WestEndExtra

The independent London newspaper

Late news on one Soho scheme

07 June, 2019

• IN what is becoming an annual tradition, here is my 2019 letter marking another year passing in the Kemp House development on Berwick Street in the heart of Soho. It is now more than four years since demolition work first began on this “18-month” scheme.

When the shops and offices were cleared from Berwick Street and demolition began in May 2015, locals understood that the scheme would be complete by November 2016. By December 2015 this had slipped dramatically to May 2018, and by August 2017 the end-date had been moved to October 2018.

Then in September 2018, when work was clearly nowhere near completion, we were told it would all be done by May 2019; but since January this year the completion date has been moved back at every monthly liaison meeting, so we’re now told that it will be completed in September 2019.

The Kemp House scheme began in tandem with Soho Estates’ much more complicated Walker’s Court development, which is now completing on schedule.

During this time a very similar development to the Kemp House scheme, round the corner at Stirling Court on the corner of Marshall Street and Broadwick Street, (a commercial development directly beneath a residential tower) has been started and completed and its new retail units have been trading for months now.

The crucial point to remember is that Westminster City Council is the freeholder of the Kemp House site. It chose the developer (PMB) and agreed the contracts for the lease and the delivery of the development (the council is taking four flats in the scheme as affordable housing).

So this should have been the smoothest, most by-the-book development, but instead it is arguably the worst in the West End. I’m told that the city council has already fined PMB and now the council is left with little bite as the local community continues to be blighted by these works.

And while the council is reportedly collecting £1million a year in rent from the developer, it is missing out on years of business rates and council tax from the delayed commercial and residential units.

Of course, the impact on those living through the development (market traders and retailers, and the residents of Kemp House and the numerous adjacent social housing blocks), who have suffered years of dust, noise, floods, fires, injuries etc, cannot be so easily quantified.

The councillors and the officers of the council’s corporate team who selected PMB, and brokered the deal with them, must now be seen by the community to be actively engaged in doing all they can to ensure the scheme is kept to its current schedule in an effort to free Soho of this interminable blight.

DAVID BARRETT
Kemp House, W1

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