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HLM’s Chelsea estate revamp rejected over social housing loss


Councillors have thrown out regeneration plans for a west London housing estate by an HLM-led team of architects due to a ‘net loss of social rented floorspace’ 

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea planning committee also said the plans, which would have seen the century-old estate bulldozed, were of poor design quality.

Drawn up by HLM Architects, Penoyre & Prasad and Sidell Gibson, the proposals for social housing provider Affinity Sutton included the demolition of 13 blocks on the estate, reducing the amount of social rented floor space from 383 units (18,708m²) to 237 units (16,142m²).

Two blocks, Leverstock and Maylands, would have been retained under the proposals.

The planning committee said that while the existing estate had architectural merit, the new proposals were not of ‘sufficient high design quality and would not positively contribute to the surrounding townscape’.

The refusal comes after a two-year campaign fought by local group Save The Sutton Estate, supported by comedian Eddie Izzard and deputy leader of the Labour Party Tom Watson.

Designed by Edward Charles Philip Monson, the terraced red-brick Sutton Estate was completed in 1913 after William Sutton – founder of the UK’s first door-to-door long distance parcel service – bequeathed some £1.5 million of his will to building homes ‘for use and occupation by the poor’.

Sutton’s trust later merged with Downland and Broomleigh in 2012 to form Affinity Sutton Homes, one of the UK’s largest housing associations, which now manages the estate.

Andrew Barshall, a member of Save The Sutton Estate, accused Affinity Sutton of allowing the homes to fall beyond repair because the provider saw the site as an ‘opportunity to cash in on central London’.

He added: ‘Its plan, all along, was to let the estate get into such a bad condition that it couldn’t be turned around.

‘There’s a huge loss of social housing [in the plans]. In London, which is crying out for affordable housing, what [Affinity Sutton] is doing is despicable.’

In addition, a letter written on behalf of London mayor Sadiq Khan expressed his concern over the net loss of affordable housing, which he did not consider to be in line with the London Plan.

A spokesperson from Affinity Sutton said it was ‘bitterly disappointed’ by the decision, claiming it posed questions about its ability to take on regeneration schemes in central London in the future.

They added: ‘It is regrettable that, after eight years in the making, our proposals have been rejected. We will now consider our options and a way forward.’

The housing provider also claimed that many of those campaigning against the plans were not residents on the estate.

HLM Architects declined to comment

 View the ruling here

Project data

Location Cale Street, Chelsea, London SW3
Type of project Redevelopment
Client Affinity Sutton
Architect HLM (lead), Penoyre & Prasad LLP, Sidell Gibson
Landscape architect HLM
Planning consultant Quod
Planning supervisor Allison Flight (RBKC)
Funding Cross subsidy
Contract duration Approximately seven years


Readers' comments (2)

  • "The housing provider also claimed that many of those campaigning against the plans were not residents on the estate."

    If they really did say that, it makes no sense. I don't live in the Antarctic, but I care about it, and want to preserve it. I don't live on the Sutton Estate but use that part of town often, and enjoy the look of the estate and the social mix it provides in the middle of Chelsea.

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  • It's a shame that architects of good repute are getting involved in this sort of redevelopment for a clearly mis-named 'social housing provider' who - even if by default - has become engaged in 'social engineering' of the type that got Dame Shirley Porter into so much trouble.

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