Tuesday, 19 December 2017

18 Reasons This Turkey Should Never Fly

Gobble Gobble
It's nearly Christmas and candles are burning late into the night at the planning offices of Islington and the City, as the officers sharpen their quill pens writing up the reports for the planning committees on the enormous Christmas turkey that is the RCS Tower.

We think the design is a mistake and there is a better way. So do SAVE, the C20th Society, The Islington Design Review Panel, John Allen (who wrote the listed building guidelines for Golden Lane), our MP, 1400 signatories to the petition online and on paper and 135 local residents who wrote in to register their detailed objections.

If you have not written in, it is still possible to do so up to the date of the planning Committee, which will probably be in January. Here are 18 reasons this scheme is unsupportable, even after six months of tweaking it:

Ready for Take Off?

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Strange Nimbys

If you stand up to any kind of development, you had better be prepared for the "N" word to be flung in your direction sooner or later. Its usually the developers who complain, but it was Common Councillman Mark Boleat, who sits on the planning committee, who did the honours this time. He would like to "reign in" selfish middle-class Nimbys.

But its a strange kind of Nimby that wants more social housing and development built on a site than the developers propose; in fact it has been christened the Yimby movement. GLERA has brought forward alternative plans for the former Richard Cloudesley School site that skip the single-staircase residential tower and propose a low-rise developement instead. The interesting part is that this approach, which follows the general layout of the Golden Lane Estate and doesn't seem to break every planning policy known to man actually allows 15% more social housing on the site. The build cost is dramatically reduced by not building high rise. Who knew?

It is achieved by integrating the school and the housing. This pattern was followed at the successful Kings Cross Academy and is probably the future for schools in London.

Anyway we think its really strange to be elected as a common councilman and then tell local residents that they shouldn't have a voice in the planning process. Here is the full text of our open letter to Sir Mark:

"Sir Mark Boleat has a vision for housing in London. It just doesn’t happen to involve anyone who actually lives here. (London’s housing crisis can be solved by reining in middle-class nimbys, Evening Standard, 18th October). He would like to see local communities and their councillors excised completely from the planning process. As chair of one of those pesky City of London residents’ groups he scorns in his remarks, I have seen the future he envisages for London close up. 
His team plans to extend our Estate with a social housing scheme two and a half times the maximum density and three times the height that planning policy permits, with no outdoor space, no playground and a tower block with a Grenfell-style single escape staircase. As local residents we stand up for getting decent, good quality social housing on the site, not repeating the disastrous mistakes of the 1960’s.  
Of course these new social housing voters will be strategically placed in Islington, just a few feet outside the City boundary. After all, Sir Mark’s policy is for housing, yes, just not in his backyard. 
It was local “nimbys” who campaigned against  the absence of affordable housing at The Denizen, Taylor Wimpey’s overbearing development. In the end their in-lieu payment provided 14 affordable homes. If planning guidelines had been followed then TW would have been supplying  66 affordable homes off site.  
Weakening planning rules creates opportunities for developers and house builders. Sir Mark’s networking/lobby group, the loftily titled  “Housing and Finance Institute” brings them together with financiers and local authorities, as they put it “building relationships between capable councils, businesses and investors who want to do more”. 
If Sir Mark has so little time for the role of local Councillors in standing up to development plans that bulldoze planning policies and communities then perhaps it is time he resigned from the City of London planning committee and focussed on those important housing industry partnerships instead."
Charles Humphries,  Golden Lane Estate Residents Association 

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Conservation Area Proposal, is there a hidden agenda?

On Tuesday 14 November the City planners will be meeting to considering a proposal for new Conservation Areas, for The Barbican and Golden Lane Estates, but which excludes several notable buildings in the Golden Lane/Fann Street area, including Bernard Morgan House and  the Eglwys Jewin Presbytarian chapel. A Conservation Area protects buildings within it which are not listed from demolition unless prior planning permission is given - but the City does not seem to want to confer that protection on them.

The much loved tiles of Bernard Morgan House. TW now say these can't be saved
The City planners have now signed off most of the planning permission conditions, which Taylor Wimpey had to satisfy, before demolition of Bernard Morgan House could proceed. Delegated power has been used, including approval of a traffic management plan which, we fear, will put pedestrians and particularly children in unnecessary danger unless the pedestrian crossing is fully supervised when heavy demolition plant and vehicles are moving about the area.

