Planning 2007

The Commonwealth Institute Planning Brief

The Royal Borough has produced a draft planning brief as a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD).  Its purpose is to provide the new owners with "…guidance on the planning and design of the Commonwealth Institute site,…setting out the principles that should shape the function and appearance of the development and ensure its integration within the local town landscape."  The Friends were consulted on the draft and extracts from our response follow:

The Friends of Holland Park welcome and support retention of the 'tent' and efforts to identify an economically viable use for the building.  We also note the recognition given to the site's special relationship with Holland Park; the importance of unimpeded views from Holland House across the playing field and the Commonwealth Institute, and the suggestion of a contribution towards conservation of Holland House. 

However, we do have some very serious concerns: "…a much more permeable relationship between the site and Holland Park, with removal of, or significant changes to, the boundary wall."    The integrity and security of the Park is critical, as is preservation of the Park's wonderful peacefulness.  We also seek assurance that the Borough will not cede any part of the Park to the Commonwealth Institute site, however small.

The Commonwealth Institute is and will remain a quite separate entity from the Park and under different ownership.  While it may be very nice for them to have 'permeability' with the Park, as guardians of the Park we see it rather differently.  Visual permeability would be acceptable along the Park's western boundary with the Institute where tall, high quality railings could replace the existing wall.  Already there are railings on either side of the curved walls each side of the Holland Park wrought iron gates.  In fact, we believe that both the Institute site and the Park would benefit from this.  The entrance to the Park from Kensington High Street would certainly be more attractive and welcoming if it had greater width and sense of space.  We support restoration of the Sylvia Crowe landscaping.

The wall to the north of the Commonwealth Institute, however, is quite different and must be retained to protect the Park's tranquillity and ambience.  It gives necessary protection from traffic movements, car parking, service deliveries and all the elements of the busy world we want to exclude from the Park.  To give even visual permeability here would undoubtedly be detrimental to the Park. The wall is the appropriate 'full stop' and boundary to the Park.  It must not be lost.

The continued security of the Park can only be guaranteed if the increased permeability envisaged is not extended to the free movement of people between the Commonwealth Institute site and the Park.  We must be able to lock the Park at night and we can see no reasonable argument for giving 'Commonwealth Institute' staff, residents or visitors any sort of priority access to the Park.  That would be quite wrong - it is not their Park!  No other perimeter resident has such rights.  [Winter 2007]

Holland Park School                  

The Royal Borough's plans for rebuilding the school were considered by the Major Applications Committee on 6 June and the Committee resolved to grant permission subject to Conditions.  However, the Secretary of State subsequently 'called in' the applications on the grounds that they may conflict with national policies.  A Public Inquiry will now be held before a decision is taken.

The Friends have concerns about the height, density and close proximity to the Park of the luxury residential development proposed for the playground area to the south of the existing school buildings.  We fear it will be intrusive and adversely affect the peaceful environment of the Park. We would also regret the loss of open space, a commodity in very short supply in this Borough.

If you have views about the proposed development, which you wish to bring to the attention of the Planning Inspector, you should write as soon as possible to: The Planning Inspectorate, Room 4/04, Kite Wing, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Temple Quay, Bristol BS1 6PN (for the attention of Mrs Debbie Smith) marked Holland Park School and quoting Reference: App/K5600/V/07/1201859, V/07/1201828, V/07/1201860.  [Autumn 2007]

Holland House conservation       

In the report of our AGM, there is a reference to Opera Holland Park's planning application for a new and larger canopy to accommodate more seating: it was granted.  You will have your feelings about the opera season.  Some love it, some object to it.  The Friends did not oppose the application, but we were extremely displeased that the contractors were permitted to carry out extensive foundation works before the planning officers had even written their report and in spite of the Planning Directorate's request that work should cease.  Clearly the application had been lodged much too late and there was a real concern that the opera season would not open on time.  It was even suggested to us that the extensive reinforced concrete foundations to support the canopy masts and anchors were not a part of the planning application.  Between a rock and a hard place comes to mind.

We had some specific concerns about the installation of the enlarged canopy, which were recognised and we trust have been dealt with satisfactorily, but we also needed to draw attention to the disgraceful condition of the House; for many years the Borough has been happy to use it as a venue and back drop for the opera seasons, but has done almost nothing to conserve this Grade II listed building at the very heart of Holland Park.  Residents and visitors should be able to get closer to the façade and walk within the forecourt, but despite our consistent attempts to get it firmly on the Borough's agenda, it has never happened – until now.

Communication with the Planning Directorate and Councillors, and the involvement of English Heritage, who decided to add the House to their 'Buildings at Risk' register, made a considerable impact.  One of the conditions to the planning consent, drafted by officers, is that particulars of a landscaping and tree/shrub planting scheme shall be submitted to, and approved by the Local Planning Authority.  More surprising, but most welcome, was an additional condition imposed by the Planning Services Committee itself.  It says that: "A Schedule of Works for the restoration of the Listed building shall be submitted to the Local Planning Authority no later than the end of October 2007 for written approval".

So, maybe great things will come out of this unfortunate saga, but how could this situation have been allowed to develop within our beautiful Park in the first place? [Summer 2007]