Hampton Court Rescue Campaign

 Our Submission to Elmbridge Council

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7 December 2007
Martin Parker Esq., MRTPI.,
Head of Town Planning,
Elmbridge Borough Council,
Civic Centre, High Street, Esher, Surrey KT10 9SD

Dear Mr. Parker,

Number 2007/2970 Demolition & comprehensive redevelopment
2007/2971 Conservation area consent
2007/2972 Listed Building Consent

Hampton Court Station & The Jolly Boatman, Hampton Court Way,
East Molesey KT8 9AE

The Hampton Court Rescue Campaign, with over 3,000 supporters, calls for the rejection of the above proposals in their entirety. There follows an outline of the main reasons for rejection. (A series of supplements will follow dealing, in greater depth and detail, with specific aspects of the Planning Applications and the accompanying Environmental Impact Assessment.)


This is possibly the biggest and most complex planning application Elmbridge Borough Council will ever have to face. For twenty years or more successive owners of both the Jolly Boatman site and the Railway land have sought to impose intensive building development. In pursuit of this they have followed a calculated policy of neglect. The station buildings have fallen into ruins; passenger facilities, notably toilets have been withdrawn and the land bordering the riverside in front of the station has remained overgrown and littered with rubbish. The aim has been to create a public attitude that “Anything is better than this”. Thus the current proposals seek to delude the public that the developers are doing us all a service by building over the entire site when, in fact, the disgraceful state of the site is entirely of their own making.

The time has come for this charade to be brought to an end. The future of the Hampton Court site must be determined by an impartial review in which all the local authorities involved; the communities on both sides of the river; Historic Royal Palaces; English Heritage; Thames Landscape Strategy and all other relevant bodies join together to devise a comprehensive plan based solely on the national, local and public interest. This will never be achieved by developers, either those in place or those who may follow, whose sole interest is financial gain.

This therefore is the compelling reason for Planning Applications 2007/2970/1/2 to be rejected in their entirety so that a completely fresh start can be made in determining the future of the whole site.


The rejection of the comprehensive proposals should not be in terms that allow developers to return again and again with minor modifications. County and District Planning Guidelines, National Planning legislation are all in the process of change. Specific planning briefs for the site, notably the ill-conceived Elmbridge BC, Development Brief, 1999, have all been overtaken by the march of events and are no longer relevant. A fresh start and a new vision is called for but, in the interim, the owners of the site should be compelled to keep the site in good order until a comprehensive plan for its future has been devised.


For the reasons stated above HCRC demands that the applications should be rejected in their entirety. Nothing which follows should be taken to infer that any part of it is acceptable. Nevertheless it has to be recognised that the Planning Authorities will be obliged to examine each and every aspect of the applications. In this event HCRC is called upon to state, not only its demand for comprehensive rejection, but in addition, its objections to the component parts.


The comprehensive proposals advanced by the developers call for a building development entirely out of character with its location. It is utterly incompatible with Hampton Court Palace across the river and equally incompatible with the East Molesey (Kent Town) Conservation Area (No.2) of which it is a part. Also the Elmbridge Residential Design Guidance specifies that the combined effect of any proposals, in terms of volume, shape and footprint of a group of buildings in relation to other buildings and spaces must be taken into account. HCRC maintains that the Gladedale/Network Rail/RS&G proposals are so overbearing in terms of height, scale, massing and density that none of these conditions are satisfied.


Hampton Court Palace looks out across the Thames to a green and pleasant landscape. A large area of this is the riverside frontage of Cigarette Island, publicly owned and protected. Inexplicably the land bordering the river in front of the station and car park is not so protected and for generations has been privately owned. Despite years of neglect this area (known as the Jolly Boatman site) still presents a ‘green’ vista from the Palace. The proposal, in the Planning Application, to erect a hotel in this confined space, utterly destroys the vista to and from the Palace and can only be described as a desecration. In addition the buildings proposed for the car park will be clearly visible from the Palace. The developers, at their exhibition on 16/17 November endeavoured to convince the public that this will not be so. This claim is only, in part, tenable because the proposed hotel in the foreground obscures many of the tenements that lie behind it. Thus, in terms of the Palace views neither the hotel nor the buildings on the car park are acceptable.


