A new public square for Hampton Court station

This is the long version of this article.  The short version can be found here.

Hampton Square, at Hampton Court station, is a great new public square, and part of the new Hampton Court Station redevelopment that also includes the ugly hoarded-off Jolly Boatman site.   

It brings with it 97 new homes, a new hotel for both tourists and local people, a new road layout that removes the gyratory and eases traffic problems onto the bridge, an upgraded train station, a café and a small foodstore.

A new planning application has been submitted to Elmbridge Council, number 2018/3810.

Here's a detailed explanation of the application:

1.  A major new public square, befitting the international reputation of the Palace

A million people visit Hampton Court Palace every year, but when tourists come out of Hampton Court station now, they are not greeted with a view of the Palace, but with ugly hoardings.  These hoardings will come down, replaced with a major new public square.

The old plan put a dense block here obscuring the view, so it’s not surprising local people were so against that plan.  The new public square will have a café and a mixture of soft and hand landscaping, befitting the setting of the international historic royal attraction. 

Use the slider to reveal the public square

2.  Replacing the traffic gyratory with a significant investment in a simplified road network next to the bridge

We can’t promise to remove the local traffic congestion, but we can promise that our significant investment in the road infrastructure here will improve matters.  Some of the team are local people so know the traffic nightmare that can exist here.

By installing a simplified traffic network, extending from the bridge to Creek Road, eradicating the gyratory and putting in a traditional signal controlled junction (traffic lights), we will even generate public space where the gyratory was - the council will decide how best to use this new community land.  Cars coming out of Creek Road will benefit from a new right hand turning lane.

3.  97 new homes

97 mainly one and two bed homes will be built, all with private landscaped courtyards, balconies or rooftop terrace as well as a landscaped area next to the River Ember.  The significant number of homes here are supported by both local and national planning policy, and reduce the pressure to build in the green belt. 

These will be 39 one bed homes, 54 two bed, and 4 three bed, including wheelchair-accessible homes.  It will provide a large contribution towards the borough’s annual housing need. The previous scheme had a care home here, with less affordable housing.

4.  A small foodstore and an improved modern station

Whether it’s a Tesco Express, a Sainsbury’s Local or maybe some other brand, a convenience foodstore for commuters and tourists coming out of the station will be a huge asset, and nearby local people will benefit as well.

The station itself will get a major modern refurbishment, which will only happen as a result of these plans.  Keeping and renovating the locally listed station building, and keeping the previously threatened station canopies, Network Rail will be able to invest heavily in the station, with step-free access to all station facilities.

5.  Construction time reduced by 14 months

We’ve submitted a separate application for a temporary car park during the construction period to greatly reduce construction time – by 14 months.  Local groups said we should use part of the Cigarette Island park for this, and people at our public consultation agreed this was a priority – and we listened.  Of course, we will be legally committed to restoring the park to its former beauty soon after the two year construction phase.

110 temporary car parking spaces will be built using a recycled plastic matting system to reduce damage to the park, with low level directional lighting for security.  We’ll respect our neighbours during construction.

 

Background and key issues

Network Rail has teamed up with Alexpo, the new owners of the Jolly Boatman site, to submit a planning application for this 3.5 acre site.  This area has been the subject of controversial and wide debate over many years – if not decades.

Given the long planning history, we have not started from a blank sheet.  An existing approved application from previous owners Gladedale was widely disliked, and while it has not been fully built, it is a valid planning permission. 

This project will take the good elements of the old project; and radically improve it with the offer of a new public open square that befits the magnificent Hampton Court Palace, new homes next to a station rather than in the green belt, a small foodstore for station users, unlocking money to improve the station, a new traffic system that does away with the grid-locked gyratory outside the site, and removing the eyesore of the Jolly Boatman site that has detracted from the area since the pub was demolished in the 1980s.

Here are some of the key issues that we’ve faced.  See if you think we’ve delivered.

