Are Kingston town centre and Tolworth about to change dramatically? The next 3 months will see decisions on 4 major planning applications that, if permitted, will change the nature of Kingston forever.
This evening (12th January) will see the first of these major decisions by the Development Control committee Councillors, with the Tolworth Tower planning application for 311 residential units, with new retail and serviced apartments, with a refurbishment of the existing tower and 4 new tower blocks built.
Then on 25th February, The Old Post Office application in Kingston Town Centre for 338 residential units with retail/cafe and offices and renovation of the listed buildings, will come before the committee again. This application was refused on 5th November 2015, but on the request of the developer, Kingston Council put the application on hold for modifications.
The former Government offices on Hook Rise South in Tolworth (commonly known as Tesco site although it is now owned by Meyer Bergman) for 705 residential units with retail, doctors and nursery, will come before Councillors for a decision on 2nd March.
Then finally, the Eden Walk regeneration project in central Kingston for a new shopping centre with 385 residential units and office space will be decided on 30th March 2016.
In total these 4 applications are for over 1700 residential units which is nearly 3 times the annual figure required in Kingston by London Plan.
They would provide much needed housing but is it the right kind?
Only 9% (152 units) of these new homes would be classed as 'affordable' (with this being up to 80'% of market rate, we question if this is actually affordable). Kingston Council's policy is for 50% of new developments to be 'affordable' so this obviously falls woefully short. There would be sizeable contributions to 'off site affordable housing' from the developers, but this requires the space to build more homes.
3 plus bed homes
Kingston Council's policy is that 30% of new developments should be 3 or more bedroom family accommodation, but these major applications only provide 15% 3+bed (253 units). Whilst the policy for averages across the borough and it may be sensible to have it lower in town centres, where will the additional 3 bed homes (at prices our families can afford) come from?
Generally in London there seems to be a gold rush on property development, with more and more high rise, high density, small but hugely expensive flats becoming the norm and Kingston Borough seems to be caught up in it.
Yes, some of these sites need developing; yes, we need more homes; but do we need them at any cost to future generations? Personally, I don't think any of these applications are good enough.
By the end of March, the Conservative led Council will be deciding on some of the most important and irreversible decisions to have been taken by Kingston's Councillors in recent years, I hope they will make the right decisions.
Note: This is a Personal statement by Councillor Liz Green, St Mark's Ward, Leader of Liberal Democrat Council Group:
I can comment on these applications as I do not sit on the deciding Development Control committee, other Councillors who do sit on the committee are not allowed to give public comments before the meetings.