Planning issues affecting the future of antique trading in Portobello came to a head last week as councillors and their own planning officers fell out at a public meeting in front of dozens of campaigners.
In angry exchanges that saw Kensington and Chelsea Council
officers accused of bias and misrepresentation by elected
councillors, planning committee members threw out the latest
attempt to gain retrospective permission for the façade of the All
Saints store on the corner of Westbourne Grove and Portobello
The October 25 meeting took place just days after the
government's Planning Inspectorate suspended the appeal on another
application recommended for approval by the planning department -
to allow seven-day trading at the Admiral Vernon Arcade in
Portobello - and instead called an official hearing into the
Such hearings typically take place in highly controversial cases
where there is strong opposition, and it means that campaigners
against the proposed changes should be able to talk directly to the
planning inspector rather than just putting submissions in
Portobello Antique Dealers' Association chairman Costas
Kleanthous, who witnessed the scene where one councillor criticised
the Director of Planning personally for producing a report biased
in favour of the applicants for the All Saints site, told ATG that
even as the committee were summing up their reasons for refusal,
the Director of Planning interrupted them to press his own contrary
point of view.
This followed an earlier outburst by one councillor who
upbraided the Director of Planning, telling him that it was his
department's job to state the facts and let the committee make up
its own mind.
Campaigners were angry that the council's planning department
had recommended approval for the latest All Saints application,
which appeared little different from the one already thrown
On the Admiral Vernon issue, as previously reported, on April 19
the planning committee met to debate the application by Holland
Park Investments Ltd for permission to bring seven-day trading to
the basement of the arcade.
Antiques dealers, who spend much of the week sourcing goods
around the country for sale in the arcade on Saturdays, believe
that seven-day trading would see them squeezed out and sound the
death knell for the antiques trade in Portobello.
So they were delighted when councillors decided to ignore
planning officers' recommendation for permission to be granted for
the basement to be used throughout the week and threw out the
application on the basis that lifting the restrictions would remove
the protection for residents.
However, the landlords believed they had grounds for appeal as
the council's Director of Environmental Services had said residents
would be unlikely to suffer as a result.
Existing restrictions on when deliveries and loading could take
place would remain in place and the records showed that there had
been no complaints about noise, he argued. And he added that the
ground floor of Admiral Vernon, where there are no such
restrictions on trading, would be more likely to have an effect on
neighbouring residents than trading in the basement, yet there is
no evidence that it has done so.
"The condition prevents the efficient and effective use of the
building for its permitted use and serves no reasonable planning
purpose," concluded the director.
However, the Planning Inspectorate, to whom the matter was
referred, does not see the arguments as that clear cut. Having
cancelled several planned visits to assess Admiral Vernon and the
application it has decided on a hearing instead.
Mr Kleanthous said: "As ATG recently commented, democracy is
stirring at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. This is
good for Portobello and it's good for the Royal Borough."
By Ivan Macquisten