South Kensington: Building on a legacy

Source: RTM April/May 2018

Graeme Craig, director of commercial development at TfL, says the redevelopment of the iconic South Kensington station will revitalise what is already a gateway to some of the world’s most treasured institutions.

South Kensington Tube station, located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, is one of the busiest stations on the Tube network. Over 34 million customers a year use the station travelling on the District, Circle or Piccadilly lines.

But South Kensington is not just a busy station; it’s a gateway to some of the most important and treasured cultural institutions in the world. For most visitors to these museums and institutions, the South Kensington experience starts on the platform of our station. The station therefore should reflect the area in which it sits, and we’re hugely excited to have announced a partner to help us restore the iconic retail arcade and enhance the station’s historic architecture.

Last month, we selected Native Land as our preferred joint venture partner to develop the surrounding land and raise vital long-term revenue to reinvest in our transport network. Together, we plan to create a development that reflects the station’s legacy and unique setting, while also delivering operational improvements including step-free access.

Originally built in 1868, the station was substantially altered in 1907 and received listed status in 2004. One special interest of the station resides in the survival of the arcaded 1867-68 revetments, which belong to the first generation of underground architecture anywhere in the world.

The development will be respectful to the character of the local area and will provide step-free access to the District and Circle line platforms via a new entrance on Thurloe Street. The scheme will also improve access to the pedestrian subway leading to museums such as the Victoria and Albert, the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, as well as iconic institutions including the Royal Albert Hall and Imperial College London.

A key part of the development will be the ability to improve the properties around the station, including the four-storey buildings at 20-34 Thurloe Street, with the potential to create new opportunities along TfL’s stretch of land on Pelham Street to Thurloe Square and on the distinctive Bullnose building. The site also includes the main station entrances through the Grade II listed shopping arcade, which will be preserved and further restored, and a second entrance via the Grade II listed pedestrian subway.

We will now work with Native Land and its preferred architecture firm, Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners, to develop proposals for the site. Consultation and engagement with the local community will happen later this year. Subject to planning permission, the development including step-free access to the District and Circle lines could be complete in 2022.

In January this year, we were granted Listed Building Consent by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to upgrade the station. Designed by architects Weston Williamson, the upgrade work will include rebuilding a new eastbound District and Circle line platform and expanding the ticket hall and gate line to facilitate quicker, more pleasant journeys for customers using the station. This work is due to start in the next few months.

Improving the station and providing step-free access will support the delivery of the mayor’s Transport Strategy, which aims to reduce reliance on car journeys, encourage greater use of public transport and make London more accessible for all residents.

Customers using South Kensington will also benefit from the ongoing transformation of the District and Circle lines, with a new, modern signalling system currently being installed on both lines. The new system will increase train frequency, provide more capacity and make journeys quicker across 40% of the Tube network, benefitting millions of customers.

This development scheme is one of dozens that we’re working on across London, which will see us generate hundreds of millions of pounds to plough back into the transport network and deliver affordable homes that Londoners desperately need.

In the last two years, we have brought to market sites which can deliver almost 5,000 homes, 50% of which will be genuinely affordable. This year, we expect to bring forward sites across London offering an additional 4,000 homes, half of which will again be affordable. In addition to substantial amounts of housing, TfL’s programme provides a number of opportunities like those at South Kensington to deliver retail and commercial space, as well as operational improvements such as step-free access.

We will bring sites to market through a number of different routes, working with everyone from major developers to SMEs and Community Land Trusts. In many areas, our sites will play a key role in unlocking development and regeneration, opening up new spaces, creating jobs and stimulating economic growth.

We launched the Property Partnership Framework in 2016. Following a competitive tender process, we approved the appointment of 13 leading property development companies and consortia that we could work with to develop our sites. This provides a ready pool of partners eligible to bid to work with TfL in joint ventures as sites become available. This will ensure thousands of homes, offices and retail spaces across London can be delivered more efficiently and quickly.

Our proposals for South Kensington represent an opportunity to work with a developer and architecture firm who are renowned for delivering iconic and transformative projects. I can’t wait to work with them and the local community to bring forward proposals for such an important site.


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