On July 6, as Kensington and Chelsea planners gave the go-ahead to develop The Good Fairy site for retail use with apartments above, campaigners expressed their outrage once more, coming, as permission did, in the wake of the arrival of the All Saints megastore on the corner of Portobello Road and Westbourne Grove.
Because the application to develop The Good Fairy site at number 100, Portobello Road sought to renew the permission granted three years ago that had since lapsed, there was little hope of it being turned down.
However, campaigners believed that such has been the erosion of the character of the area in the interim that circumstances had changed sufficiently to warrant refusal or at least delay.
They also wanted a decision delayed because residents living a matter of metres away had never been consulted on the plans. And they were further disappointed that a condition restricting retail use to antiques – which they had been led to believe would be forthcoming – never surfaced.
Any hopes that councillors might relent at the last moment were dashed when the developer made it clear at the meeting that he would resort to the law if the application were refused.
It was the second time in recent months that local traders and residents packed out the planning meeting at Kensington Town Hall to hear councillors and council officers say there was nothing they could do but grant permission under current regulations.
However, campaigners cannot understand why Kensington and Chelsea Council is not making more of an effort to push for a change in the law to protect the character of its local communities in accordance with the aims of its own Core Strategy.
For instance, in Chapter 30 of the Strategy document, the council explains what Keeping Life Local means for the borough: “A key role of the planning system is to protect the uses that have lower land values, but high value to the community.” (sub section 30.2). It goes on to discuss the importance of “recognising that some facilities within the Borough have a national or international catchment… and that they offer significant benefits to Borough residents and are thus highly valued by the community”.
Chapter 31 Fostering Vitality focuses on the importance of culture to the community and the risk posed by recent pressure from residential development. It acknowledges the existence of “world class” cultural shops and facilities in the borough and states: “There is a risk that they could decline to such an extent that the collective quality of life of the Borough could be diminished.” (sub section 31.1)
Just to be clear exactly what this refers to, sub section 31.2 What this means for the Borough explains: “Most of these cultural, creative and commercial uses will continue to be concentrated with the Borough’s higher order town centres, namely: Portobello…”
Local character continues as a theme as the document talks of the “world-class brands… eclectic markets or the quirky and unexpected”, including Portobello, that add to the borough’s richness and diversity (sub section 31.3.7), noting that Portobello Road and Westbourne Grove “have been designated by the council as separate Special District Centres to reflect their unique multiples that helps maintain the special character of some of our centres”. (sub section 31.3.9)
Meanwhile, policy CF4 declares that the council “will ensure that street markets remain a vibrant part of the Borough’s retail offer”. Top of the council’s list for protection is Portobello.
“When you read what the council says it wants for Portobello in the Core Strategy document, it is jaw-dropping that it seems to be going against it at every turn,” said Portobello Antique Dealers Association chairman Costas Kleanthous.
By Ivan Macquisten