SAVE DOLPHIN SQUARE AND ITS BEAUTIFUL LISTED GRADE II GARDENS
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The public inquiry into Westbrook's appeal against the city council's refusal of planning permission, which was due to begin on 12th May, has been postponed until September 22nd because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The delay will mean that the referral of the Inspector's recommendation to the Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick MP, for his own decision is unlikely to take place until March next year at the earliest.
Both Westbrook and the city council will be represented by leading planning lawyers at the inquiry, which is expected to last 6-7 days, and interested parties will be permitted to speak and put their objections to the Planning Inspector.
The time-table for the principal parties submitting their proofs of evidence to the Planning Inspectorate has now been extended until 25th of August.
After receiving the Inspector's recommendation, the Secretary of State will make a final decision balancing the relevant planning guidance against the public interest.
In announcing the decision to refer the decision to the Secretary of State, the Planning Inspectorate stated: "the appeal involves proposals for the development of over 150 units or on sites of over 5 hectares, which would significantly impact on the Government's objectives to secure a better balance between housing demand and supply and create high quality, sustainable, mixed and inclusive communities."
The principal ground for Westbrook’s appeal is that the development is in the public interest through the increased housing provision, the refurbishment of the existing buildings, the affordable housing element, their claimed improvement of the listed gardens, a better leisure complex and improved local retail shopping facilities.
Westminster city council gave three reasons for refusal in their decision notice of 22nd July 2019 being:
1. The demolition of Rodney House and the proposed replacement building, along with the rooftop extension to the retained and refurbished houses ,would harm the appearance of the building and fail to maintain or improve the character of the Dolphin Square Conservation Area. The council stated that the public benefits would not outweigh the harm that the development would cause.
2. There would be insufficient family size units in the development and the development did not provide an appropriate mix of housing to retain families in Westminster.
3. The development would lead to an intensification of short-term let residential property (occupation for less than 90 consecutive nights) which is likely to negatively impact on the amenity of local residents.
Objectors have made it clear that Westbrook's plans do not create a "high quality, sustainable, mixed and inclusive" community but destroy an existing community in pursuit of their hotel expansion plans and profit objectives.
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Dolphin Square is at risk! We urge you to prioritise the protection of irreplaceable heritage, and the rights of both residents, neighbours and low-income residents of the borough, by applying national and local policies to reject the current appeal which proposes irreversible damage to Dolphin Square.
Dolphin Square is a historic and iconic building located by the Thames in London's Pimlico, a Conservation Area in its own right and adjacent to two further Conservation areas. The beautiful gardens were recently listed Grade II.
Its American owners, Westbrook Partners, have filed a planning application to demolish the 6-storey northern block and replace it with a 10-storey building and add one floor to the remaining buildings. Most of the redevelopment is for hotel and short-term letting use and not to provide long-term housing for locals which is so desperately needed in Westminster. If the appeal is allowed, the northern half of the listed gardens will be lost and replaced with a modern design to accommodate the new building and two huge deep basements providing facilities for the hotel. Also, the famous art-deco shopping parade will be demolished.
Already Dolphin Square has one of the greatest housing densities in Central London with 1,250 homes on a site of only seven acres. By comparison, the adjoining council estate of Churchill Gardens has 1,500 homes on a 37 acre site. The development will increase the density substantially and is completely out of keeping with the three Conservation areas of which Dolphin Square forms a part and the surrounding village community of Pimlico
Affordable housing was a long tradition at Dolphin Square, when built between 1935-37, with more than 1,200 homes specifically aimed at those needing to live in central London for their work – a priority that continued when it was owned by a trust controlled by Westminster City Council.
After filing the application, Westbrook made an "affordable" housing offer pursuant to new Government guide-lines issued last summer in response to Build-to-Rent developments which Westbrook claim their development to be despite the bulk of the application being for service apartments for short-term rental. The "affordable" housing offer includes the provision of 57 housing units comprising 23 for social rent (7x1 bed, 8x2 bed, and 8 by 3-bed). The remaining 34 "affordable" units will be 34 1xbed flats available at intermediate rent. All of the flats will be owned and managed by Westbrook and only the 23 social rent flats will be available to tenants nominated by the council.
Westbrook already claims that their standard rental offering in Dolphin Square is at intermediate rent level (around £400 a week for a 1-bed unit) and these flats will not qualify for tenants nominated by the council since the rent is substantially in excess of social rent rates and even Local Housing Allowance rates used to calculate Housing Benefit. Furthermore, Westbrook will be entitled to sell them on payment of a penalty to the local authority estimated to be between 10 and 20% of the capital value. The intermediate flats are also likely to be available for short-term letting use.
The affordable housing will not compensate for the irreversible damage to the three Conservation areas and the village character of the local community and the sole motive for the development is profit for the off-shore owners who are based in Jersey.
If this appeal is successful, the character and fabric of Dolphin Square will be lost for ever.
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