Move comes in advance of planning inquiry into controversial 30-storey scheme

The developer behind the controversial £1bn redevelopment of Richard Seifert’s 29-storey Kensington Forum Hotel has withdrawn the application despite winning the backing of the mayor of London last year.

The scheme by hotel investor Queensgate was “called in” by Robert Jenrick, the secretary of state, at the start of the year, with a planning inquiry scheduled for later in the spring.

Kensington Forum hotel

The plans for a 749-bed hotel, 340 serviced apartments and 62 affordable homes on the Cromwell Road site in west London were approved by Sadiq Khan in October last year after a lengthy  battle.

Designed by architect Simpson Haugh, the scheme consisted of three buildings – a 30-storey tower, a 22-storey tower and a seven-storey block. It was refused by the local authority, Kensington & Chelsea, and twice approved by the mayor – after his first approval was successfully challenged by the council.

The original “brutalist” style tower was designed by Seifert, the architect behind the Centrepoint tower in central London.

In a letter to the planning inspectorate, seen by Housing Today and written by law firm Dentons on behalf of Queensgate, the firm said it had “decided to withdraw the application” and that the inspectorate should “please therefore treat the application as withdrawn”.

The letter did not offer any reasons behind the decision to withdraw the scheme, which was being brought forward by developer Rockwell on Queensgate’s behalf.

Kensington Forum hotel 2

The redevelopment had been vigorously opposed by local residents and the council, who had argued that it was not of sufficiently high design quality to justify its height in the location.

Patrick O’Connell, head of hotels at Queensgate Investments, told Housing Today that he could “confirm that the planning application has been withdrawn” but also declined to give any reasons for the decision.

The firm also declined to say whether it will now seek to work up a new scheme. Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Queensgate had instructed Savills and Eastdil Secured to explore sale options for the site, which it acquired for £350m in 2015. That process was paused due to the pandemic.

The decision comes just weeks after the full adoption of the new London Plan, which includes significant changes to rules governing where tall buildings can be placed, giving more power to boroughs to determine policies.

Michael Bach, chair of the planning committee at the Kensington Society, said the body and 25 local residents’ associations had been fighting the scheme for over three years. He said: “The proposed development would replace an anomolous 29-storey 1970s hotel tower, with two tall towers atop a nine-storey podium, thereby doubling the volume of buildings, all in an area of five and six-storey Victorian houses, surrounded by conservation areas.

“Residents are hugely relieved that the application has been withdrawn and we sincerely hope that this will mark a watershed for projects with tall buildings in sensitive areas which are contrary to policy in the new London Plan.”

Kensington Forum Hotel scheme