Cumberland House residents bemoan loss of parking due to new development

Residents claim Kingston Council did not consult them about plans to destroy estate facilities
Video content: Jasmine Patterson. Edited by: Rebecca Spencer

Residents at the Cumberland House Estate on Kingston Hill have to find somewhere else to park after Kingston Council issued a notice stating residents’ cars were no longer allowed on the site from March 14. 

In a letter posted to residents, the Council said parking access to the lower garage/parking area or in front of the garages at Cumberland House will no longer be available and cars must be moved by that date to “avoid further enforcement action”.

The letter said: “This is due to the start of redevelopment work which will deliver 41 much-needed affordable new homes in the area.”

The Council was commissioned to redevelop the site to erect a nine-story building of one, two, and three-bedroom flats located behind the Cumberland House Estate using the ‘Building Council Homes for Londoners’ fund granted by the Greater London Assembly (GLA).

Cumberland House Estate play area that will be removed to allow the construction of a 9 story housing complex. Photo: Jasmine Patterson

The proposed planning application was met with pushback from residents who felt they were not properly consulted about the project last year. They felt the proposed plan deprives them of the children’s play area and green space. 

Cumberland House Estate currently holds around 120 flats.

One resident, 67-year-old retiree Mrs. Sue Batten, said the Council had left residents with “no options” and described the parking situation as unfair, while at the same time rent has increased.

Batten said she was looking forward to taking her grandchildren to the playground on the Estate once the lockdown restrictions end but that has been scrapped. 

“They’ve got this huge problem with displacing our facilitates to build this block of flats. You don’t live somewhere, and your liberties are taken away from you,” she said. 

“They [estate management] told us to park on local roads but they are all permits or you have to pay for parking.” 

After speaking with estate management she said it was suggested residents park in nearby areas like Crescent Road.

When the estate management told her to apply for a blue badge, Batten said: “My partner can’t walk very far [but] he’s not disabled. So therefore, we are in a situation where you have to get the bus.”

Both she and her partner have debated giving up their car as they are able to take the bus going forward but she was concerned for the residents with disabled family members living at Cumberland House.

“We have no way out of it. We’re in this situation that we are tied by, ‘ok this is what’s happening so, tough’ – that’s how it feels. They’re not thinking about us at all,” said Batten.

Cumberland House Estate is a housing complex on Kingston Hill, Kingston upon Thames. Photo: Jasmine Patterson

A community engagement newsletter published by the Council in September 2020 said the planning application proposes that five car parking spaces are to be added at the front and six car parking spaces to the south east of the estate to compensate existing residents for the loss of car park and garages. 

Batten said: “It’s just not fair. Because we’ve had no consultation because of Covid they could have easily come round, stood 10 feet away and asked us our opinion. It’s causing stress and anxiety – it really is.

 “The whole thing, to me – they just want the money, let’s build it, we get that money and we look good. We look good because we’re building properties.”

According to the planning website database, the neighbour consultation period ended on October 9 2020 and the development control committee considered the proposal on November 25 virtually. The Council said it, like other councils around the country, carried on operating virtually as per government guidelines.

It was said by some that the housing plan was approved quickly because of a set deadline to start receiving funds from the GLA. That suggestion was refuted by the Council.

A spokesperson for the Council said: “Funding has been secured from the GLA to support the affordable homes at Cumberland House, our ability to deliver a compliant and comprehensive engagement programme, rather than the need to meet funding deadlines, meant that we could continue to progress the scheme through the planning process despite the restrictions imposed as a result of the pandemic.”

RBK decision was made behind ‘closed doors’

Local Conservative representatives have been highly critical of the public consultation process for the new Cumberland House Estate building plan which has been described as lacking transparency and that resident’s gardens have been compromised.

However, a spokesperson for the Council said based on the level of response received from a range of age groups, people were aware of the consultation and felt able to respond in a way that was best for them. 

The spokesperson said: “During the engagement process care was taken to make sure those who are in digital poverty or digitally disconnected still had the ability to be involved and have their voices heard.”

The Council claimed the measures it took were more beneficial than face-to-face discussions which allowed it to reach a large audience and have a longer consultation period. 

It listed a social media campaign, dedicated email and phone lines, a print advertisement in the Surrey Comet, live webinars held on June 16 and 17 2020 and a webpage set up for people to access, among some of the communications.  

Conservative Councillor Ian George said Kingston Borough Council “took a decision behind closed doors”. 

In a statement on the Conservative Party’s website, George said: “We do not think it is fair that some residents, including those with disabilities, will struggle to find a space on-site due to the number of spaces being taken.

“We have questioned why so many parking spaces need to be removed and have asked that the decision be reviewed.

“We have demanded that Cumberland House are consulted properly prior to starting any building works or moving any play equipment.” 

In addition, Conservative representatives have requested more information about the proposals for moving the play equipment, the proposed improvements to the play area and details of the work to be carried out on trees, bushes and the landscape. 

Councillor George confirmed that a meeting with the Council took place Thursday March 11 to discuss the residents’ concerns about parking and plans were discussed to offer an alternative option. 

But George said it was unlikely any compensation will be provided to residents to cover the cost of parking in metered zones.

Picture of the current Cumberland Estate (red) and the area due to be built on for the new housing site (blue). Photo: Selina Julie/Facebook

The proposed redevelopment site was surveyed by a tree specialist and found there are no trees designated under the Council’s TPO (tree protection order), however five category B and C trees will be lost.

Green Party Councillor for Surbiton Sharron Sumner agreed that more housing is needed but there is a wider problem of urban expansion on healthy green space in London whereas developers should be using available brown sites.

She said: “I think that the London plan pushes a burden of development onto the outer boroughs which we can’t cope with. That really is London’s green lots and in order to have the target they are suggesting, there is going to be a large-scale development of green space on the outer lot.

“A local ecologist said to me we have lost 2,000 trees in one year in Kingston. We’re still talking about healthy mature trees which play an important part in cleaning our air.”

The Council resolved to permit the development subject to conditions of a Parking Management Plan detailing how parking spaces will be allocated and how parking will be managed across the estate.

Twelve members of the committee voted in favour of the building proposal and there were two objections from Helen Hinton and James Landon.

The Council website stated new homes are ‘essential’ as it has 3000 households on a wait list and there are around 900 people living in temporary accommodation.

Residents spray paint signs and post them outside the Cumberland House Estate on Kingston Hill. Photo: Sue Batten
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