In 2012, shortly after the Localism Act came into force, the St Helens Residents Association in North Kensington decided to prepare a neighbourhood plan for their area. Such plans were then very new, but have since become common outside London especially in more rural areas.
It has been a long haul, but the St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Plan has recently been through its independent ‘examination’ (a mini-version of a planning inquiry, held in public and chaired by the equivalent of a planning inspector).
The neighbourhood plan covers the terraced streets of the St Quintin Estate in W10. The remaining green ‘backland’ open spaces are a feature of the Oxford Gardens Conservation Area. The space on Nursery Lane W10 has been leased since the 1960s by Clifton Nurseries Ltd, as an adjunct to its main garden nursery in Little Venice W8.
The draft neighbourhood plan proposes designation of all three remaining backlands as Local Green Space. This provides strong protection against development of these areas. Designation is subject to three national criteria. These set a high bar.
Saving much loved green space in W10
The landowners of the backland site at Nursery Lane, when notified of this proposed designation, swiftly placed the site on the market as a ‘residential development opportunity’. During 2014 developers Metropolis Property and their agents London Realty put together a detailed scheme and planning application for 20 four-bedroom townhouses on the site. Planning advice from the Council saw such development as ‘acceptable in principle’. When exhibited locally a year ago, the proposed housing development prompted local outrage and a petition to ‘Save our Green Spaces’.
The petition gathered 2,500 signatures and triggered a debate at the Kensington and Chelsea Council meeting in April 2015. Cabinet member Tim Coleridge said that the Council would await the outcome on the neighbourhood plan. The planning application was subsequently withdrawn.
In September, John Parmiter FRICS MRTPI convened a public hearing on the Draft Neighbourhood Plan. His role as ‘independent examiner’ was to test the draft neighbourhood plan for compliance with the ‘basic conditions’ in the Localism Act, and to assess the proposed Local Green Space designations against the tough criteria in the National Planning Policy Framework.
The Examiner’s report can be seen at www.stqw.org. It supports the designation of all three backland sites as Local Green Space, along with the neighbourhood forum’s proposal to locate new housing on brownfield land in nearby Latimer Road – a site seen by local people as far more suitable than Nursery Lane.
Subject to majority support in a forthcoming referendum, the neighbourhood plan will be adopted by the Council as part of its Local Development Framework. Its policies will then be applied within the neighbourhood area.
So it is back to the drawing board for the landowners and developers. The value of the site should now return to its past and true level as undeveloped agricultural land. A range of future uses compatible with Local Green Space, including various options for communal ‘garden square’, and a Council managed ‘community market garden’ will be explored by local residents. A line of beautiful weeping willows, planted by Clifton Nurseries, should now survive.
Henry Peterson, St Helens Residents Association