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Council rejects Grafton's contest-winning Kingston University scheme

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Kingston Upon Thames council has thrown out Grafton Architects’ competition-winning scheme for a new ‘flagship building’ at Kingston University

Councillors went against the local authority’s own officers’ recommendations to approve the £55million teaching building, claiming the 9,320m² proposals were too large for the Town House site.

Six objections were received against the plans for the six-storey block, including concerns that the scheme was ‘overbearing in scale and visual impact’.

A Council spokesperson told the AJ: ‘Councillors voted down the scheme for a new building because they felt it would have been too big and not in keeping with nearby buildings.’

The proposed building, the first phase of a larger masterplan, would have been the university’s largest project to date and the Dublin-based practice’s first London job.

The winners of the 2015 Jane Drew Prize beat O’Donnell and Tuomey, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, Haworth Tomkins, and Bennetts Associates to bag the New Town House Building project at the Surrey university’s Penrhyn Road Campus in 2013.

Responding to the decision, the university said it had already ‘significantly reduced the height and size of the building’ and had widely consulted on the scheme.

Vice-Chancellor professor Julius Weinberg said: ‘This project is of huge importance both to the University and to the local community. The majority of our students, staff and neighbours have told us they want this to go ahead and have given their clear backing.

‘We’ve commissioned award-winning architects, consulted widely and tried to accommodate much of the feedback we have received. This led to us revising the original plan by reducing the height and footprint of the building.  We set out to create something for everyone and to create a landmark building that would help put both the University and the Borough firmly on the map.

We will need to reconsider our options

He added: ‘We are obviously disappointed but the university remains committed to working in partnership with the council to make Kingston the best place to learn, live and work. We will now need to reconsider our options to see how we can ensure this transformational project happens as soon as possible.’

Postscript:

Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects: ‘We were extremely disappointed by the planning refusal. We received a lot of support all along the way from local heritage groups and from residents, and the planning officers recommended the scheme for approval.

‘One council committee member said it was one of the best designs he had seen since he joined the planning committee but it did seem, in the end, to be a matter of personal taste. We are reviewing the situation now with the University to see what way we might proceed.’

Grafton Architects’ competition-winning scheme for a new ‘flagship building’ at Kingston University - interconnecting entrance volume, second floor looking down

Grafton Architects’ competition-winning scheme for a new ‘flagship building’ at Kingston University - interconnecting entrance volume, second floor looking down

 

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Readers' comments (3)

  • Once upon a time long ago Kingston was a few huts on a river crossing. Then the population grew and buildings intensified. The natural evolution of Towns responding to population growth.
    This is the occasional redevelopment of an urban site, and it should be a crime not to intensify it as much as possible. A philosophical point of view not accommodated in the Nimby culture the governments move towards localisation encourages. I hope the appeal inspector is more cognisant of the fact that the population is still growing. The Green belt should not be further threatened by this kind of inept outcome.

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  • From the design details provided one can see at a glance that this is a prestige building and admirable, in every respect, a worthy winner of the design contest. Does anyone want to explain why it should not go ahead as a rather special 'Flagship Building, and needs to be dummed down to fit in with adjacent buildings? It's a University Building for Gods sake, with all that that entails. It appears the Council wanted a Ford, and were given a Ferrari.

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  • Paul McGrath

    Why should a University be exempt from the vagaries of our planning system?

    As anyone who regularly makes planning applications will know, a scheme described as being too big and not in keeping with nearby buildings is a catch-all justification for refusal. That councillor's have invoked position this against its own officers advice shows that planning regardless of policy, is predominantly a political process.

    At least there is some consistency (from Council's) despite the fact that "award-winning" architects - no matter how good - were involved. Who knows (and I don't) the Councillors may even have a point.

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