October's Kingston upon Thames Society Committee Meeting started to address the wave of significant planning applications that we knew were coming.
As always, these are my personal notes of the meeting, they do not cover everything that we discussed, I've reordered the items, I've added some additional comments, and they are my views (and errors), not the Committee's.
The very brief summary of the Society's meeting with the University was that they were unable to provide accommodation for their students and they had to rely on the private suppliers to do this but they are not generally happy with what is being proposed. They have objected to some schemes, such as that in the High Street, on the grounds of their unsuitability.
We accepted the need for student accommodation, and welcomed the freeing up of former family homes that could happen as a result, but had concerns about some of the locations and the quality of some of the proposals.
With the University playing no role in the location, size and number of student blocks this was left to RBK to decide through the planning process.
I offered to write to RBK to establish which policies they had on this.
Heritage Opens Days (HODs)
HODs had gone well with more places open and more visitors.
The later closing date for submissions (set nationally) had caused us a problem with getting the leaflet out in time and we will take this as a lesson learnt for next year.
Organising the Committee
We discussed the yearly calendar that I had prepared. The initial purpose of this was to schedule the Townscape awards so that we allowed proper time for consultations with members and to make the final formal decision in Committee, but I had added to this and had included all of the Society's activities (Public Meetings, HODs, Newsletter, etc.) to try and show how they could all hang together. This was based on similar calendars that I had developed for The Mount Primary School and for the British Czech and Slovak Association when I was on their governing bodies.
This was generally well received and it was left to the new Committee that would be formed in January to use and enhance it. I was happy with that.
The pursuit of a new Chairman had produced a few names but only one of them felt that they could commit themselves sufficiently to the job. And that was me. So I'll be the Committee's nomination for Chairman at the AGM in January, other nominations may be made.
Section 4 Changes
RBK were proposing to ask the Government for permission to require proposed conversions from commercial to residential in some areas, e.g. town centres, to require planning permission. A recent government change had removed this requirement and while the change was seen as useful way in bringing some empty buildings back in to use it also meant that some commercial areas could lose facilities, especially the sort of small offices required by start-ups, to the detriment of the local economy.
The proposed change would not stop the conversions, it would simply require them to seek planning permission so that each could be assessed on their own merits.
We agreed to support RBK's proposal though we were sceptical over their chances of getting it approved by the Government.
Tesco site in Tolworth
Having given up on the idea of building a supermarket on the site of the Former Government Offices site in Tolworth, Tesco were now consulting on a large residential-led scheme.
The most obvious feature of this is the large tower, mirroring the famous Tolworth Tower on the other side of the A3.
This was only an initial consultation and so we only made some broad comments. We will go in to the scheme in more detail in the next stage of the consultation (if there is one) and when the planning application is submitted.
We felt that residential use was appropriate for the site, were happy with the tower and we liked the open spaces between the blocks. We wanted the site to have good access to public transport (Tolworth Station was on the edge of the site but buses needed to be considered too) and we also wanted the public provision to include a school.
The members of the Committee were to send me their comment on the proposal so that I could respond on behalf of the Society.
Tolworth Girls' School (14/10306)
Tolworth Girls' School was an unusual site, as the map shows.
It sat on the north side of the A3 which automatically meant that traffic would be an issue.
The site itself had three zones; the school (grey) was next to Fullers Way North which provided access to the site, the playing fields (green) sat behind the school, and the area of land bounded by industry and housing (yellow) had been left unused for several years and it had a distinctly unloved look when compared to the managed playing fields adjoining it.
The school was proposing to make some changes to the school buildings and to pay for this by selling of the unused area of the fields for housing.
We had mixed view on this but after some healthy, and polite, discussion we reached a consensus.
Our concern was with the proposal for the new housing.
This would bring extra traffic on to Fullers Way North which already had a traffic problem due to it's access from the A3. We did not like the way that the access road to the housing was a narrow track that curved around the school. We were concerned that this would be the only access road to the site which would put it at risk of being isolated if there was, for example, an incident in Fullers Way North. We would rather have seen either the existing access Chaffinch Close used or a new access route built through to Selbourne Avenue.
We also felt that the developer was being a little greedy and was over-packing the site.
I took the action to submit our views to RBK.
Ashley Motors, Penhryn Road (11/12942)
This was a proposal to demolish an existing garage and replace it with a block of student accommodation.
As the site was adjacent to the University we agreed that student accommodation was an appropriate use for the site.
We also quite liked the look of the building.
But we did not like the scale of it, both the height and the bulk were significantly out of scale with its immediate neighbours, as this elevation shows.
We agreed to oppose this application on the grounds of over development of the site.
The Old Post Office
This was the second round of consultation on The Old Post Office site, following the first public consultation in July.
We discussed the scheme only briefly as the developers, St. George, were presenting at our Public Meeting later that week and we would have the opportunity to comment and ask questions then.
The one comment that I did make was that much of the publicity focused on the small public space in the north-west corner of the site and, while this looked reasonable, I was concerned about the dense, impenetrable and tall housing proposed for most of the site.