Planning application for 128 flats on Kingston Hospital site amended and set for an early December decision

Amendments have been submitted to the original planning application for the demolition of the Regents Wing at Kingston Hospital in order to build 128 flats up to eight storeys high. We understand that the application is now due to be decided early December.

The planning application was originally submitted in October 2019, but some changes have now been made following feedback from local residents and the ward councillors. The approval of the application would see the Regents Wing, Pain & Diabetes building and part-demolition of the Command Centre at Kingston Hospital. The new building would be part-4/6/8 storey containing 128 flats with associated care/communal facilities.

Revised details to western elevation

Interestingly, the developer is seeking the support of the Kingston Chamber of Commerce for the updated planning application, with a promise of moving the company to Kingston at some point in the future. It seems they are prioritising contacting prospective supporters, rather than local residents who are most likely to be negatively affected by the proposals.

There is lots of new information on the Council planning file, which can be seen by searching planning application reference 19/02504/FUL on the Kingston Council planning pages of their website. The Conservative Coombe Hill ward councillors will be reading through the details of the coming days and weeks, and will be in touch with many of the local residents who have concerns about the proposals.

Any local resident who would like to comment on the updated application can do it via the Royal Borough of Kingston website. If you have any problem using the planning pages of the council website (it seems to have regular problems) you should email development.management@kingston.gov.uk.

From an initial look, the latest changes have addressed some comments, but not all. It’s still a sizeable, high-density building. The main changes/responses are included in an Update to the Design & Access Statement, which can be seen along with the other new documents on Kingston Council’s website. As we type this, the website isn’t allowing all the documents to be shown, and we have notified RBK of this. The responses from the developer (in their own words) are detailed below:

COMMENTS RAISED / DESIGN RESPONSE:

Site layout

Additional visitors parking requested. Detailed comments from Kingston Centre for Independent Living (KCIL) to improve accessibility:

Additional Sheffield bike stands to entrance drop off area for visitor use.

A pedestrian zone in front of entrance has been marked out with change of paving material.

A new disabled parking space within drop off area has been created for visitors.

Floor plans

Concerns raised over projecting balconies and informal communal areas:

All balconies are now inset to provide better privacy, prevent overlooking and improve the visual appearance.

The informal communal areas within each cluster of flats around each core have been increased in size and where possible move closer to windows.

Revised site plan

Elevations

Consultation comments suggested the western elevation lacked the quality of the front elevation. A number of detailed comments were received from the design officer:

In response to consultation comments the western elevation has been redesigned in order to improve its appearance and incorporate features from the front elevation. Revisions include:

  • Recessing projecting balconies to the fingers
  • Raising the parapets in brick at fifth floor level to simplify the improve proportions.
  • Brick headers added to windows throughout.
  • Changing to red brick within courtyard gardens and keeping fingers in buff brick consistent with the eastern elevation.
  • Linking windows vertically in pairs.
  • Introducing soldier course with darker mortar to the red brick areas a detail used in the front elevation.
  • Thickening up the stone plinth within the main garden so that this reads as more of a band.
  • Simplifying the metal clad set back 5th floor.

Design strategy

Revised front/south elevation

The emerging redevelopment masterplan for the Kingston Hospital is beyond the control of the design team of this development. This masterplan will have to respond to this and any other authorised development within close proximity. The proposal submitted for planning reflects the some of the panel’s previous advice and now responds better to its physical context and surrounding uses.

Built form

The panel are comfortable with the height and massing of the proposed development. Moving the building away from the houses in Wolverton Avenue is a positive response to the panel’s previous advice. Though we understand the continuing concerns of local residents, the increased separation and the stepping down of the profile of the westernmost parts of the building is an appropriate treatment for development of this scale in this location.

The approach to the elevations, using two varieties of brick, with vertical and horizontal articulation of the facades is successful. The attempt to reduce the impact of the highest and most conspicuous part on the southeast corner by using a lighter material does not work, however, and may actually draw attention through its difference within the overall composition. The treatment of the top floor and plant room of the building should be closer to that of the red brick southern element of the main core:

The metal and glass crown of the building to the top floors of the fingers has been revised and taking the panel’s suggestion brick work has been taken up to roof level. The top storey incorporates a number of features from the red brick element including flying brick fins to the balcony corners, saw tooth brick work to the top of the central bays of the southern façade and a band of double height soldier course brick work to finish the top of the facades.