1.  We hope we’re now part of the community

The old site owners Gladedale suffered because they fought the community.  The new team, led by Alexpo, includes local people and we have been working since 2014 to fine-tune these proposals.  We’ve had numerous meetings with Hampton Court Palace and Network Rail, and more recently we’ve involved local councillors, the Molesey Residents Association and local groups such as the Hampton Court Rescue Campaign (HCRC).

We know not everyone is entirely happy with everything about the scheme – after all, many local people fought hard against the Gladedale plans. Our scheme is an exercise in trade-offs to bring as many benefits as the site can provide in a viable and deliverable scheme.

We’ve worked through the various options over the years to design a scheme that we think meets many objections people had and brings major benefits to the area. 

We hope we’ve demonstrated that we listen.  We’ve had around 500 people give feedback in our consultation – of whom 75% were either positive or unsure at that stage.  Since summer last year, we’ve made lots of changes because of what people have been telling us, such as:

  • The access road to the car park, taking it away from the river, and narrowing it.
  • The road and traffic solution outside our site – this was a big change and we’re pleased it has been given a positive reception so far.
  • Some of the design elements in the building. Whilst some will consider these small changes, for our architects and some who care passionately about design, these are critical and noteworthy.  They’ve comprehensively reviewed the elevations, construction materials, as well as bringing reductions to some of the bulk and massing.
  • We recognised the need to put in temporary car parking during construction, backed by an overwhelming positive response at our consultation.
  • We’ve agreed that there should be a mix of soft and hard landscaping in front of the station – backed again by an overwhelming majority at our consultation.

 

Prior to last summer, we made two other vital changes:

  • We removed development on the Jolly Boatman site, paving the way to the public square and an improved visual link between the road and Cigarette Island park.
  • We removed a ramp into the car park that would have eaten up a large part of the public square, by making the entrance to the car park at roughly the same level as the road.

2.  We've raised the height of the homes by about 5 foot 10 inches (1.78 metres)

Removing the ramp to the car park means we’ve had to raise the height of the residential buildings by 1.78 metres – about the same as the height of an average person.

Back in 1913 the South Western Railway Act set down the maximum heights of buildings here, setting a 50 foot limit.  Measuring from the undeveloped land immediately in front of the station entrance, we’re below that limit.  It’s probably fair to say that this legislation is entirely unconnected to planning legislation, and so is not a planning matter that Elmbridge should consider.

3.  We’ve raised the height of the hotel by a metre

The hotel along Hampton Court Way is almost identical in density, scale, built form and number of floors to what was considered acceptable and previously approved. It’s a metre taller (actually 0.96 metres) to fit in the uses within the building and the air conditioning and heating plant on the roof.  We also think the strong built frontage of the building fits comfortably in the local setting – with a large three storey building to the west at Hampton Court Parade.

With so many visitors to Hampton Court Palace every year, a hotel is essential to provide for this growing need – this has 84 bedrooms.  Located next to a station, it’s an ideal spot.

4.  There’s a massive reduction in density and development on the Jolly Boatman site, because there’s no (or almost no) development here

The comprehensive nature of this scheme allows us to build almost nothing on this important site.  The approved scheme allowed a very dense building here that no one wants to be built.  We think that’s good news.

5.  The density of this scheme is comparable with the approved scheme

The total Gross External Area of the new project is 24,146m2, compared to 27,425m2 for the Gladedale scheme. 

This site has a density of 67 units per hectare.  Given this is the most accessible location in East Molesey, this is appropriate.

6.  We’ve kept the same number of floors as before

Nearly all the buildings in the Gladedale scheme were four floors, and we’ve kept our scheme at four floors throughout. 

7.  We’re delivering 12 affordable homes

The previous scheme delivered just 7 affordable units, or 10.6%.

We will deliver 12 affordable homes, which is over 12%. 