Hatching Dragons Nursery School is located in the basement of the Jewin Church

The exclusion from a new Conservation Area of notable buildings, which were clearly designed to enhance the settings of neighbouring listed housing estates, says all that needs to be said about the City's cynical agenda.

It’s actually more than tragic irony that on the eve of the Lord Mayor's Show, which presents the fake City to the world, the real City reveals its true contempt for its residents and heritage assets.

The Lord Mayor's Show 11 November 2017
Despite the mistakes in the City of London Planner's report the City will not concede to nullifying the planning permission for The Denizen. It has notified us that it intends to resist our application for judicial review and defend the planning permission granted to Taylor Wimpey. We now have a major fight ahead to get permission to proceed with our Judicial Review and to get the planning permission quashed.

Please support the Crowd Justice campaign and protect the community from this light blocking unnecessary luxury development.

The Denizen, the proposed development, blocking light from homes, church, school and park

Earlier this year Tim Godsmark, the Chair of the Golden Lane Estate Residents' Association started a petition to ask for a Barbican and Golden Lane Conservation Area including the buildings in between. The petition received 778 signatures. Conservation Area status means that buildings are protected from demolition and any redevelopment is subject to planning scrutiny to ensure new buildings preserve and enhance the character of the Conservation Area.

Bernard Morgan House viewed from Fortune Street Park

The Golden Lane Estate and the Barbican in the City of London are both protected because of their  listed building status. However their immediate surroundings, despite containing a number of buildings of architectural merit, has no protection. This petition sought to change this by asking for the creation of a single Conservation Area which would protect the community and the 'urban village' created by the visionary post-war City of London Town Planners.

Map of area proposed by Barbican and Golden Lane Residents' Associations as a conservation area

Because of the support for this petition the Planning and Transportation Committee approved the proposal to assess the area proposed.

Sadly, the City planners have produced a report which has ignored the importance of the buildings between the Barbican and Golden Lane Estates. It has arbitrarily divided up the area into "zones" and recommended that the Fann Street zone does not meet the necessary criteria.

We need to protect this unique example of successful post-war town planning from greedy developers ignoring local people's voices and our local heritage. The City's decision to sell Bernard Morgan House, which used to house 110 police officers, to a private developer to build 99 luxury apartments, is an example of why we can not trust the City to protect the community that live and work here.

This is a link to the City's Conservation Area proposal:
PUBLIC DOCUMENT PACK from The Planning and Transportation Committee

Fred Rodgers has written an Appraisal of the Conservation Area proposal which you can read here.

The planners demarcate 'Zone 2 - Fann Street and Bidgewater Square' and recommend that it fails to meet the necessary criteria to be included in a conservation area.

These are some of the buildings in Zone 2

Cripplegate Institute, Grade II listed by Historic England, designed by Sidney R J Smith in 1894

The Cripplegate Institute, this print is from 1912

Eglwys Jewin Church, built in 1960 designed by Aubyn Peart Robinson of Caroe and Partners, and recognised by the City itself aS a non-designated heritage asset

The Jewin Church built in 1960

Bernard Morgan House, built in 1960, designed by J Inness Elliott,  also recognised by the City as a non-designated heritage asset.

Bernard Morgan House 1960/61

Murray House, designed by Frank Scarlett in the post Festival of Britain style, a few years before the Golden Lane and the Barbican estates were built.

Plaque on the side of Murray House

Bridgewater Square and the Barbican Wildlife Garden has a historic context in that it is probably the only undeveloped bomb site in the City. As such the basements of the destroyed buildings remain and are now make an important contribution to the bio-diversity of the City.

The pond in the Barbican Wildlife Garden

Barbican Wildlife Garden

5/6 Bridgewater Square, a building which survived WW2 bombing, dating back to 1926 is very rare in this area.

Door way of 5/6 Bridgewater Square 1926

The Barbican Estate blocks with their barrelled vaults echo the arched windows of this notable building. A detail missed by the department. The building should not be excluded from the proposed Conservation Area.

5.6 Bridgewater Square 1926

Tudor Rose Court No 35 Fann Street with a curving balcony at the corner. The building references the nearby Golden Lane Estate through the use of colour, overhangs and pillars. Designed by Avanti Architects who were very concerned to achieve a building that responded to the scale of its setting.

Tudor Rose Court, providing sheltered accommodation for elderly City residents

The planners Conservation Area proposal mentions the Barbican Listed Building Management Guidelines but fails to mention the Golden Lane Estate Listed Building Management Guidelines.

Bowater House is on the Cover of the GLELBMG

The proposal talks about the GLE being inward looking but fails to understand how the area has changed.

