Kingston residents could soon see brand new offices and homes in the town centre.
The council has approved plans for the so-called ‘Eden Campus’ at last week’s Development Control Committee (March 31), which lasted nearly four hours.
The development would see consumer giant Unilever move offices across London and Surrey into a new headquarters in the borough.
There was some debate over the height of the buildings and their impact on heritage assets in the borough.
Councillor Rebekah Moll, portfolio holder for planning policy, voted against the plans alongside Conservative councillor Ian George.
She said the application had “massive positives and big negatives” praising the extra footfall that would be brought by Unilever, while admitting she “struggled” with the size and density of the development.
Councillor Dave Ryder-Mills also expressed concerns about the amount of play space, but said the inclusion of socially rented units was “a breath of fresh air.”
“The most needy in our community might be able to afford [them] and we can actually get somewhere with rehousing people into suitable accommodation. Because there are a hell of a lot of people in very unsuitable accommodation,” he said.
The application was approved by nine votes to two.
The proposals for the site, submitted by developer Cube Real Estate, include two-interlinked office buildings, car parking designed for electric vehicles and a new residential building set within landscaped gardens adjacent to the restored historic Hogsmill River.
Unilever, the company behind brands including Persil, Dove and Marmite, intends to consolidate its workforce from five existing sites in London and Surrey in the new site by winter 2023/24, bringing 2,000 jobs into Kingston town centre.
Phase one of the development will see the demolition of Surrey House, Bo Concept retail store and the Hippodrome, to be replaced by two interlinked office buildings, of nine and twelve storeys.
A car park for 354 cars, complete with electric charging facilities and 450 cycle parking spaces, will replace the existing multi-storey car park.
It will be used by Unilever employees during the week, and shoppers at the weekend.
In phase two of the scheme, which can only begin once the first phase of development is substantially complete, Lever House will be demolished and replaced by 115 new one, two and three bedroom homes, of which 35 per cent will be affordable.
This development will be no more than 16 storeys.
Sebastian Munden, General Manager and Executive Vice President of Unilever UK & Ireland said he was “delighted” the plans had been approved.
“While Unilever has had an office in the town centre for decades, we are very excited to make Kingston a key location for Unilever globally, with it becoming the home of our global and UK & Ireland head office.
“This is the ideal moment in time to create a modern campus, designed around new ways of working, where we can bring together employees, retailers, suppliers and shoppers in one space,” he said.