Partnership Profile: Sir Paul Lever, The Chelsea Society

The Chelsea Society was formed to play an important role in how change takes place and to ensure that we all understand  both the benefits and disadvantages of change. Inevitably, this leads to a healthy debate between the interested parties and, in 2027, it will celebrate the centenary of residents and businesses working together to preserve and protect the amenities of Chelsea.

Chelsea is one of the most historic parts of London. As the world changes and London keeps pace with other cities, The Chelsea Society considers how Chelsea can embrace the future whilst retaining its unique character, formed by its wonderful past.

On the establishment of King’s Road Partnership in January 2022, Sir Paul Lever, Chairman of the Planning Committee at The Chelsea Society, was appointed as an observer to the Partnership Board. As he describes, “Our role is to look after the interests of everybody who lives and works in Chelsea and to do our best to preserve what we consider to be the unique character of this part of London.”

King’s Road Partnership is now working to similarly fulfil these aims for the benefit of King’s Road businesses and residents.

“Although The Chelsea Society isn’t a business, we want the King’s road to flourish, therefore we support anything that helps businesses along the King’s Road succeed. We have been more conscious of the need to support the characteristics of the King’s Road.

“Historically, it has been influenced, if not dominated, by small shops and independents, rather than big, wide-fronted stores. The big chains are, of course, represented on The King’s Road, but it’s a good mix and it has a variety of types of business. We hope that will continue.

“Making the road itself visually attractive, comfortable and pleasant is one of the things the BID seeks to do and it’s important for local residents. We want it to be busy and a place for people to enjoy visiting.”

As part of this work, King’s Road Partnership has implemented the security team, improved waste collection services, and introduced a cleansing team just this month to improve the cleanliness of the area. All actions that Sir Paul cites as ‘The Chelsea Society approved’.

“Many of the things The Chelsea Society believes in are also things that the BID is  keen on: improving security, refuse collection, traffic on the King’s Road. It’s a huge source of pollution and the grid lock can be excessive.

“We have had two big building projects on the King’s Road with closures, and there have been days where traffic has been snarled up along the full length. That is a priority for us.”

The Chelsea Society and King’s Road Partnership are both working together to relieve this with recent place and public realm audits and reverses of TfL cuts to local bus services, alongside freight and logistics impact assessments, the latter in partnership with Cadogan Estates.

More economic and environmental sources of transport have been introduced by various pop-ups in recent months across most cities, including e-scooters and bicycles, and the King’s Road is no stranger to the schemes.

“The proliferation of different sorts of hire bicycles have sprung up in the last few months. It seems, on a business model, to use them and then simply dump them. It’s unsightly, dangerous and not good for the look of the King’s Road. We have plenty of bike spots along the King’s Road already. If we need more we should get more, but I think something should be done instead of dumping them.”

Working together with The Chelsea Society, and Kensington and Chelsea Council, King’s Road Partnership have been collaborating on a solution to resolve this issue.

Many may remember the King’s Road history highlights: Mick Jagger, Mary Quant, Christian the Lion and American vintage cars driving up and down the King’s Road:

“The King’s Road is just a bit different with the feeling of a bohemian and quirky atmosphere to the street. When The Chelsea Society, is consulted in relation to particular developments, we often say to them, ‘Whatever the sort of building you’re thinking of putting up, think, ‘It’s Chelsea, and it’ll be on the King’s Road.’ Try to introduce something a little bit quirky, something a little bit odd to it that people will say, ‘Oh yes, that’s Chelsea.’

And where to go if you’re in the area?

“Everyone ought to go to The Saatchi Gallery. It’s a splendid piece of work, and all those responsible for it should be congratulated on that. There’s still an interesting antiquities place on Sydney Street [at Bourbon-Hanby Arcade] which I like to pop into from time to time.

“You’re spoilt for choice for coffee bars – there are lots and lots of them. Lunch, again, there’s no shortage of restaurants. One of my favourites is The Cadogan Arms because I think they’ve done a splendid job in restoring it. Rabbit ‘s is an interesting spot, if you’re looking for something a bit different.

“It’s always been a fun place to go, somewhere to go where you might see something a little bit different or weird. I hope that’s something you will continue to see.”