The ruin of the old Jewin Church, destroyed during the Blitz.  

The Golden Lane Estate Listed Building Management Guidelines was written by John Allan,

a Director of Avanti Architects from 1983 to 2011. These are his comments about the Conservation Area proposal.

"The point about GLE being ‘inward looking’ is a subtle one. This attribute was originally deployed by the architects in their investment of care in the landscaped interior spaces and community assets of the estate, in contrast to its bomb damaged environs at the time of construction, when outward views would have been dominated by the surrounding dereliction.

Bowater House just before it was completed in 1957

Since then of course the surrounding area has been fully reconstructed but in generally such a considerate way as to successfully embed GLE in its neighbourhood and establish a real sense of integration over this whole area of urban territory. 

Bernard Morgan House and Bowater House viewed from the Breton House podium

The consequence of these two imminent developments on the north-east and south east corners will, I fear, be that the listed estate becomes an isolated ‘set-piece’ among alien neighbours losing this sense of scale and continuity that has built up over decades."

The Denizen, the proposed building south of GLE, which John Allan refers to .

The proposed 16 storey tower block north of the GLE, called CoLPAI, which John Allan refers to.

John Allan goes on to describe Bernard Morgan House and its relationship to Bowater House.

"The existing building, though perhaps not of listable quality, is nonetheless a good neighbour to Golden Lane Estate in architectural terms, and would certainly be regarded as making a positive contribution to the Conservation Area – were this to be formally designated. Indeed it is precisely to protect such worthy ‘background’ buildings which may not be architecturally exalted in themselves but which sustain and strengthen the character of their precinct that Conservation Areas are intended. I have not been inside this building but it would appear to be quite capable of being substantially upgraded, perhaps with penthouse additions, to become a viable 21st century residential apartment building.

Bernard Morgan House, the Fann Street elevation.

As to the proposed redevelopment of Bernard Morgan House, this scenario is also captured by the Management Guidelines in the various references to preservation of the setting of the Golden Lane Estate. Holistic significance

The estate should be appreciated in its entirety: not only its various components – residential, community, recreational, commercial and the external spaces between buildings – but also its setting within the surrounding urban fabric. The views from and into the estate have become important, and part of its special architectural interest lies in its relationship to adjacent buildings. Any developments on the immediate boundaries of the listed area should take into account the significance of the estate’s settings. No new buildings, infilling, removals or extensions should be introduced which would be detrimental to the integrity of the estate as a whole.)"


"The views from – as well as into – the estate have become important. Part of the special architectural interest of the estate lies in its relationship with adjacent buildings; their height, scale, mass, form, materials and detailing could, for example, have an impact on that special interest.....The relevant local authority should, therefore, take into account the significance of the estate’s setting to its special architectural interest when considering any developments on the immediate boundaries of the listed area." 

View of Bernard Morgan House from Bowater House, perfect considerate design, the block does not over look nor overshadow. 

Bowater House on the south of the estate is one of the  two blocks that look out of the estate. It is set back from the pavement with gardens in front. The Jewin Church and Bernard Morgan House were both designed at the same time as Bowater House was being built. Both are considered designs, built to complement Bowater House.

The view of the Jewin Church and Bernard Morgan House from Bowater House 

Bowater House is set back from the pavement, this can not be classified as a 'bad neighbour' in planning terms.

The Planners' Report suggests that Bowater House balconies will be to blame for the maisonettes' loss of sunlight and not the Denizen.

John Allan regards any suggestion that Bowater balconies are the problem as "self-evidently ridiculous."

"It is the new development that will dominate all that surrounds it – the listed buildings, the church, the park and the primary school."

The proposed building, dominating all that surrounds it
The reason for requesting a conservation area which connected the Barbican and Golden Lane was that the adjacent buildings have become an important part of this area, in scale, mass and materials and are part of the post-war history of this area. A time when the City of London was creating this visionary urban community, a community that the City should celebrate and protect rather than destroy.

Spectres of Modernism

Thursday, 26 October 2017

We're preparing to fight our big bad neighbour

We’ve now lodged detailed grounds and all the necessary papers with the Planning Court and are waiting for the City and Taylor Wimpey to file a reply before the court makes a decision whether the Judicial Review can proceed. If permission is refused we need funds to renew our application at a Court hearing.  

