On Tuesday evening, the major planning applications sub-committee of Westminster City Council gave consent for the redevelopment of south Belgravia’s Cundy Street flats and adjoining Walden House social housing block into a brand new mixed-use place called Cundy Street Quarter.
It was a very large step on a very long journey towards the realisation of a scheme whose progress has highlighted recurring themes of regeneration projects found in different ways all over town and taken a particular form in this famously smart neck of the woods, including an attempt by Labour to make the plans a political issue at the 2019 general election and an instructive dispute about what the views of residents truly were.
The sub-committee considered the plans in February, but deferred a decision due to residents of Mozart Terrace on Ebury Street fearing that their homes would end up receiving less daylight than before. Developer Grosvenor Britain & Ireland and their architects came up with a solution which boils down to making one of the proposed new blocks a bit shorter and losing some of the scheme’s “affordable” homes as a result.
They could have reduced the height of the block in question, which will contain homes for older people, by sacrificing the fifth and highest floor completely. But the financial consequence of that would have been 15 fewer intermediate “affordable” homes – the sort priced with middle-income households in mind – within the scheme as a whole
So instead of being scrapped the fifth floor has been redesigned with a “generous setback” that allows what the council officers said is a “substantially similar” amount of daylight to reach Mozart Terrace as at present (see pages 15 and 16 of the council’s planning officer’s report) and at the expense of only five of the affordable homes planned, all single-bed units. They will now be for market sale instead, to make up the difference.
The overall percentage of affordable space in Cundy Street Quarter, as measured by habitable rooms, will drop by one per cent – from 37 to 36, as verified by the independent assessors of BNP Paribas – and the provision of social rented homes, replacing those of Walden House, is unaffected. Officers considered the revised form to be “generally undesirable” but perceptible in only “limited public views”.
James Wright of the Belgravia Residents Association seemed keener, saying that the Association, Grosvenor and local affected residents had worked together and “all residents are now content with the changes”. He told the meeting the new design “looks more in keeping as far as the streetscape is concerned” and expressed thanks to the committee.
The scheme was deemed to accord with both Westminster’s new City Plan and the Mayor’s London Plan. Committee chair Robert Rigby (Conservative) said he was “very pleased” that there is no change to the social rented accommodation replacing that of Walden House.
All six of the sub-committee’s councillors – two Labour, four Conservatives – said they were happy to approve the plans (one of the Labour ones had been content with it in February) and though there were expressions of regret from councillors of both parties at the loss of affordable homes, the general feeling seemed to be that a good compromise had been found.
As the scheme is pretty big, the plans still have to receive the blessing of the Sadiq Khan but seems likely to be forthcoming in due course.
On London has been covering the Cundy Street Quarter scheme since July 2019 and will continue to do so.
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