The architects and developers seeking to build housing and refurbish some of the existing buildings around South Kensington station have submitted the latest round of amendments to the council.
The previous plans were, grudgingly, likely to be approved by the council, but the developer, Native Land asked for a hold on the planning approval to come back and address some of the concerns that had been raised.
The architects, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners have now submitted the revised amendments to the council.
There have been attempts to do “something” with South Kensington station pretty much ever since it was built, and the latest round of proposals have generated a lot of heat locally for being too large and dominating. The fact is that all the buildings being proposed are comparable in height to the existing buildings in the area.
The architectural style, having once been burned by dramatic and impressive ideas in the 1980s, is now as muted and inoffensive as is possible to get. It’s high-quality design, if rather bland to satisfy local tastes. As complaints were made about previous proposals, they’ve come back with more amendments.
The latest refinements are aimed at reducing heights on certain elements of the scheme and introducing further setbacks or parapets, as well as reducing glazing and changing materials on certain parts of the development to ensure the scheme is optimised to sit sympathetically within its context.
The bullnose, a semi-circular row of shops that sits in front of the station, and if it wasn’t “much loved” despite its shabby appearance and very narrow pavement, would normally be the sort of thing people would clamour have turned into a pedestrian plaza.
The developers do plan to demolish it, but then build a replacement with three floors above to match the height of the other buildings in the area, yet this has been probably the most contentious part of the plans. The revised plans soften the appearance which had been maybe to obviously being used as office space, and is now a bit more subdued in its function.
The refurbishment of the Thurlow Street buildings will see the old cluttered layout behind the Victorian facade rebuilt, and an additional floor added to the top.
The revised plans see the roof-top floor set further back to minimise their bulk, and some decorative flourishes that were being considered for the shops no longer added.
The southern side of the station is currently empty, but used to contain houses and shops, and the development plans to restore the housing to the road. The previous proposals have been softened somewhat with more muted colours. Away with the stronger red brickwork next to the oxblood red tiles of the old lift shafts, and away with brighter cream coloured brickwork down the rest of the row.
The upper floors have also been set back further to reduce the impact of the height.
Overall, the plans will offer 35% affordable housing on site, and put in place the facilities needed to offer step-free access from the street to the ticket hall. A separate plan has been developed to upgrade the station itself, to add step-free access to the District/Circle lines, and later potentially to the Piccadilly line platforms.
One of the other changes is that as the redevelopment is in part needed to support step-free access from the street to the ticket hall, the developer is offering a commitment that it will deliver the step-free access as part of the redevelopment of Thurloe Street and Pelham Street, before they start work on the Bullnose and Thurloe Square developments.
The lift from the street to the ticket hall will also include access down to the lower level museum subway.
The project website has been updated with the latest changes to the plans, which will now go to the public consultation, and later this year to the council for approval.