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29 Jan 2024

Kingston Townscape Awards 2023

The Chair of Kingston & North Kingston CAAC was delighted to be asked to act as one of five judges of these prestigious awards, sponsored by the Kingston Society.

There were three main categories of award, namely: New Build; Refurbishment; & Greenscape. From a large & diverse field of nominees, the following worthy winners were selected: Siden Mews, Brighton Road, Surbiton (New Build); St Matthew’s Parish School, Tolworth (Refurbishment); & Berrylands Nature Reserve (Greenscape). In addition, there was a Peoples’ Choice award won by Queen’s Promenade Gardens on South Riverside.

We would encourage you to visit each of them. Full details can be found on the Society’s website at http://kts.org.uk

19 Dec 2023

Kingsgate Update

Further to the Kingston & North Kingston CAAC’s earlier objections, the developer of this potential scheme in north Kingston (Canbury Place car park) has again revised its plans. Although not in a conservation area, this site is in close proximity to a number of designated assets, including several listed buildings. Latest proposals are for a smaller number of blocks of up to fifteen storeys in height, with a ca 30% reduction in residential units including slightly more family (3 bed) & affordable apartments. There are also modest improvements to the public realm with access (pedestrian & cycle) to 50% of the new estate. The second phase of the original development, over the existing retail units on Richmond Road, has been scrapped, but the intention to ‘stop off’ Kingsgate Road & the risk of increased congestion from re-routing through traffic on to the Richmond Road via Seven Kings’ Way & Sopwith Way, remains. We will continue to monitor developments & scrutinise the next planning application as & when it is published.

19 Dec 2023


Your three CAACs are currently working with the Heritage & Conservation Lead Officer & other local stakeholders to update the Conservation Area Appraisals & Management Plans (CAAMPs) for all of the Borough’s twenty-six conservation areas, beginning with three pilot studies: Kingston Old Town (Kingston & North Kingston CAAC); The Groves (Maldens & Coombe CAAC); & the Southborough Estate (Surbiton CAAC). Input to the pilots is due by 31 December 2023 with more conservation areas to follow in 2024. This is a long overdue piece of work, with the Borough’s current CAAMPs, where they exist at all, being more than fifteen years’ old. When complete, the new CAAMPs will inform decision-making about development in each conservation area & complement the Borough’s new local plan, due for publication in 2024.

19 Dec 2023

45-51 High Street

This prominent site on the border of the Old Town & South Riverside conservation areas has been subject of numerous planning applications over recent years. None have yet come to fruition & the buildings remain empty & are deteriorating fast. We are keen that they be brought back into active use & make a more positive contribution to the conservation areas. This in mind, we have recently discussed latest proposals with the developer. These include a new block of up to five storeys, mainly residential but with some commercial space on the ground floor. Certain improvements have been made to the proposed roofline (now a mansard roof, in common with a number of neighbouring properties) & fenestration (more in keeping with the character & appearance of the area). But we remain concerned about the height & scale of the new building & its roof-top lift/ plant housing, especially when viewed from South Lane to the rear. There is also an issue of viability & affordable housing provision. We will keep developments under close review & scrutinise any future planning applications as they are published.

19 Dec 2023


The three CAACs are working with the Council’s Policy Holder for Planning & the Chief Planning Officer on strengthening their voice & that of other conservationists in planning decisions that affect the Borough’s heritage assets, including its twenty-six conservation areas. Specifically: i) there will be an additional speaking slot available for the CAACs & like-minded stakeholders at public meetings effective from 2024; ii) the opinions of the Council’s Conservation Officer & third party conservation experts where relevant will be published in planning officers’ reports/ recommendations; iii) more training to be provided on best practice in heritage & conservation matters for councillors, officers, CAACs & similar parties; & iv) the feasibility of public objections to planning applications, including those in conservation areas, being freely available on the Council’s website is under examination. These are important steps forward & we will keep local residents updated on progress.

19 Dec 2023


In conjunction with the Borough’s Heritage & Conservation Officer, the CAACs have developed general guidance on development in conservation areas or ‘Conservation Area General Guidance’ (CAGG). This is up to date practical guidance for the benefit of local residents & developers. It was approved by the Council’s Place Making Committee in summer 2023 & will be adopted as a supplementary planning document (SPD) when the Borough’s new local plan is published, likely in 2024.

29 Oct 2020

Response to public consultation on HMG white paper: Planning For The Future

Introduction & Background

I write on behalf of the Kingston Town Conservation Areas Advisory Committee or ‘CAAC’. It is one of three CAACs covering the 30 or so conservation areas in the Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames. The Kingston Town CAAC, which I chair, is responsible for providing advice to councilors & officers on conservation matters affecting the nine conservation areas in Kingston Town. We are an independent non-statutory body comprising a small number of volunteer residents with experience of planning, architecture, archaeology & conservation. We meet monthly to review planning applications & infrastructure works in our conservation areas & to make recommendations on the designation of heritage assets.