The proposed hotel, occupying a prime site on the river front immediately opposite Hampton Court Palace is, in terms of location, height, length, depth and bulk entirely unacceptable. Additionally the material, design and colour of the cladding proposed are totally out of character with its historic surroundings. Here are a selection of the comments we have received from people who visited the developers’ exhibition:

  • “The outstanding blot on the proposed landscape is that stark, rectangular, prison block (hotel) with a pitched roof thrown in to add ‘local flavour’. No attempt to blend to the Victorian character of the locality and the hard open space and steps only accentuate the bare, unimaginative picture.”
  • “We both feel that the artist’s impression shows a warehouse!!! Very unattractive and certainly not in keeping with the local architecture.”
  • “The hotel building, which resembles a cheapo version of a Travel Lodge, could best be described as hideous.”
  • “The hotel is described as being ‘high quality’. We would suggest that it looks like a typical cheap French hotel chain such a Sofitel or one of those. Talking to the representative from the firm of architects it appears that they have intentionally produced what they believe to be a middle of the road, down market design that won’t cause too much resistance from we residents.”


This is a large, featureless, paved area intersected by a route delineated by bollards for service and emergency vehicles. It contrasts sadly with the green, landscaped area, free of all buildings advocated by HCRC. For this reason alone we must demand rejection.


The developers’ plans envisage a space, extending along the frontage of the hotel up to the bridge, between the “Riverside Paved Area” and the “Riverside Walkway” to be occupied by a stepped terrace covering the whole of the steep incline down to the river. Although open to the public the levels are much deeper than stairs with a drop of several feet between each new level. Even for the able bodied the risk of falling from one level to the next – and perhaps more- constitutes a severe safety hazard. For persons with any sort of disability it must be regarded as a “no-go” area.

The stepped terrace appears as a featureless expanse of concrete or grey stone with a brutal visual impact from the River Thames and from Hampton Court Palace immediately opposite. It is totally out of keeping with the rural, parkland character of the river bank. This ugly, intrusion should be rejected.


The proposed new access/exit to the underground car-park debouches on to Hampton Court Way approximately opposite the Petrol Station. Car users emerging from the car-park, wishing to proceed to Hampton Court Bridge will be unable to turn right. Instead they will have to proceed to the Imber Court roundabout for a 180 degree turn before turning northwards. In this heavily congested highway this manoeuvre, involving long traffic queues in both directions could easily occupy half-an-hour or more. It is an unworkable arrangement and should be rejected.


The proposals are not clear on the forecasted use of the underground car-park and the shared use between residents, commuters, Star & Garter users, and visitors. This certainly needs further study.

The access/exit to the underground car-park, to and from Hampton Court Way is via a long dual-carriageway tunnel with two right-angled turns, going under the railway lines. At busy times, with difficulty of exit, there is likely to be a long tail-back in the tunnel with all the problems of exhaust fumes. It also carries an even higher risk of flooding than the car-park itself.

Security is of prime importance. Persons inside the car-park are remote from the outside world - either one or two storeys below the surface or at the inward end of a blind tunnel. It offers a strikingly obvious opportunity to thieves, vandals, paedophiles, perverts, drug users and peddlers. (Even as a surface station, Hampton Court has a long history of attracting such people but this will be increased many times over with the advent of an under-ground car-park). Trains arrive and depart at Hampton Court until the late hours. It is inevitable that commuters will find it a hazardous experience to retrieve their cars from below ground. Currently there is much national concern about railway stations being used for terrorist attacks. An underground car-park at Hampton Court would appear to offer many facilities for setting up such an attack.

The security risks inherent in the proposed underground car-park are so extensive as to make it an unviable proposition.


The restoration and up grading of the listed station building is essential. It is, and always has been, the responsibility of the Railway Authority to provide a station that welcomes many thousands of national and international visitors every year. The station building should never have been allowed to fall into ruins. Remedial action, divorced entirely from any application to build on the car-park, is of the highest priority.