8.  We’re also paying over £2 million to improve infrastructure in the wider area

Our Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) will be over £2 million.

9.  31 new trees and the mature hedge will be kept

We’ll protect the mature hedge line next to the car park during and after construction, which we know, for instance, is a source of food for bats.  Our proposal also includes bird and bat boxes.

On the southern side of the site, next to the road and the River Ember, we’re creating a lovely area of landscaped public open space.

Our tree survey shows that we need to protect nine trees during construction, and 35 trees mainly in the park will be unaffected.  We’ll be removing two trees that arboriculturalists say should be removed irrespective of any development, and five low quality trees – mainly behind the ugly hoardings of the Jolly Boatman site.

We’re planting 31 trees.

10.  Our architects, Allies and Morrison, have produced a first class traditional design

The council, the Palace and the local community all want a first class design here, and we think our architects, Allies and Morrison, have delivered. 

The design of the Hampton Court Way building has been broken down to reflect the different residential and hotel uses. The design is a significant improvement over the previously permitted scheme.

Most local buildings use brick and stone, as well as white render, with grey slate and red tiles for roof covering.  We’ve mainly mirrored our designs with these materials.  We’ve used white terracotta on the gable end facing the new public square, to mark the entrance to the new homes.  Roofs will have grey slate or grey metal panel.    

11.  We’ve extensively considered the views from the Palace

Given the historical significance of Hampton Court Palace and the prominence of our site, we’ve extensively looked at the views both from and to the Palace, using all the exact same viewpoints considered by Gladedale’s previously approved scheme.

The assessments show overall it will have a beneficial effect on the character and appearance of the conservation area as a whole.

The new public square is fundamental to creating a greatly enhanced view to the Palace, within its river setting.  It will also create a fantastic, and much improved visual link between the road and Cigarette Island park.

The high quality design and materials used will fit in with the area, and end the eyesore of the current Jolly Boatman hoardings that detract from the area.

The new buildings can be seen from the Palace, but only peripherally, sitting below established trees.

From the bridge, the high quality buildings will improve the experience for pedestrians walking to and from the station.

12.  There will be unused parking places in the car park at all times on a normal day, say transport experts

The scheme keeps all the spaces needed for station car parking, and fully complies with Elmbridge Council policy to consider need and current use.  Network Rail expect parking demand for rail users to be broadly similar over the next ten years.

With the anticipated normal use of this car park, transport experts estimate there is likely to be 47 unused car parking spaces in the car park at the afternoon peak.

Over a period of 5 years, from 2013 to July 2018, surveys of the car park have consistently shown that less than half of the car park is used on normal days. Peak usage is around lunchtime on weekdays, with a maximum of 93 cars ever recorded. 

Network Rail, who will continue to operate the whole car park with South Western Railway, consider this to be a car park for rail users.  They recognise that others may use the car park, such as visitors to the Palace, but do not see that they have a duty, or that it is reasonable to expect, them to provide for Hampton Court event days or, for instance, tourists going to the Palace on bank holidays.

Two basement levels of parking in the previous scheme have been replaced with one basement level and an undercroft level, the latter of which is open to the elements and will permit users to see across to the platforms. 

There will be a station drop off, cycle and moped areas, 18 extra-wide disabled parking spaces, active electric charging points, and space for mobility scooters. 

13.  There will be unused parking places in the car park at all times on a normal day, even if typical local car parking controls are brought in, say transport experts

We know some local people want to see a controlled parking zone (CPZ) implemented and so this could add more people wanting to park in the station car park.

In October 2018, we conducted a comprehensive station survey that found that, if a CPZ was brought in, most station users who currently park in local roads would change their habits and either walk, cycle or get a bus to the station – after all, most who park in those roads live in Molesey already.

Transport experts estimate just ten extra cars would use the station car park at peak times if a CPZ came in.

14.  We’re making more car parking permits available to the homes than the approved scheme

National planning policies suggest we should be aiming for no car parking here at all for residents.

