Future of Kew Retail Park in doubt after sale to housebuilder

  Posted: 07.04.21 at 17:29 by Sian Bayley, Local Democracy Reporter

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Half of Kew Retail Park has been sold to a housebuilder – in a move likely to signal new homes in the area.

According to a recent report in The Times newspaper, the Berkeley Group is the buyer.

Last week the housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, confirmed that legislation will be introduced in August to allow shops to be converted into housing without planning permission.

However, it remains to be seen if the new owners will push forward for housing in the retail park.

This is because there are some limitations and a size restriction on permitted development changes.

The new Town and County Planning Act says if the cumulative floor space of the existing building changing use exceeds 1,500 sq metres then it cannot be converted using the permitted development right.

For those under 1,500 sq metres, the developer must still apply to the local planning authority to see if they need prior approval from the authority regarding issues such as transport impact or flood risks.

Former owners UK Commercial Property REIT said in a press release that they had sold their 4.7 acres on the site, comprising 61,765 sq ft of space across five units, for £41 million.

This space is fully let on short leases to a range of tenants including Boots, Sports Direct, Gap, and TK Maxx.

When approached, Richmond Council said it could not comment on the specifics of this proposed repurposing.

However, in January this year, the chair of the council’s environment, sustainability, culture and sports committee, cllr Julia Neden-Watts wrote to the housing secretary outlining her general concerns about permitted development.

She said the changes “would occur at the worst possible time, coinciding with the economic and social recovery process, and undermining the adaptation of our centres to become diverse, vibrant and successful locations once again.”

The letter went on to say: “The effect on our high streets if shops and services gave way to higher value residential use would be devastating” and that she was “concerned” the move would “undermine the Local Plan and plan-making process.”

Reaction to The Times article online also showed some concern among local residents.

One asked if the move would be factored into the controversial Stag Brewery decision in nearby Mortlake, while another simply described the news as a “horrid shock”.

However, Will Fulton, lead manager of UKCM at Aberdeen Standard Investments, said that the deal allowed the company to sell a “low growth retail asset” and take advantage of “strong demand for residential development opportunities”.

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