Investors Back London’s Recovery with £1bn Kensington Hotel Redevelopment

Main Photo: The Kensington Forum as envisaged

Date: December 2020…original report October 2020

Location: Cromwell Road, Gloucester Road Tube, London SW7, England, UK

 Name: The Holiday Inn London – Kensington Forum, started life in 1972 as the London Penta Hotel…now to be The Kensington Forum

No. of Keys: Currently 906, one of the largest in London

Owner: The £1bn redevelopment of the Kensington Forum hotel has been given the green light by planning authorities, with the investment signalling a vote of confidence in London’s recovery from the coronavirus crisis (October 2020).

Queensgate Investments and Rockwell were given the go-ahead for the project, which will boost the number of hotel rooms available and create 62 affordable rental homes.

The new scheme, which is expected to create more than 800 jobs, will replace the existing 906 room venue with a new hotel, restaurants, bars, a spa and conference facilities, as well as residential properties.

Developers will also create a new, publicly accessible, garden square. £3m will be invested in public realm improvements around Gloucester Road station, and £1m has been set aside for training initiatives.

Queensgate and Rockwell said the scheme will be “part of the capital’s recovery and is testament to the powerful role the sector is envisaged to play”.

Jules Pipe, London’s deputy mayor for planning, regeneration and skills, said: “There is a desperate need for social housing across London… If we are to deliver affordable homes and other benefits for London, we must ensure we make the best use of land.”

“As well as improvements to the architectural quality, when compared to the existing building, the development includes a number of other significant benefits such as the addition of much-need affordable housing, a reconfigured public garden square, additional jobs, improved visitor accommodation and public realm improvements.”

Jason Kow, founder and chief executive of Queensgate, added: “Kensington Forum is an extraordinary scheme of exceptional quality, which will benefit both London and Londoners. The benefits of this redevelopment are substantial, and the new world-class hotel will establish a new benchmark for visitor accommodation in the capital that will doubtless become a landmark for the city.”

Back in October 2019, Simpson Haugh’s proposed £300 million redevelopment of a in Kensington was thrown into doubt after permission was granted for a judicial review of London Mayor, Sadiq Khan’s decision to back the scheme

A High Court judge said that the case, brought by Kensington and Chelsea against the Mayor of London, was ‘plainly arguable’ and gave the local authority permission to proceed with a judicial review claim.

The borough’s planning committee had turned down the plans in September 2018, but Khan subsequently overruled this decision.

The council argue that the Mayor acted with ‘improper purpose’ by not allowing the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government the opportunity to consider calling in the application following the Mayor’s resolution to grant planning permission subject to a legal agreement.

The original scheme submitted in 2018/19

The original application was submitted to the council in June 2018. It envisages a part-30, par-22 and part-nine storey building, providing apartments plus restaurants, bars, conferencing and leisure facilities.

It was to include 749 hotel rooms, 340 services apartments and 46 homes but, following pressure from the Mayor, developer Rockwell Property and building owner Queensgate Investment increased the number of homes from 46 to 62 and agreed that they would all be for London Affordable Rent.

At 28 storeys, the existing 1972 building, designed by Richard Seifert & Partners, is the borough’s second-tallest and residents have argued the new scheme would replace one ‘out-of-place monstrosity’ with an even bigger one.

Queensgate Investment argues that the existing hotel is ‘a local eyesore’, whereas the new scheme would be an ’exceptionally high-quality development’. It would deliver public benefits such as a new garden square and £2.8 million investment into public realm improvements to the area around Gloucester Road Tube station, the site owner says.

The Council’s Planning Committee rejected the application a year ago after more than 750 objections from residents and local organisations. Residents’ groups objected to the height and scale of the building, loss of privacy and a reduction in light for neighbouring properties.

Kensington and Chelsea’s lead member for planning, councillor Johnny Thalassites, welcomed the latest decision. He said: ’We will be proceeding with the judicial review now that the judge has said our case is “plainly arguable”. I’m keen to see new developments that create jobs and generate income but they cannot come at the expense of residents, who have genuine concerns about the plans for Kensington Forum Hotel.’

Patrick O’Connell, head of hotels at Queensgate Investments, acknowledged the judge’s decision but said it remained committed to the scheme. He said: ‘Our proposal will deliver significant public benefits including a new publicly accessible garden square, enhanced public realm, numerous jobs and genuinely affordable homes for Londoners.’

A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: ’Sadiq is doing everything he can to build more council and genuinely affordable homes. That’s why London started building more council homes last year than in any year since 1984.

’Because Sadiq called in this application, the developer agreed to triple the amount of genuinely affordable homes to 100 per cent – which is further proof that Sadiq’s approach is working and delivering the new social and affordable homes that Londoners desperately need.’

THPT Comment: The monstrosity of a building, designed by Richard Seifert, was a result of the Hotel Tourism Act 1969, where anyone building a new hotel, or extending a hotel, to be open by March 1972, was given a government grant of £1,000 per room! in 1972 money! as a result London has some of the smallest rooms in any capital city in Europe, dating back to that era. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea were pleading with several owners over recent years to knock down the hotel and replace it with something…more graceful!

 First Seen: City AM and Architects’ Journal

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