Plans for hundreds of new homes and 29-storey tower block in Earl’s Court move closer to approval

By Owen Shepperd, Local Democracy Correspondent

Controversial plans to build a 29-storey tower and 462 new homes could be approved within weeks.

Dutch real-estate investor Meyer Bergman’s bid to redevelop a huge site between West Cromwell Road and Warwick Road, Earl’s Court, was rejected by Kensington and Chelsea council in May 2019.

After negotiations with City Hall, the developer’s new offering now has a skyscraper that’s seven storeys taller than before – and with 35 more flats.

Despite the change, the scheme stands a better chance of getting planning permission, after councillors instead decided they would write to Mayor Sadiq Khan and recommend he approve it.

The plans originally included eight blocks, one 22 storeys tall, and seven others ranging from 11 to 14 storeys.

Meyer Bergman, working with development managers Londonnewcastle, also promised to build a new community sports hall, a pool with access for local schools, and more than one acre of landscaped public space.

The same company is also redeveloping the Whiteleys Shopping Centre in Bayswater.

Earlier this year, the company’s original plans were labelled “monstrous” by local residents and politicians, who said:

  • That the scheme was “excessive” in height
  • That half of the total number of flats needed to be a 50/50 mix of “affordable” housing and more-heavily discounted “social” rented housing
  • That it would block sunlight from reaching homes in nearby Atwood House and Warren House
  • And that the new scheme would “harm” the appearance and setting of Grade I-listed St Cuthbert’s Church and Grade II*- listed Brompton Cemetery

The council’s decision was effectively revoked by London Mayor Sadiq Khan in July when he decided to call-in the scheme and take over negotiations with the developer.

Since then, Meyer Bergman has made several changes. The old version included 427 flats (35 fewer) of which 145 were affordable. There would now be 186 flats that are affordable.

Before Mr Khan’s office gives his verdict, on February 3, the council’s planning committee was given the chance to offer its opinion to Mr Khan on whether the development should be rejected again.

The committee decided, on January 7 to back the development. The council has since written to Mr Khan saying the development should go ahead.

Mr Khan had already suggested he would back the scheme, saying: “In my view the proposed development has potential to make an important contribution to housing and affordable housing.”

However, some councillors on the committee were still unhappy about the ratio of flats that will be affordable and social. And the council’s own policies state that large developments should have a 50/50 mix of these two types of affordable housing.

Councillor Sina Lari, the only member of the committee to vote against the scheme, said: “I believe the provision of 58 per cent to 42 per cent [social-rented housing] doesn’t comply with our local policy. Even though the number of homes has been increased, I don’t believe this satisfies the requirement for social rented homes.

“The increase in height [of the skyscraper] is clearly an exacerbation of the harm to the existing townscape and conversation area.”

Councillor James Husband, who chairs the committee, said: “I feel on balance that we probably say that we would support the scheme now

“The importance of creating new homes and new [leisure] facilities, these are two very substantial benefits that outweigh the harms to heritage assets and the issue of daylight to some residents.”

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