Interview by Mark Ferguson
What does the Knightsbridge Association do and who does it help?
Melville: We are a residence association with some 763 members covering the amenity area from The Lanesborough hotel down to Queen’s Gate, bounded in the north by Kensington Road, and in the south by the Brompton Road and Cromwell Road. It’s quite a big patch.
Our purpose is to preserve, protect and enhance the amenities for residents and businesses in our area. We have small revenue from our membership fees, but we are a pro bono organisation. All members who are on committees and undertake committee work do so on a voluntary basis.
What are the main challenges currently facing the Knightsbridge Association?
Melville: I think the main challenge, and it’s one I believe the Knightsbridge Partnership is in a good position to help us on, is the coordination of commercial waste collections within the two boroughs that encompass our area – namely Westminster and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
We have had repeated infringements of commercial waste, essentially fly-tipping, in and around the Brompton Road which can produce a very ugly street scene. This can be improved. We’ve raised it with Steven Medway and his colleagues at the Knightsbridge Partnership.
I know there are discussions going on between the two councils, but this is one area that is a big eyesore and needs to be resolved.
What we’re doing is helping maintain the integrity of the residential amenity across this area for the benefit of people living here and the maintenance of heritage. We look at planning and licensing applications as they come through the system to make sure they respect residents’ interests.
For example, we had an application for a restaurant on Brompton Road that we considered to be unacceptable. We articulated our case with the help of expert Licensing advice from Westminster CAB and mobilised local opinion and we got that rejected.
We’ve recently gone through a similar exercise on the planning front for a proposed restaurant in Montpelier Street. That is currently the subject of a formal appeal being handled by the planning inspectorate.
What’s do you think the BID does that makes the biggest difference in Knightsbridge?
Melville: Two things. The first is security – the BID was very quick off the mark in putting together the patrols which now are a regular feature extending from around Harvey Nichols and right down the Brompton Road.
Making sure that people feel safe, that businesses are protected if they are intruded upon, that their concerns are dealt with, and that there is follow up with either the Police or local authority. Security is very important.
I think the second point, as I mentioned, relates to commercial and residential fly-tipping. We have a particular problem with short-let tenancies where people come for a week or two and then disgorge all of their rubbish on a day when it shouldn’t be put out.
It’s just left there and can be there for two or three days until the normal waste collection round calls by. Dealing with those issues are our daily fare.
Why did you agree to become a Board member for the BID?
Melville: The Board wanted a spread of interest and clearly in Knightsbridge, there is a strong residential community. It’s understandable that their first port of call was the Knightsbridge Association, as the accredited amenity society for this area.
If you go further into Kensington, there’s a Kensington Society, and a Chelsea Society, so each area has its own amenity society. The Board represents freeholder, tenant and other business interests, but also residents, so I am if you like the conscience of the resident community.
Part of the BID’s vision is for high-end luxury provision for local residents and workers. What does this mean to you?
Melville: Creating or ensuring that the circumstances and atmosphere in which the high-end retail experience can be rolled out and continued with the right protections, to ensure our part of town is secure, clean, tidy and up to international standards.
Our area is one of the leading world examples of high-end retail activity. We have Harrods, Harvey Nichols and other major shopping destinations, including the brilliant new Apple store which has just arrived.
There have been some fabulous redevelopments over the past five years which have transformed the eastern end of Brompton Road and created a very vibrant and decorative retail space.
You only have to walk from the Knightsbridge Burberry corner junction down west, and you’ll see all the redevelopment there which is taking place. We want to ensure these activities are conducted within a public realm that is fit for purpose.
What’s your favourite past-time activity in Knightsbridge?
Melville: I think it’s probably walking my Cocker Spaniel every day up into Hyde Park in Kensington Gardens. We are very fortunate to have this space on our doorstep.
We don’t go out that much in Knightsbridge, but when we do, there are an increasing range of options, and we’re very pleased to see that some new ones are coming to the fore.
Can you tell us something we might not know about Knightsbridge?
Melville: Possibly the hole in the wall which links the Rutland Estate, which is basically Rutland Gate and the lower and upper Rutland Gardens into Montpelier, leading down to Brompton Road.
There is a wall, and it has a hole in it which is just a gateway, but it’s an absolutely vital connection point between the Brompton Road and Kensington Road for pedestrians. You will see dog walkers, shoppers, tourists, a lot of them getting lost and hopelessly trying to find the hole in the wall and unable to do so. I use Google Maps, and very frequently I have to assist them in finding the right place and pointing them in the right direction.