The Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
London SW1E 5DU
Gavin Barwell MP
Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Minister for London
30th May 2017
Dear Mr Javid,
Request for Call-in of planning application 16/00590/FULL to City of London
Planning application reference: 16/00590/FULL – Redevelopment of site comprising Bernard Morgan House, 43 Golden Lane London EC1Y 0RS by demolition of existing building, retention of existing basement and construction of new residential building to provide 99 dwellings, together with ancillary car parking, hard and soft landscaping and associated works (Total floorspace 11,113 sq.m. GIA).
We request that you call in the application for planning permission 16/00590/FULL to the City of London Corporation for your own determination so that the application may be considered by an Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State at a public inquiry pursuant to Section 77(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and Section 12 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990.
We further request that you immediately issue directions under Article 31 of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015 and Section 12(1) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 restricting the City of London Corporation from granting planning permission until you have considered this request for call-in.
On 23rd May 2017 the Planning Committee of the City of London Corporation voted by a majority of 13 to 10 (out of membership of 35 councillors) to grant planning permission for the demolition of Bernard Morgan House and its replacement by new block comprising 99 residential units rising to ten storeys, and occupying a much large footprint than the existing building.
We request that you call in this planning application for public inquiry on the following grounds:
- the proposal conflicts with national and local policies on planning, notably the protection of the setting of important designated heritage assets, infringements in living standards to existing dwellings and failure to provide sufficient affordable housing;
- the proposal has a harmful impact on amenities within an adjacent borough and that this impact has not been adequately considered;
- the objections raised by 182 local people affected by the proposed development have not been fully or properly considered; and
- there are vested interests within the City of London Corporation which prejudice the ability of its Planning Committee to make a balanced judgement.
A detailed appraisal of the planning application proposals and critique of the City Planning Officer’s Committee Report is attached, but the main issues are set out below.
The existing building
Bernard Morgan House was built in 1961 as a police section house to provide affordable accommodation for police officers and cadets, and was occupied until 2015 when it was vacated. It was designed by and was deliberately aligned and scaled to continue and respect the orthogonal layout, plan and bulk of the Golden Lane Estate, completed in 1959 and designed by Chamberlin Powell and Bon.
The option of retaining and refurbishing the existing building has not been considered by the applicant or the planning authority.
The freehold of the site is owned by the City Corporation.
Harm to Heritage Assets
The existing building is considered to be of architectural and historic merit by the Twentieth Century Society and Historic England, and although it is not statutorily listed, or currently in a conservation area, it is considered to be an important undesignated heritage asset. The total demolition of the existing building requires the consideration of Paragraph 135 of NPPF.
Furthermore its proximity and relationship with the statutorily-listed Golden Lane Estate is critical. The proposed new building by reason of its height, mass and bulk causes serious harm to the Golden Lane Estate, thus requiring consideration of Paragraphs 133 or 134 of NPPF, depending on whether such harm is substantial or less than substantial.
The scale and bulk of the proposed new building also seriously harms the setting of the adjacent Jewin Church, which is an undesignated heritage asset, and reduces light to its windows.
We believe that insufficient weight has been given to the importance of heritage matters by the City of London Planning Committee, and that it has failed to undertake the tests required by NPPF. In particular the issue of Optimum Viable Use has not been considered, including whether an alternative scheme (such as refurbishing the existing building) might cause less harm whilst achieving equivalent or greater public benefits.
A petition from 767 local residents to designate a new conservation area which might include Bernard Morgan House has been received by the City Corporation which has agreed to investigate the matter and instructed the Planning Officer to report back in due course.
The proposed replacement building has a density of 1252 habitable rooms per hectare which is considerably in excess of density levels of 650-1100 habitable rooms per hectare recommended by the London Plan in areas of PTAL excellence. The criteria of good design, local context, social infrastructure, open space and play which are cited to justify higher densities are not met by the proposed scheme. Indeed seventeen of the proposed units fail to meet minimum standards of external space, and many are single aspect.
Lack of Affordable Housing
The proposed new development provides no affordable housing on site. Given the previous use of the existing building this represents a major public dis-benefit, and a failure to enhance social infrastructure in the area. The viability study accompanying the application seeks to justify an in-lieu payment of only £ 4.5 million for off-site provision. The City of London acknowledges that this is less than 50% of the normal policy requirement. However even this calculation has been under-priced, and will result in only 25% provision of what should be required.
Infringement of daylight and sunlight and overlooking to neighbouring residential
The proposal causes serious infringement of minimum daylight and sunlight standards to a large number of neighbouring flats. The analysis provided by the applicant, and accepted by the Planning Committee, requires the discounting of existing balconies on the adjoining Bowater House in order to minimise infringement, notwithstanding that these balconies are part of the listed buildings of the Golden Lane Estate, and are not part of the application site. It is a distorted and unfair analysis.
An alternative daylight and sunlight study commissioned by objectors has been largely overlooked and ignored by the Planning Committee.
The proposed development causes serious problems of overlooking for existing flats on the Golden Lane Estate, which Chamberlin Powell and Bon had gone to exemplary lengths to avoid in their original design.
Impact on public open space in adjoining borough
The proposal, by reason of height and bulk, has a significant impact on Fortune Street public open space and the Golden Lane primary school campus, which lie within the London Borough of Islington on the opposite side of Golden Lane. This impact includes a serious loss of afternoon sun to the park and school from September to March. Fortune Street Park is the only public open space in the area, and is already extremely heavily used. The school has 500 pupils who use the park before and after school hours. The London Borough of Islington Parks Department, the Friends of Fortune Street Park and the school all objected to the application.
The ‘pocket park’ that is proposed within the development itself is a tiny space at the rear of site, with difficult access, and will receive no sun even in summer.
Corporation of London interests
The Corporation of London are the freehold owner of the site. The Corporation has sold a lease to the developer, Taylor Wimpey, for £ 30.4 million, plus overage. This sale price has been negotiated on the basis that the site would be developed for 100% private housing. The purchase price has subsequently been fed into the viability study, resulting in an alleged inability to provide affordable housing on site, and an in-lieu payment for off-site provision of affordable housing which is well below policy requirements.
We believe that there are conflicts of interests among several members of the Planning Committee owing to the ownership and proposed development of the site which make the decision of the Committee unreliable. Further details will be provided as soon as possible.
We suggest that there are important materials reasons why the Secretary of State should call in the application to redevelop Bernard Morgan House so that the merits of the scheme and its impact on the area can be fully and properly scrutinised.
We look forward to your urgent and favourable consideration of this letter.
As Chair, Golden Lane Estate Residents Association and for and on behalf of:
Mary Durcan, Common Councillor, City of London Corporation
Sue Pearson, Common Councillor, City of London Corporation
William Pimlott, Common Councillor, City of London Corporation
Jacqueline Shearman, Chairperson, Simon Holt, Secretary, Anna Curry, Vice Chairperson and Patrick Hegarty, Treasurer, The Friends of Fortune Park Group
Fred Rodgers, Chair, Bernard Morgan Liaison Group