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Court allows council to challenge Mayor's ‘improper’ approval of SimpsonHaugh scheme

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SimpsonHaugh’s proposed £300 million redevelopment of a Richard Seifert-designed hotel in Kensington has been thrown into doubt after permission was granted for a judicial review of Sadiq Khan’s decision to back the scheme

A High Court judge said that the case, brought by Kensington and Chelsea against the Mayor of London, was ‘plainly arguable’ and gave the local authority permission to proceed with a judicial review claim.

The borough’s planning committee had turned down the plans in September 2018, but Khan subsequently overruled this decision.

The council argue that the Mayor acted with ‘improper purpose’ by not allowing the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government the opportunity to consider calling in the application following the Mayor’s resolution to grant planning permission subject to a legal agreement.

The judicial review will be heard on 21 November.

The redevelopment of the Kensington Forum Hotel in Cromwell Road, currently a Brutalist Holiday Inn with 906 bedrooms, would include a mixture of hotel, leisure and housing on the same site.

The original application was submitted to the council in June 2018. It envisages a part-30, par-22 and part-nine storey building, providing apartments plus restaurants, bars, conferencing and leisure facilities.

It was to include 749 hotel rooms, 340 services apartments and 46 homes but, following pressure from the Mayor, developer Rockwell Property and building owner Queensgate Investment increased the number of homes from 46 to 62 and agreed that they would all be for London Affordable Rent.

At 28 storeys, the existing 1972 building, designed by Richard Seifert & Partners, is the borough’s second-tallest and residents have argued the new scheme would replace one ‘out-of-place monstrosity’ with an even bigger one.

Queensgate Investment argues that the existing hotel is ‘a local eyesore’, whereas the new scheme would be an ’exceptionally high-quality development’. It would deliver public benefits such as a new garden square and £2.8 million investment into public realm improvements to the area around Gloucester Road Tube station, the site owner says.

The Council’s Planning Committee rejected the application a year ago after more than 750 objections from residents and local organisations. Residents’ groups objected to the height and scale of the building, loss of privacy and a reduction in light for neighbouring properties.

In June this year the Mayor’s office stepped in to approve the scheme. Then in August the council challenged the Mayor’s decision, submitting a claim for judicial review.

Kensington and Chelsea’s lead member for planning, councillor Johnny Thalassites, welcomed the latest decision. He said: ’We will be proceeding with the judicial review now that the judge has said our case is “plainly arguable”. I’m keen to see new developments that create jobs and generate income but they cannot come at the expense of residents, who have genuine concerns about the plans for Kensington Forum Hotel.’

Patrick O’Connell, head of hotels at Queensgate Investments, acknowledged the judge’s decision but said it remained committed to the scheme. He said: ‘Our proposal will deliver significant public benefits including a new publicly accessible garden square, enhanced public realm, numerous jobs and genuinely affordable homes for Londoners.’

Simpsonhaugh kensington hotel 32

Simpsonhaugh kensington hotel 32

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: ’Sadiq is doing everything he can to build more council and genuinely affordable homes. That’s why London started building more council homes last year than in any year since 1984.

’Because Sadiq called in this application, the developer agreed to triple the amount of genuinely affordable homes to 100 per cent – which is further proof that Sadiq’s approach is working and delivering the new social and affordable homes that Londoners desperately need.’

SimpsonHaugh declined to comment. 

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