This charity has a fine record of providing a home for service personnel disabled in the service of their country. HCRC makes it clear that it supports this in every way possible and the fact that critical comments have to be made in the context of the Planning Application must not be taken as an attack on the charity itself. It is recognised that RS&G are seeking to vacate their existing home on Richmond Hill and to set up separate homes in different parts of the country, one of which is to be to the South-West of London.

The Planning Application for Hampton Court indicates that RS&G has chosen to enter in to a partnership agreement with Gladedale and Network Rail to present a comprehensive proposal to develop the whole of the site. Thus, RS&G is not advancing a planning application in its own right. (The exact terms of the contract between RS&G and Gladedale/Network Rail have not been disclosed).

HCRC must express great concern that RS&G has locked itself in to an inseparable planning application with two other partners who, unlike RS&G, are motivated solely by commercial gain. Thus RS&G has committed itself to a controversial, complex and comprehensive proposal for the whole of the Hampton Court/Jolly Boatman site including residential blocks, commercial premises, a hotel and of course a home for the disabled. It involves a massive constructional project, not least to excavate an underground car park in the middle of a flood risk area.

With a wide area of Southern England from which to choose an open site with no inherent constructional problems and with the good will of the surrounding community HCRC finds it difficult to understand why RS&G has chosen to involve itself with the Hampton Court Planning Applications with all their complexities, risk of lengthy procedures and the ultimate risk of failure. The last thing that HCRC wants is for RS&G to get hurt in the process.

In opposing development on the whole site and faced with the comprehensive planning application to do this HCRC has no alternative but to regard the proposed RS&G building as simply one of a dense development of high-rise buildings in an entirely inappropriate location. In this context the fact that RS&G is a charitable organisation has no bearing.


Existing. The road complex, both North and South of Hampton Court Bridge is severely congested, (see Surrey County Council traffic surveys) catering at peak periods, morning and evening, with upwards of 2,000 vehicles per hour in each direction. The problem is compounded by special events at the Palace e.g. Flower Show, Concerts and Skating. Even minor obstructions immediately cause extensive tailbacks in all directions. The solution rests with combined action by Surrey County Council; London Borough of Richmond and Transport for London. It involves traffic patterns and possible re-routing over a wide area, certainly inclusive of Kingston, Feltham, Esher and Walton. Cosmetic changes in the immediate vicinity of Hampton Court (whether or not associated with new development) will have little impact and may even worsen the situation.

Effect of Developers’ proposals.

Phase 1 of the Developers’ scheme involves a massive civil engineering project to create a two-storey underground car-park covering virtually the whole site. The Developers’ estimate it will take at least 1 year and require excavation and carting away of 60,000m3 of potentially contaminated soil, rubble and hardcore. The constant movement of tipper lorries and excavating machinery, in and out of the site, at a point where there is already severe congestion, will create chaos over a wide area including Kingston, Feltham, Esher and Walton and on the A308 feeder road to the M3.

Phase 2 covers the period of construction lasting a further 2 years. Movement of heavy vehicles, although somewhat less than during the excavation phase, will nevertheless impose impossible demands on the road transport system.

Phase 3 when all the resident blocks, shops, offices and hotel are built, with road access via a tunnel under the railway, will create a surge of traffic movement that the existing road system will not be able to accommodate.

The road chaos created by Phase 1 alone is sufficient reason to demand the total rejection of the entire Planning Application.


The Station Car-Park, well used by commuters and visitors, will close for three years during the period of excavation and construction. Users will then seek alternative parking in the residential streets of East Molesey. The problem already exists because many already do so for up to 12 hours per day to avoid the expensive car-park charges. The prospect of inundating local streets with displaced cars is completely unacceptable to the local community. Another prime reason for rejection of the application.


The Hampton Court Rescue Campaign calls for the rejection of all three Planning Applications – 2007/2970; 2007/2971 and 2007/2972. In the overall context this intensive development will, for ever, destroy any chance for an impartial ‘Commission’ to devise a plan for the future of Hampton Court in the interest of the nation as a whole, Hampton Court Palace and the communities on both sides of the river. HCRC finds also that, taking each feature of the applications, item by item, there is a compelling case for rejection.

Brian J. Rusbridge CBE.
On behalf of the Hampton Court Rescue Campaign