Following a decisive refusal at planning committee in November 2012, the applicant Amro appointed Cratus to advise on consultation for a new application for student accommodation on the site of an old car sales/garage site at Penrhyn Road, Kingston upon Thames.
As an acknowledged ‘gateway site’ with a requirement for educational use this was a very sensitive application.
Working closely with the client, who will be a long term owner of the accommodation, Cratus first contacted objectors to inform them of the new plans coming forward and of a public exhibition to be held on site in early January 2013.
Following the exhibition a number of meetings were held with nearby residents and members of a local action group to try to find a way of mitigating the perceived problems of building a five storey student accommodation block on the site.
Cratus and Amro worked closely together to reach as many local residents as possible. It became clear that whilst the residents closest to the site were very anxious about over 100 students being housed in close proximity, those slightly further away were supportive and understood the need to provide well managed facilities.
Amro worked with planning officers to produce the best possible solution for the site, even bringing in a new architect to review the plans at a late stage. The result was an application that officers could support fully.
Councillors had been very unimpressed with the first application and had raised a number of issues regarding overlooking, design, scale and massing and although not a planning issue had voiced their disquiet regarding the covenant.
All these issues were tackled and the final plans were policy compliant, with no statutory objections. However, there was still strong resistance from ward Councillors and close neighbours.
Cratus ensured that members of the planning committee received relevant information regarding the robust consultation that had taken place and the changes to the scheme that responded directly to previously held concerns.
We briefed our client on the tone and focus of his speech to the committee and then another member of our team sat in the public gallery. The final decision was tight and was carried by the Chairperson’s casting vote.
This was a very contentious application, with a well organised and motivated group of objectors. The very comprehensive and robust consultation that we undertook helped demonstrate how our client had responded to the residents’ concerns and the issues that Councillors first raised. Based on this work and the briefings we provided for the Councillors, the committee turned round a unanimous decision to refuse to a close decision to approve. Amro now look forward to offering accommodation to students coming to Kingston in September 2014.