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  • CarolineShah

Save Tolworth – Save Kingston, It's now or never

Updated: May 27, 2020

1411 new flats 10-22 storeys, Lidl HQ - 4 storeys - The end for Tolworth

Tolworth - the precedent for flawed and undemocratic decision-making that will destroy Kingston?

Please help me pay to instruct a leading London QC to explore if we have a case to demand that the Mayor of London and Kingston Council immediately revise development plans across The Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames

Donate now, do not delay:

I have been following decision-making for Kingston in relation to growth and developments for over 5 years. Time and time again, I have come across pre-determined and flawed decision-making that I believe does not stand up to legal scrutiny

Tolworth has been one of the first areas in the Borough where development decisions have been pushed through without proper public consultation and without a sound policy-basis for the approvals that have been made

The Tolworth story

What is Tolworth?

Tolworth is a suburban, mainly residential area, with low rise, mainly two-storey residential housing. It has established communities and a relaxed, suburban feel. The Tolworth Tower built between 1962 and 1964, is an anomaly in the area at 22 storeys. This is illustrated well in the photo here:

Tolworth Railway station is just south of the A3 and is served by two slow trains an hour into London, the journey taking 35 minutes. Tolworth Court Farm is a wonderful and expansive local nature reserve that abuts the road near Tolworth Station and helps define this part of Kingston Borough as the stepping stone between Greater London and the countryside. Tolworth Court Farm links up with the Hogsmill Riverside Open Space, an area surrounding the banks of one of 200 rare chalk streams in the world, most of which are in the southern half of England. You can read about the importance of chalk streams and how they already need urgent protection here:

Kingston council gave permission in late 2019 for the whole of Tolworth Tower to be converted in to 261 residential units. Only 7 of these will be 3 bedroom flats and only 28% will be in any way “affordable”. There is basically NO proper outdoor green space in the development for these additional residents. You can read in this Kingston council commissioned report how Kingston Borough already had a deficit of green space even for the way smaller 2001 population:

But there is worse to come

Kingston residents now face the prospect of two additional towers, 15 and 19 storeys high, alongside Tolworth Tower, providing an additional 250 new homes. The density of this proposed development is explicitly “opportunity area” density – the highest density at which developers are allowed to build anywhere in London, despite the fact that Kingston has not yet formally been designated an “opportunity area” in the new London Plan. The development hopes to receive approval in summer 2020 when the London Plan has been published. A legal challenge of the London Plan will give strong grounds for delaying approval of this scheme

In addition, 78 flats have already been developed in the North Tower alongside the Travelodge. This makes a total of 588 flats on just 1.5 hectares of land, roughly the size of two football pitches. This is roughly 75 homes on just under each quarter of a football pitch and an over 80% increase in density from already overly-dense plans given the go-ahead on this site in 2016 and an increase of 171% in density from 2016 housing levels

Kingston council has also given outline permission for a massive 950 units of housing to be built on Hook Rise South only 150 metre south of the Tolworth site

This makes a total 1538 new flats within a stone’s throw of each other. Take the average

Kingston occupancy of 2.67 people per dwelling. This makes 3767 more people in Tolworth just from the towers and the Hook Rise development

You can read about and see pictures of the proposals for the Tolworth Tower site here:

Barton Wilmore, authors of the environmental impact assessment screening report in May 2020 of the additional development proposal (the “EIA”) justify the new towers in the context of the fact that Tolworth is already urban in nature: “being an urban area, Tolworth is already densely populated” and that the towers are appropriate within their context:

However, Barton Wilmore then go on to say that the scheme is NOT located in a sensitive area according to the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, although those regulations specifically include “densely populated areas” as a criterion for further investigation of the effects of developments of this proposed scale on people. So the area is “densely populated” in one context that supports development but not “densely populated” in a context that would require investigation from an environmental point of view. What is completely unbelievable is the assertion that this development is acceptable because of "future permitted" development that will hit Tolworth.

In addition, the EIA does not mention in its assessment that the site is only 3.4 miles from Richmond Park SAC, a national nature reserve and protected European Site, and is in an area – which includes the whole of Kingston Borough – that fails to meet internationally agreed limits for air quality. Given the huge deficit of public green space in Kingston, where will all these new residents go for their recreation and how will they get there? The EIA overlooks recreational pressure on an individual and in combination basis on European sites like Richmond Park and Wimbledon Common from the huge planned increase in residents even just from this scheme and the nearby scheme at Hook Rise. Pollution levels near Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park as well as other protected sites off the A3 outside of London are already at levels that may cause harm to protected habitats and species.

Please help me explore if plans for growth in Tolworth, across Kingston, and by extension across Greater London, are legally flawed

Please donate for legal advice now:

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