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Westminster's anti-mega home policy kicks in as 10-bedroom penthouse refused

199 knightsbridge by squire and partners 2006
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New Westminster City Council policies aimed at preventing the conversions of neighbouring properties into mega-homes are starting to bite

Last year, the authority introduced a planning policy to restrict proposals that created giant houses and reduced the number of homes in the borough.

Earlier this week, the council’s planning committee used the policy to refuse a proposal at 199 Knightsbridge by interior architecture practice Rients, which would have knocked two luxury apartments into one super-penthouse worth upwards of £200 million.

The application, prepared on behalf of Ashley Tabor, owner of the Classic FM radio station, was for two £90 million flats in the 11-year-old  Squire and Partners’ designed block.

It is unconscionable to accept this kind of proposal when we face a pressing housing shortage

Daniel Astaire, Westminster City Council cabinet member for planning and public realm, said: ‘This case raises issues which cut to the heart of our planning policy.

‘It is unconscionable to accept this kind of proposal when we face a pressing housing shortage. In fact, it is the exact opposite of what we are trying to do.’

He said the council would also bring forward new proposals to strengthen its policies on super-sized housing when it refreshes its city plan.

‘Our aim is to ensure fairness and opportunity in housing and we refuse to sell golden postcodes to the highest bidder,’ he said. ‘For the future, we intend to strengthen our policy to prevent this kind of loss of homes in the city.’

The Rients plans would have combined two family-sized flats to create one new home with 10 bedrooms.

An officer’s report presented to the planning committee said: ‘While it may be true that any individual unit of housing will inevitably represent only a small percentage of the entire housing stock in the city, the potential for numbers of similar cases coming forward and the potential cumulative impact of this on overall housing availability is considered to be a significant planning consequence.’

According to the council, there have been more than 200 similar applications in Westminster since 2013, leading to a potential loss of nearly 300 residential properties.

When contacted by the AJ, Rients said that it would be meeting with the client and a planning consultant in the next few weeks to discuss the next steps. 

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Presumably this particular proposal has fallen foul of a policy that's designed to stop the amalgamation of properties at the other end of the price scale, because these two penthouse flats are about as unaffordable as it gets - and are surely irrelevant (unless the owner now leases one out at a genuinely affordable rent to a homeless family; he could presumably afford to)

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  • This is not entirely new. Across the river Wandsworth has refused quite a few similar applications in Nine Elms and elsewhere, using a policy aimed to protect 3+ bedroom houses. At whatever price, this is still loss of family sized homes, which pushes up prices for those that remain.

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