr Guthrie Mckie also objected saying:
‘This is a major redevelopment for the area and its outcome will impact on both the local and wider community in Westminster. There is no provision for affordable housing. The application states that there will be 103 housing units. This would calculate at 30 affordable units within the local planning regulations. The application also intends to build a small hotel in the new development. This, too, should be taken into account when calculating affordable housing. There is room for on-site affordable housing, particularly as it intends to make Redan Place a residential area.’