Housing Minister 'Calls In' Summerskill House Plan

Public enquiry likely into 20 storey building proposed on Clem Attlee estate

Visualisation of building looking along North End Road

A plan to build a 20 storey tower on the Clem Attlee Estate has been ‘called in’ by the Housing Minister.

This means that the decision of Hammersmith & Fulham Council to approve the latest attempt to build a replacement for Edith Summerskill House on St Thomas’s Way may now be subject to a public enquiry with the decision ultimately made by the government.

In a letter to Greg Hands MP, the Minister for State for Housing, Christopher Pincher said the government is ‘very selective’ on planning applications it calls in as it is normally right for the local planning authority to make the decision but in this case ‘planning issues of more than local importance are involved’. The Minister has written to Hammersmith & Fulham Council explaining its decision.

The proposals are for a 20 storey high tower containing 133 flats. There were only 68 flats in the previous building on the site which was built in the sixties, vacated in 2011 and demolished in 2017.

The applicant is HFS Developments 2 Limited which is a joint venture with Stanhope PLC. It is understood that the council was intending to transfer the site to Peabody Housing Trust, a housing association. 80% of the flats were to be social rented; 20% will be intermediate housing; 10% of the flats will be designed for wheelchair residents.

Councillor Andrew Jones, the Labour council’s cabinet member for the economy, said, “The Government should withdraw this objection immediately.

“After a decade of austerity and a drastic shortage of affordable housing, it’s breathtaking that they should now decide to stop the re-development of the former Edith Summerskill House. We’re simply seeking to provide new, genuinely affordable homes for local people.”

Artist's impression of building planned for Edith Summerskill House site

This is the second time the council has tried to secure planning permission for new flats on the site, only to have it called-in by the government.

It is understood that a planning barrister, Richard Turney, who lives nearby, also made a separate request for the application to be called-in.

Mr Turney was the man behind the first challenge, in which he beat the council’s officers by convincing a planning inspector to send the scheme back to the drawing board.

Before the scheme was decided on by the council’s planning committee in October last year, 34 residents had submitted objections a much lower level than some more controversial recent applications.

Mr Turney told councillors on the committee that they should reject it, as it was “too tall and too bulky”, and because the council’s Local Plan did not designate the area as being suitable for a tall building.

The committee was also told by council planning officer Peter Wilson that a future appeal against the council would fail, because the new scheme is a significant improvement on the site being vacant.

The new tower would be 20 metres taller than its predecessor, and features distinctive arched windows and a ground floor “arcade”.

The planning reference number is 2020/01283/FUL.

Written with contributions from Owen Sheppard - Local Democracy Reporter

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June 14, 2021