PRESS RELEASE: Councillors throw out controversial South Kensington station plans

19th November 2021
Despite being tipped for approval, Kensington and Chelsea’s Major Development Planning Committee has unanimously rejected proposals for a large-scale development at the heart of historic South Kensington. The decision spells victory in a near three-year battle led by local residents and SAVE Britain’s Heritage. 
The result last night followed a four-hour debate on the highly contested plans by joint developer Native Land and Transport for London (TfL) who had proposed to build four large blocks of offices and flats around South Kensington Underground Station. Amongst the many concerns raised against the scheme, it was the harm posed to the South Kensington’s historic station and Thurloe and Smith’s Charity Conservation Area which proved the decisive blow in refusing the plans.
Following intense scrutiny of the plans and experts speaking from both sides of the debate, councillors concluded that the sheer number of harmful aspects of the development were not outweighed by the purported benefits of the scheme as a whole.
In their grounds for refusal, councillors singled out several elements of the scheme for particular criticism, including the demolition of the listed station bullnose and the five-storey replacement building proposed in its place, and the design and massing of the scheme as a whole, which was felt to be uncharacteristic of South Kensington with its rich and varied historic fabric.
Marcus Binney, executive president of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, says: “This is a victory for Londoners against Transport for London’s misguided plans for South Ken, which would have destroyed the village character of this focal point of west London. TfL should bow to the massive public opposition and abandon these plans now rather than waste everyone's time in pursuing an appeal on a project which has been so roundly rejected.”
Ben Oakley, conservation officer for SAVE Britain’s Heritage, says: “This scheme has been an exercise of division rather than consensus. The great irony is that there was consensus with the community in 2016 on a sensitive approach to redeveloping the station that was welcomed by all. Yesterday’s decision by councillors now signals a once in a generation chance to rekindle this consensus through a scheme that delivers a step-free accessible station AND respects and reflects South Kensington’s renowned historic setting.”
Sophie Andreae, Chair of local civic society the Brompton Association, says: “Local groups have urged TfL to bring forward a sensitive, conservation-led scheme for restoring the station which respects the low scale of village heart of South Kensington since the station was listed back in 2006. It is high time for TfL to listen instead of regarding the station site as a mega development opportunity, an out-of-date attitude that has dominated TfL’s thinking since the 1970s.”

SAVE was one of nine registered parties to address the committee in opposition to the plans, led by local ward councillor Greg Hammond. Alongside outlining our heritage concerns, SAVE argued that such a landmark location as South Kensington, exhibiting some of London’s richest and most identifiable historic buildings and cultural institutions deserved a scheme to match its unique heritage context. You can view our committee statement HERE.
The plans, designed by architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, have from the off courted widespread criticism from local residents, including four residents’ associations, all six ward councillors, local MP Felicity Buchan and SAVE.  The planning application also drew over 2900 public letters of objection from members of the public, the highest number of responses ever recorded in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea against a single planning application.
In contrast, a detailed report published jointly in August 2020 by SAVE and The Brompton Association - South Kensington Heritage at Risk! – sought to illustrate a positive alternative for development at the South Kensington Station. Images in the report show how a low-rise, heritage-led scheme might look, following the development principles set out in a Development Brief drawn up by TfL and the local community in 2016. CLICK HERE to view the report.


Notes to editors:

1. For more information contact Ben Oakley, conservation officer at SAVE Britain's Heritage – / 07388 181 181

2. See here for our press release prior to yesterday’s planning committee.

3. See here for our previous press release from June 2021.

4. See here for the joint report published in August 2020 by SAVE and The Brompton Association illustrating the harm posed by the scale of the proposals and an alternative heritage-led approach to development.

5. Lead image: South Kensington Station in Autumn 2019 (Credit: Discover Kensington).

6. SAVE Britain's Heritage is a strong, independent voice in conservation that has been fighting for threatened historic buildings and sustainable reuses since 1975. We stand apart from other organisations by bringing together architects, engineers, planners and investors to offer viable alternative proposals. Where necessary, and with expert advice, we take legal action to prevent major and needless losses.