Case Study: Japanese cultural centre, Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea

Background

The Japanese Government sought planning permission for change-of-use of a landmark retail building on Kensington High Street to create a centre for the promotion of Japanese culture, “Japan House”, retaining ground floor retail but converting the first floor to a restaurant and the basement to events space.

Challenge

The area was represented by influential councillors, the Kensington Society and residents’ associations concerned about losing prime retail space on Kensington High Street to other uses with lower footfall. Residents were also concerned about the impact of the restaurant and events space on local amenity, particularly at night.

Solution

  • Instructed to establish lines of communication with key stakeholders, we set up a series of meetings with local councillors, residents’ associations, business representatives and the local civic society.
  • After initial meetings the Japan House team subsequently revised the proposals and we set up a second series of meetings with stakeholders to guide them through the changes. The team also agreed to draw up a management plan and to meet with residents on a regular basis once the centre was open.
  • Though not necessary for a change-of-use application, we compiled a detailed Statement of Community Involvement for submission with the planning application, explaining our consultation with stakeholders and responding to the issues they had raised.
  • Once the application was submitted we handled queries from the local residents’ association, clarifying key points contained in the application documents.
  • We also provided strategic advice to the Japan House team on their response to queries raised by officers, members, the Kensington Society and residents regarding the detail of the application.
  • With the committee date approaching we drafted a short briefing letter setting out the positives of the scheme, which was then sent to planning committee members by the Japanese Ambassador.

Result

RBKC Planning Applications Committee voted unanimously to approve the proposals in March 2017.

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