Planning 2008

The Parabola  ParabolaThe former Commonwealth Institute has been renamed as The Parabola. The Friends have been contacted again by the new owner/developers to tell us that they have appointed the internationally renowned Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), led by Rem Koolhaas, as the architects for the scheme. OMA are now exploring uses and design options for The Parabola and appropriate development opportunities for the adjacent land within the site, and they hope to be able to show us a range of ideas and options in September before submitting a planning application towards the end of the year.

You may recall that in the winter 2007 newsletter we reported our response to The Royal Borough's Draft Supplementary Planning Document for The Parabola (Commonwealth Institute) site. We were, and are, seriously concerned at the suggestion that there should be: "...a much more permeable relationship between the site and Holland Park, with removal of, or significant changes to, the boundary wall." We said then that we see the integrity and security of the Park as critical, as is preservation of the Park's wonderful peacefulness. Visual permeability would be acceptable along the Park's western boundary with The Parabola where tall, high quality railings could replace the existing wall. The wall to the north of The Parabola, however, is quite different and must be retained to protect the Park's tranquillity and ambience. 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 Parabola site and the Park.

Somewhat surprisingly in the circumstances, the final Supplementary Planning Document has not yet been published, although consultation on the draft ended on 22 October last year. We do wonder just how this high-flying architectural practice can make any meaningful progress without knowing exactly what The Royal Borough is prepared to accept on the site and we need to know to what extent our very real concerns about the integrity of the Park have been taken seriously by the Borough. It is understood that a revised version of the document will be issued for further comments this autumn. [Autumn 2008]

Holland House and Terrace  HH and terraceWe hae wanted for a long time to see the remains of Holland House conserved and the terrace area in front opened to the public outside the opera season. Our efforts came to a head early last year when conditions we had requested were attached to the planning consent for the enlarged opera canopy and seating arrangements.

Now we can report that the conservation work, begun on the house before this summer's opera season and to be concluded once the site is again clear, will have impressed English Heritage to the extent that Holland House will be removed from their 'Buildings at Risk' register. This is excellent news and we are delighted that the Council has bitten the bullet and is working to preserve what little remains of a once great house.

Similarly, efforts are underway to enable landscaping of the terrace so that it is capable of carrying the heavy equipment needed to set up the opera, but can also be safely and attractively opened to the public at other times. The Friends have applied for a substantial grant from Kensington & Chelsea Environmental Ltd and a smaller one from Western Riverside Environmental Fund. If we are successful, The Royal Borough has promised to find the balance. If we are not, it may well be a longer process, but it is important that we retain our vision of restoring the house and terrace as the focal point of the Park and we are determined that having got so far we will see that goal achieved.   [Autumn 2008]

 Holland Park School  On 26 June The Royal Borough granted itself planning permission to demolish the existing school and build a new one, selling off the southern playing field site for luxury apartments to pay for it.

On the 24 July, despite his many public promises to "stop the sale of playing fields" Mayor Boris Johnson rubber stamped the Council's plans. This was followed on 31 July by the Secretary of State confirming that she had decided not to intervene. On the same day, the Government Office for the West Midlands (GOWM), on behalf of the Secretary of State, approved the Conservation Area Consent Application to demolish the existing school buildings, despite much criticism of the Council's lack of sensitivity to the Kensington and Holland Park Conservation Areas.

These various approvals allow the Borough to proceed with their plans for a new Holland Park School; a final decision will be taken in November. However, we must remain vigilant to ensure that an incoming developer purchasing the southern playground site is not given approval to increase the footprint, mass or density of the residential apartments already approved by RBKC and we urge the Borough to be resolute in that respect. It is bad enough that the apartments are to be built in that position and to such monolithic scale; anything even larger on the boundary of Holland Park would be an absolute disgrace. Is it too much to hope that the developer might possibly propose more sympathetic treatment to the design of the block? Probably. [Autumn 2008]