By Julia Gregory, local democracy reporter
A controversial plan to transform South Kensington tube which is opposed by more than 1,300 people has been withdrawn so developers can alter the scheme.
The station is one of London’s busiest as 34m people use it a year, including millions of tourists visiting the Natural History, Victoria & Albert and Science Museum.
It opened in 1868 and has a distinctive shopping arcade at the the entrance which is used by millions of passengers every year.
Developers Native Land want to knock down the Edwardian “Bullnose” shop fronts at the station, refurbish the distinctive Victorian shopping arcade which is popular with tourists, put in step-free access from to District and Circle lane platforms and improvements to the ticket hall.
The scheme also includes 50 new homes, including 17 affordable properties, on Pelham Street and Thurloe Square.
It would see:
- Redevelopment of the ‘bullnose’ shops at the front of the station with a five-storey, mixed-use building.
- New homes and offices on Pelham Street.
- New homes at Thurloe Square
- Refurbishing shop fronts on Thurloe Street
- Refurbishing shop-fronts in the Grade II listed station arcade.
However 1,939 people object to the plans, with 689 in favour.
A planning report saidthe modern designs by Stirling prize winners Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and historic building specialists Julian Harrap Architects, “serves to make the new buildings appear alien and out of keeping with the context, failing to suitably respond to the contexts and characters of the local area.”
It said the scheme will cause “less than substantial harm” to the Grade II listed South Kensington Station and other listed buildings on Pelham Place, Thurloe Square and Thurloe Street.
The report added that “the harm is not outweighed by any design benefits of the proposals which include the enhancement of the station arcade and Thurloe Street shopfronts”.
A spokesman for the Native Land and TfL joint venture said they wanted to defer the planning decision: “ so that we can work with the borough on some further refinements to the designs to address some of the remaining issues raised in the officer’s report.”
He said: “ Our plans, which build on extensive consultation and have received broad support from the wider community and important local organisations and institutions, will provide 50 homes, of which 35 per cent will be affordable, and a contemporary range of shops, restaurants and workspaces – as well as completing the delivery of much-needed step-free access to the Circle & District lines.”
The scheme won support from cultural organisations including the Royal Albert Hall, Science Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum.
The Natural History Museum’s director Dr Douglas Gurr said it will deliver much needed step-free access and improve the overall visitor experience from when they first arrive at the station, throughout the visit to the cultural quarter and then through the onward journey at the end of their visit.”
Most of the five million visitors arrive at the museum by Tube and the majority of its 800 employees also use public transport, he said.
The Vice Chancellor of the nearby Royal College of Art said it supported the improvements “and how they sit contextually with surrounding buildings”.
However the Brompton Association said the scheme was “profoundly flawed” and was not “conservation-led”.
It said: “This scheme is wholly inappropriate for this historic area and must be rejected.”
And the Kensington Society said: “The proposals show little consideration for the true context of the site and can be seen as an example of over development.”
Save Britain’s Heritage said despite some amendments to the plan it “remains strongly opposed” to the scheme.
Courtfield ward councillor Greg Hammond was due to speak on behalf of fellow ward councillors and MPs said the scheme would cause “substantial harm to the conservation area.”
He favoured the 2016 planning brief agreed by Kensington and Chelsea council, residents and Transport for London ” appropriate scale, good design, reuses existing buildings and delivers step-free access.”
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