However, local people have told us that providing parking for residents is vital.

Instead, there will be up to 58 car parking permits for residents, allowing all two and three bed homes to have a space.  Our car parking ratio of 0.6 per unit is higher than in Gladedale’s approved scheme.

Many people now see the benefits of sharing a car, rather than owning one.  We’re providing at least three spaces for a car club, like Zipcar.

15.  ….and parking permits available to the hotel during the night

Demand for parking from the hotel will vary, depending on the time of day.  Transport experts estimate the hotel will need permits for around cars at night, dropping to 11 cars at the peak early afternoon period.  The car park will cater easily for these numbers.

16.  Station users will benefit from a short free parking period

All users of the car park will benefit from a free period.

17.  Cycling will (naturally) be encouraged

There will be new 180 cycle spaces for residents, retail and hotel staff and guests, bringing the total up to around 360 cycle spaces on the site.

We will also extend the cycleway to the station.

18.  We’re green

We’re installing heat recovery units for the new homes, renewable air source heat pumps, efficient insulation, LED lighting and sensors, and a combined heat and power system.  During construction, we’ll favour suppliers with responsible environmental practices. 

19.  There will be a dedicated area for buses and taxis

Outside the station, there will be a dedicated area for taxi and minicabs, and a much improved bus interchange.

20.  Deliveries and waste facilities are integral to the development

There will be a service bay in front of the hotel, off Hampton Court Way.

A new service road will have access to the residential cores, with a layby for home delivery vans, and a turning head at the southern end.  Waste will be collected in each core, and moved to a unit next to the café on collection days.

21.  We’ve properly assessed, and dealt with, flood issues

Our project has been designed so it will not cause flooding elsewhere, and we have ensured our basement car park is flood-proof against the design flood event. The undercroft level car park is designed to flood in a controlled manner in the design flood event and will drain back to the river when the flood subsides.

22.  We’re creating many dozens of jobs

Anywhere between 50 and 125 full time jobs will come from this development.  During construction, we’ll create just under 30 full time equivalent jobs.

23.  There’s sufficient local NHS and school places to meet any new demand

Research has found most local NHS practices are accepting new patients.

The homes are mainly one and two beds, so new residents are estimated to require five secondary school places and 11 places at primary schools.  Research has found there are over 1000 spare primary school places locally, and over 125 spare secondary school places.

24.  We’ve submitted two applications, one for the scheme and one for the temporary car park

The applications were submitted at the end of 2018 and will be considered by Elmbridge Council later this year.  The road works fall outside the boundaries of the site and will be delivered under what is called a Section 278 agreement, which involves a legal commitment to undertake the works as part of the planning application.

25.  Our plan is planning policy compliant

Our scheme complies with all national and local policy. 

Elmbridge Borough Council will make the decision, having considered our scheme against both national and local planning policies.

The most important national policy is the recently updated National Planning Policy Framework, which talks about efficient use of land, the need to boost home building, particularly on sites like this close to train and bus stations.

The most important local policy is the 2015 Development Management Plan and the more dated Elmbridge Core Strategy, as well as various supplementary planning documents. Both seek to direct housebuilding away from green belt and onto sites like this, have a maximum but no minimum level of car parking, and assess identified need when looking at station car park spaces.

Our site is not within any of the identified views in the Thames Landscape Strategy.

The Hampton Court Station and Jolly Boatman Sites Development Brief is now 19 years old, no longer referenced on the council website, and was written to provide more detail to a long superseded 1993 document.  It is now not relevant in planning terms, especially given the existing planning permission for the site.

 

Summary

Alexpo and Network Rail are pleased to provide the following benefits to the area:

  • A major new public square, befitting the Palace
  • Eradicating the traffic gyratory nightmare
  • New Homes
  • A small foodstore and an improved modern station
  • Construction time reduced by 14 months

 

 

A summary version of this article can be found here.