Bowater House draped with protest banners
Spectres of Modernism

Our main arguments, in summary, are:
·        The planners should not have agreed to Taylor Wimpey paying only £4.5million towards off-site “affordable” homes which is less than half what the City’s published housing policy requires.  If Taylor Wimpey claims it can’t now meet those planning requirements, because it paid the City too much for the site, then that was their risk and the community should not lose out on affordable homes. 

Savill's Hong Kong are advertising Denizen Apartments price at £695,000-£2,375,000, the block includes marble flooring and a private cinema and TW say they can't afford to pay the correct 'affordable' homes contribution. 

·        The planners failed to properly assess the damage which The Denizen will cause to the heritage of the area, particularly the Grade II listed buildings and landscape of the Golden Lane Estate and to the Grade II Cripplegate Institute and the Jewin Welsh Church.

The proposed building will loom over the Jewin Welsh Church and overshadow Prior Weston School, Fortune Street Park and Bowater House, as well as all the other surrounding buildings.

View from one Bowater Maisonette . Bowater House is set back from the pavement to allow further developments opposite without blocking out sunlight. Bernard Morgan House was designed to complement the Golden Lane Maisonettes and allow sunlight to heat and light the GLE flats. 

·       The planners completely ignored its policy regarding minimizing CO2 emission and climate change when it considered The Denizen’s overshadowing effect on local homes. The Golden Lane estate’s homes were designed to benefit from solar energy but some homes will lose up to 62% of their winter sunlight and will have to burn additional energy for heating and lighting.

The Golden Lane Maisonettes were designed with large windows to be heated by the winter sun. In the summer the overhangs stop the flats from overheating. 

·        The planners wrongly accepted Taylor Wimpey’s claims that, although the height and mass of The Denizen will admittedly permanently reduce many local homes to below standards for minimum sunlight and daylight, the “major” cause of that is that the homes are “bad neighbours” because of their “unusual” design – namely balconies which cause partial summer shade to windows. (That design is not unusual -  it’s common across the entire Golden Lane Estate and The Barbican!)

Bowater House is built back from its boundary line
and is a  ‘good neighbour’ allowing fair development of BMH which was built later.

The planners failed to provide us with accurate information about Taylor Wimpey’s overshadowing calculations before the planning committee meeting. We later received clarification, and an apology, and have commissioned a second independent report. This has revealed more serious overshadowing than had been reported to the Planning Committee. It appears that windows which would not be affected had been included in the Taylor Wimpey calculations which created the misleading impression that the overshadowing effect would be less than in fact it will be.
Bowater's small north facing rear windows are not overshadowed by the Denizen, so why were they included in TW's overshadowing report?

·        The planners ignored the consultation objections from Prior Weston School and Friends of Fortune Park which informed them that the facilities were heavily used at the times when the afternoon overshadowing would be worst. Instead the City only considered the earlier periods when it decided the effect would be “minor adverse”. 

Children playing in Fortune Street Park after school 

Our solicitor has also had yet another hand delivered threatening letter from Taylor Wimpey’s solicitors, Dentons, telling us that our complaints are “totally without merit”, that we will face legal costs penalties and that Taylor Wimpey refuse to agree not to demolish Bernard Morgan House before our complaints are decided by the Court. However we refuse to be brow beaten by expensive City lawyers.
We have invited the planners, once again, to agree to nullify Taylor Wimpey’s planning permission before even greater public expense is incurred.   We are now awaiting the City and Taylor Wimpey’s formal response to our Court application. 
If the Court grant us permission this could be a long and expensive battle and we need all the financial support possible to protect our community from this gross, venal and unnecessary block of luxury flats.  Please support this campaign and donate on the Crowd Justice page. 

Here are pictures of buildings around the area which all have overhang or recessed balconies – and which are part of their Grade II listed designs. Taylor Wimpey alleges, and the City agreed, that such designs make them “bad neighbours” (because the balconies cause some shade to the rooms below). The Denizen will reduce the natural light within homes to below minimum standards. TW argue that the ”major cause” of that is their design and not the height, mass and proximity of Taylor Wimpey’s development. They are blaming the loss of light Bowater House and Barbican flats will suffer on Chamberlin, Powell and Bon's designs of these world famous listed buildings. 

The Barbican Towers overhanging balconies

Breton House overhanging balconies 

Basterfield House, Golden Lane Estate, overhanging balconies

Bowater House overhanging balconies

St Mary's Tower recessed balconies

Peabody Buildings recessed balconies

Bernard Morgan House overhanging balconies
And even the Denizen has overhanging balconies, but not as elegantly designed as these other balconies