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McAslan finally breaks Cromwell Road jinx and wins planning approval

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John McAslan Architects’ proposal to redevelop a jinxed site near Earl’s Court has been given the go-ahead by London’s Deputy Mayor

The 100 Cromwell Road site had seemed cursed after a string of architects over the past decade had proposals rejected to develop the derelict land beside a Tesco car park.

But deputy mayor for planning, regeneration and skills Jules Pipe has now given the go-ahead for the housing and leisure-centre scheme. It follows an increase in the number of homes and the proportion of affordable housing.

McAslan’s design for investment firm Meyer Bergman and development manager Londonewcastle was rejected in May 2019 by Kensington and Chelsea Council’s planning committee as ‘excessively tall’. 

However, the new approved scheme is even taller – up from 22 storeys to 29 storeys.

Two months after the council turned down the application, London mayor Sadiq Khan called in the application to subject it to further scrutiny. Since then, City Hall planners have worked with the developer to increase the number of homes overall, as well as the amount of affordable housing.

The redevelopment will now provide 462 new homes and 40 per cent affordable housing – up from 427 homes and 35 per cent affordable when the application was called in. Kensington and Chelsea Council has endorsed the revised scheme.

Pipe said: ‘These new homes are also close to transport links and only minutes from central London in a borough which has struggled to meet the housing targets as laid down in the mayor’s new London Plan. The development will also provide a new leisure centre for the local community.’

Councillors raised concerns over the quality of the proposed housing and the scale of the development, which they argued would ‘overshadow’ residents in the neighbouring Warren House. An officers’ report recommending refusal described the development as comprising a ‘range of excessively tall and over-scaled buildings that serve to dominate the immediate context’.

Under the approved plans, some of the existing buildings on the site will be demolished to make way for eight new buildings, to include a public leisure centre, gym and pool, along with commercial and retail premises and new public spaces.

Kensington & Chelsea says that although the approved scheme is even taller than the rejected version, it has advantages. ‘The design is slightly different and there are significantly more public benefits than in the May 2019 applications,’ a spokesperson said. ‘The council recommended to approve the amended plans given the great increase in public benefits including more affordable housing and the leisure centre, which in the context significantly outweighed the harms identified.’

The site has a chequered planning history. John McAslan Architects is the fourth architect to draw up plans for it, with its plans replacing Benson + Forsyth Architects’ competition-winning scheme for Spenhill Developments, approved in 2017.

Benson + Forsyth was selected following an architectural competition, held in 2009, and judged by representatives from the council and government design watchdog CABE.

John McAslan was also on the shortlist that time, along with Peter Barber, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, David Chipperfield and Denton Corker Marshall. However, the scheme was abandoned following the sale of the site to Meyer Bergman, which has since criticised the designs as ‘outdated’ and including ‘complicated buildings that were difficult to build’.

Benson + Forsyth itself replaced Bolles + Wilson, which had designed a scheme for Brookfield Multiplex that was later withdrawn. The AJ reported at the time that the developer had come under pressure from the local authority to change its high-rise designs.

Another 27-storey scheme designed by Woods Bagot for housebuilder Persimmon Homes was turned down by the council in 2007.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • A great shame that Benson and Forsyth's competition winning scheme wasn't built, and Meyer Bergman's criticism of it as 'outdated' and including 'complicated buildings that were difficult to build' sounds very much like developer-speak for 'We can get a bigger return on our investment by stuffing more floorspace onto the site and dumbing-down the design'. Or maybe it should be dumbing-up.

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  • With luck by the time this is completed Cromwell Road will be single lanes in each direction with cycle and bus lanes and 20mph speed limit. If not then it will be a pretty unpleasant place to live and the podium deck will be gated for security and management.

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