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Labour’s Response to the Revised Plan for the Old Post Office Site

Plans were submitted by St Georges and were subsequently revised following consultation. The revised plans can be seen on the kingston.gov.uk website at http://www.kingston.gov.uk/info/200351/regeneration_major_projects_and_developments/1114/old_post_office. The response of the Labour Party to this revised plan can be read below.

Kingston & Surbiton Constituency Labour Party has three issues with the revised plan:

(i)            Height of the tower block

(ii)          Lack of affordable housing

(iii)         Poor architectural aspiration

1.    Height

It is recognised that there has been a small amount of “trimming and slimming” to the tower block that was outlined in the original plan. However the Kingston Labour Party holds to its view, expressed in its written response to the consultation on the Eden Quarter Development Plan, that high-rise tower block building are inappropriate in Kingston town centre.

Kingston town centre has, unlike so many town centres, retained an architecture that is on a human scale. This has allowed the mixture and development of buildings across the centuries to be contemplated and enjoyed from all angles. Adding high-rise buildings to the townscape will create a centre where people and existing architecture will be overshadowed both physically and emotionally.

It is quite impossible to imagine that the town centre is enhanced in any way by a high rise building of the scale proposed. It will loom large as a menacing and threatening building to residents to the south of the town centre and to those wishing to enjoy the town centre facilities.

The high rise tower block on the corner of Brook Street and Wheatfield Way has to be scaled down to match the height of the college building that is situated relatively close to the proposed building.

2.    Affordable Housing

The proposal will subsume Francis House, where there are already 6 affordable dwellings, while creating but a handful more. The planning has included a range of statistics on transport with details of average numbers travelling to different parts of London, as well as statistics on required parking and bicycle stands. The plans tell us nothing of the need for affordable housing.

Kingston & Surbiton Labour Party is clear that affordable housing in Kingston needs to be a major priority in any development if the regeneration is to meet the needs of all sectors of Kingston’s social mix including both present and future residents. The regeneration of the town centre will create a demand for more low and median-paid workers. It is unacceptable that this group of people should be relegated to housing at a considerable distance from their place of employment, thus incurring expensive travel costs. There is therefore a strong economic argument for sticking firmly to the 50 per cent affordable housing policy. There is also an argument that says a town centre belongs to everyone and it is quite amoral to infer that only those who are reasonably wealthy can live in the town centre while everyone else should just be permitted to gaze from the outside.

3.    Architectural aspiration

The proposed buildings can only be described 21st century pedestrian. For a town whose history includes the birthplace of a united England this is hardly acceptable. The regeneration of the town centre should reflect, in its architectural legacy, the aspirations of the Saxon kings, and those that followed, to build a lasting centre that attracted people inwards as well as inspired them to look outwards to the future. We are, therefore, looking for a town centre that people can be proud of and which will serve as an icon in generations to come. What we are offered is the dull sameness of an architectural vision seen already across too many town centres.

Conclusion

Kingston and Surbiton Labour Party objects to this application on the grounds that it is inappropriately high, lacks affordable housing and does not meet the architectural standards to which residents of Kingston aspire.