Summary of Views

We support many of the aspirations of the White Paper: eg simplification & streamlining of the planning process; greater democracy & transparency in decision-making; much more use of digital technology; the importance of establishing & maintaining ‘beauty’ & ‘net gains’ in Protected Areas etc. We do, however, have concerns with a number of the proposals, as follows:

  1. National Development Management Policies, Zonal Guides & Codes vs Local Plans. We agree that Local Planning Authority (LPA) plans should be simplified (Proposal 2). Note that Kingston’s Core Strategy, last updated in 2012, runs to over 1,000 pages. Whilst we are not opposed in principle to National Policies & Design Guides/ Codes, they must reflect local neighbourhood involvement & priorities, particularly in Protected Areas. Otherwise they could become too generic in nature & therefore inappropriate to the circumstances of individual boroughs & sensitive areas within them. Developers must have enough incentive to continue to engage constructively with local communities on planning matters, which would unlikely be the case with a blanket one-size-fits-all approach to policy & guidance. We therefore agree that neighbourhood plans should be retained in the reformed planning system (Proposal 9) & that design guides & codes be prepared locally with community involvement (Proposal 11). In fact it may make more sense to have two rather than three zones: 1) Growth/ Renewal; & 2) Protected; with the criteria for each zone to be presented to & agreed by the public using eg VuCity. The critical challenge will be dealing with transition zones between these two polar points. This is where design managers & historic advisers should bring their skills & experience to bear. Transparency & good communication will be essential to gaining public confidence in the new system. An overriding challenge with all this will be who monitors developments? Whether in- or outsourced by LPAs we agree each should appoint a ‘champion’ for (good) design & place-making (Proposal 12). Furthermore, we think they should ensure a qualified heritage officer/ conservation architect is assigned to each Protected Area.

  2. Tall Buildings & Air Rights. These concepts may work effectively in global conurbations, like New York City, but they are inappropriate in suburban settings such as Kingston, with its historic centre & nearby Royal Parks. As a CAAC, we are already challenged by planning applications for high-rise towers (more than 12 storeys) in the Borough that we believe cause substantial harm to the character & appearance of its precious conservation areas.

  3. Conservation Areas. We consider it essential that all conservation areas are Protected Areas. The White Paper is not absolutely clear about this. It should be.

  4. ‘Harm’ Test. In principle we support the replacement of this test for development in conservation areas with a ‘net gain’ approach, providing it involves a higher hurdle for developers to overcome. In our experience aspects of the current test, such as the ‘less than substantial harm’ approach to managing development in or close to these areas, are not particularly helpful & can facilitate poor planning outcomes. This can be a real issue in transition zones. The integration of new with old requires skilled expertise in order to achieve a harmonious resolution.

  5. Listed Buildings. We are concerned by comments in the Paper (Proposal 17) that ‘experienced architectural specialists can have earned autonomy from routine listed building consents.’ No details are provided of how ‘routine’ is defined. Many works that may be considered ‘routine’ can have a serious impact on the architectural interest of a listed building, particularly if an architectural specialist is unfamiliar with its context & history. One example is re-roofing where roofing styles vary throughout Surrey County, from plain clay tiles in the South to pan-tile roofs closer to the River Thames. The same is also true of pointing & plastering work. In addition, there is a risk of architectural specialists benefitting financially from inappropriate work, in order to save their clients costs. We strongly believe there should be independent oversight of work to ensure no long-term harm is done to historic buildings & areas of special interest. Several conservation areas in Kingston Town have suffered from a range of substandard building extensions & modifications, facilitated by Permitted Development Rights & a lack of resources in LPAs, including Kingston, to control activity. In common with many other London boroughs, there is no Conservation Officer in Kingston nor has there been for some years. If Government is serious about conserving & enhancing our heritage, then it must work with LPAs & ensure adequate regulation & funding are in place to achieve these outcomes.

  6. Archaeological Interest. We would encourage the new system to give appropriate weight to proper archaeological excavation & study in the development management process.

I hope you find these comments helpful. My colleagues & I look forward to seeing details of the next stage in this review process.

Mr N T Hiscock
Chair, Kingston Town Conservation Areas Advisory Committee

14 Nov 2019

Idox migration

Late in 2018 the Royal Borough of Kingston (RBK) switched to Idox for new planning applications. Idox is a planning portal system used by over half of the local authorities in London. It is also used by the Borough of Sutton with whom RBK shares staff & resources.
What followed was a very challenging period for those of us trying to stay informed.
It has been a full year now and we understand the old planning portal was taken off line around mid September, meaning all of the planning applications must have been migrated to the new system. This is no small task.
There remains an significant unexplained delay in updating applications on the planning portal. Last week we measured 20 days as the average delay before applications became publicly visible as validated on the Council website. This is the difference between the "validation date" and the date we first see the update on the system. For Sutton the average delay was 5 days.

22 Oct 2019

Kingsgate objection

We have objected strongly to this proposed scheme in North Kingston (Canbury Place car park), which envisages over 400 new residential units in a complex of flatted properties including a tower of 25 storeys, higher than anything in the borough & more than twice the maximum building height approved by the Council in its development plan for North Kingston. We believe, if built, the scheme would have a devastating effect on numerous conservation areas in the Town, most especially Kingston Old Town, various listed buildings & views to/ from all three nearby Royal Parks.

28 Aug 2019

Surrey House Appeal dismissed

The developers for Surrey House at 34 Eden Street Kingston Upon Thames appealed against the non-determination of their 18/12119/FUL application dated 9 February 2018. The appeal was dismissed by the Planning Inspectorate and planning permission was refused, supported by your CAAC which had objected to the scheme.
Of particular note in the Inspectors report is the weight he placed on the protection of nearby heritage assets, in this case views to & from the ancient market place & neighbouring listed buildings. He also referred to recent planning case law as follows:

“In terms of the weight to be given to the harm to designated heritage assets, the courts have confirmed that less than substantial harm does not equate to a less than substantial objection”