The plant enclosure at the top of the building has been revisited, plant has been reduced in size or redistributed elsewhere within the building in order to reduce its foot print and height. As a result it will not be possible to see the roof plant from street level for the length of Coombe Road from the station to Galsworthy Road.

Internal environment

As presented, the internal communal spaces of cores and corridors do not provide the level of amenity necessary to mitigate the impact of such a dense development on the welfare of residents. These spaces should be made larger and more welcoming:

The panel were sceptical about the incorporation within the proposal of informal seating areas within the apartment clusters on each floor of the building although they welcomed the way natural light will be brought into the circulation areas in the vast majority of these cluster neighbourhoods. Members of the panel felt that these areas would not be used and if used might cause nuisance to neighbours.

Firstly the perception that the scheme does not provide sufficient amenity for the residents is incorrect. Without including the informal areas on each floor 10% of the usable floor area of the scheme is designated as communal amenity space. In addition to this a wide variety of outdoor communal spaces are provided for residents, these include a winter garden, a covered pavilion and other sheltered seating areas.

Secondly the additional informal areas within each cluster of apartments respond to the particular senior occupancy demographic of the building. These areas provide several functions; the seating areas act as a ‘porch’ for residents to sit out and interact with the small group of neighbours within their neighbourhood cluster; these spaces also provide room for furniture, potted plants and interior decoration so that each neighbourhood is visually unique, creating a sense of identity and providing valuable navigation for elderly residents.

Opportunities exist to create a combination of fully enclosed or partially enclosed roof atriums on roof-top areas to the western façade. Such a provision could provide meaningful community space for residents:

As discussed above significant areas of usable out door space are proposed within the scheme. These spaces 5th floor roof garden, pergola and winter garden which will provide all day sunshine & long views whilst sheltering users from the wind.

Neighbours of the scheme on Wolverton Avenue expressed concern over the potential for balconies & terraces near the boundary to over look their gardens and the scheme has been carefully designed to prevent this from happening. For this reason we do not propose to create additional usable terraces or atriums to the western roofs of the fingers.

Revised western elevation

Materials and detailing

The overall approach to introducing this large building into its setting is sensible, and a more confident, bespoke approach to its detailing has avoided much of the corporate anonymity of the earlier proposal. The proposed use of red and buff brick, with some light and dark stone detailing are appropriate references to the Victorian building that will be replaced. The articulated brick detailing also works well and will be improved if extended as suggested in point 2.2:

The articulated brick detailing has been extend to the upper floor of the front elevation. In addition a number of features from the red brick element have been incorporated into the west, east and northern elevation. These include, vertically connecting windows with recessed panels of soldier course brick work, soldier course headers to windows, panels of saw tooth brick work to break up flank walls, a band of double height soldier course brick work to finish the top of the facades and flying brick fins to the balcony corners.

The proposed entrance on the south elevation is currently out of scale with the rest of the façade, particularly as this is not the main entrance. A more modest treatment would be better, possibly incorporating more of the stone frieze salvaged from the existing building:

The entrance to the Wellbeing centre has been redesigned to create a more modest entrance that does not compete with the main building entrance but remains legible within the street scene.

Other stone features might be salvaged from the existing building and incorporated in the communal internal and external spaces along with interpretation that explains their origin and the historic context of the building location:

It is proposed to incorporate the stone frieze within the building interior.

Energy strategy

Our guidance is that at the planning application stage the proposal must produce a clear energy strategy which details how the development will optimise thermal performance, minimise the demand for energy, supply the remaining energy requirements efficiently and optimise the use of renewables in order to align with the Government’s emerging zero carbon policy. This strategy should be informed by detailed modelling work informed by respected calculation methods:

A detailed energy strategy that fully meets the target of zero carbon and maximises the level of on site carbon reduction has been provided in support of the application.

In summary the project target is to achieve zero carbon. To maximise carbon savings on site a fabric first approach to the design has been adopted along with measures to reduce energy demand for both the onsite residents and the public uses such as the Wellness Centre and the restaurant. Passive design principles are used alongside air source heat pumps to provide heating and hot water and photo voltaic roof panels to provide electrical power & lighting. An energy centre will provide the option of connecting to a district heating network in the future.

The energy statement demonstrates that the proposals will achieve on site CO2 savings of 41% which exceeds the on-site target of 35% with the remaining carbon emissions offset with the Borough.