Planning inspector overturns council refusal of all proposals except introduction of shop fronts to grade II-listed subway

RSHP has been given the green light for its controversial redevelopment of South Kensington Station, two years after councillors rejected the scheme in the face of officers’ recommendations.

A planning inspector has ruled that the bulk of the scheme – created for developer Native Land and Transport for London property company Places for London – can go ahead. The only elements of the South Ken proposals that were dismissed at appeal were plans to insert two shops in the grade-II listed subway that links the station with the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Science Museum.

RSHP’s scheme will deliver 50 new homes, along with a range of shops, restaurants and workspace – and station improvements including step-free access to platforms from the Thurloe Street entrance. Almost 3,000sq m of new office space will be created under the proposals.

The scheme will involve the demolition of the station area’s existing single-storey “Bullnose” building for replacement with a new four-storey structure.

Bullnose 2022 GM

Source: Google Maps

The Bullnose building in South Kensington

Planning inspector Zoë Hill acknowledged that the “quirky” semi-circular building had its own clear character and identity. But she added that its was only a “curtilage listed structure” as part of the station’s grade II listing and that there was “sound reason” for its redevelopment.

She said RSHP’s proposals for a new Bullnose building would retain the current structure’s historic plan form at the same time as offering increased floorspace.

“Once the principle of demolition is accepted it is necessary to consider what would be appropriate to replace it, and those factors must have regard to the surroundings, the listed building itself and other material factors,” she said.

South Ken 2023 2

Source: RSHP

Thurloe Street view of RSHP’s South Kensington proposals

But Hill took a tougher stance on the proposals to create new retail space in South Kensington Station Subway.

She said introducing new retail façades into the largely-unaltered glazed-brick subway, which was completed in 1885, would be “unacceptably discordant” and would “significantly harm” the special architectural and historic interest of the structure.

Native Land chief executive Alasdair Nicholls said Hill’s decision to approve almost all of RSHP’s proposals brought a “drawn-out planning process” to a positive conclusion.

“This is a high-quality scheme that will protect the heritage of the station while bringing a renewed sense of place to South Kensington,” he said.

“When complete, it will create an experience befitting the gateway to London’s internationally renowned museum and cultural quarter.”

RSHP Station arcade Jan 2021

RSHP’s plans for the station arcade at South Kensington under the January 2021 version of the proposals

Places for London head of property development Scott Anderson said RSHP’s proposals would enhance the South Kensington Station buildings and the surrounding streets.

“The station sees millions of journeys being made by people from across the world, with it acting as a gateway to some of Britain’s most important and treasured cultural institutions, and these improvements will help them to experience London at its finest,” he said.

Cem Kemahli, lead member for planning and public realm at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, said the planning inspector’s decision was a “disappointing blow” for people who live in the area.

“South Kensington is a world class destination. Destinations need transport links and development, but not at any cost,” he said. “Certainly not at the cost of the area’s recognisably distinctive and much-loved character.”

South Ken 2023 3

Source: RSHP

New homes at Pelham Place under RSHP’s scheme

Kemahli said the scheme had been opposed by more than 2,000 people and was at odds with TfL’s own design code.

RSHP’s plans for South Kensington Station are the sixth separate set of proposals to be worked up for the site since the 1980s, all of which have been confronted by heritage campaigners.

Scott, Brownrigg & Turner, Terry Farrell & Partners, Francis Machin, John McAslan & Partners and Buckley Gray Yeoman were responsible for previous schemes.