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Controversial Cally Road student housing nominated for “Carbuncle Cup” – one of Britain’s nastiest new buildings

July 30, 2013

Picture shows the listed facade in May 2012. A completely new multi-storey building has now been erected about 4 feet behind the old masonry which stands propped-up on its own.

An £18 million 350 room student housing development on Caledonian Road has been nominated for the “Carbuncle Cup” – a prize for the country’s worst new building in an annual awards competition.

The building at 465 Caledonian Road was refused planning permission by Islington Council in April 2010 but the developer got this decision overturned by submitting an appeal to a Government appointed planning inspector.

In April 2010, the Council did not have any planning policy to limit the number of purpose-built student residences. This only happened after Labour took control of the Town Hall in May 2010. So the decision by the planning committee in April 2010 cited as reasons for refusal: “its bulk, mass and height were unacceptable; insufficient daylight would reach some rooms in the development.”

In a highly controversial decision, the Inspector ignored evidence that showed student rooms would not have the legal minimum of daylight. Instead he declared that “student lifestyle” meant the rooms would only be used for sleeping and therefore didn’t need the full quota of daylight.

The facade of the original warehouse in Caledonian Road, dating back to 1874, was locally listed and therefore had to be retained. It now sits a few feet in front of a new building. The floor levels and internal walls of the new building do not align with the original building. As a result, 23 of the 44 rooms facing the street look directly onto the masonry of the facade’s “back” wall. For those students, the street is only visible at an oblique angle.

Caledonian Ward Councillor Paul Convery  was chair of the planning committee which refused permission in 2010 says “I was staggered when the Planning Inspector overturned our refusal decision. His amazing disregard for normal daylight and design standards was quite extraordinary. Now the building has emerged from its hoardings, the full absurdity of the design is suddenly apparent. If it weren’t so bad it would be laughable. This building is a complete joke.”

This case dramatically strengthens the argument that developers should not be allowed to routinely appeal againt local planning decisions. Paul Convery adds “too often, when developers fail to get a planning permission they just automatically lodge an appeal in the hope that they can get a different decision. They hire top lawyers and planning consultants to bamboozle Planning Inspectors. And by racking up huge legal fees, they threaten the local authority with a “costs judgement” meaning that, if the Council loses an appeal, it may have to pay the developer’s legal bills too. In some cases, the risk of costs means a local authority backs down. I’m glad to say that, in Islington, we don’t let developers bully us like that.”

Islington Councillors are calling for the law to be changed so that developers can only submit an appeal where they can show legitimate reasonss, for example, if the local authority has disregarded its own policies or failed to take significant evidence into account. This would bring planning appeals into line with the rules on appeal in the civil and criminal legal system.

The Inspector’s decision letter is available here. It is worth reading for the sheer audacity with which the developers and University College London told the Inspector that daylight didn’t matter to students because they “only sleep there”. The Islington Tribune also carries the story here.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Happy permalink
    August 20, 2013 8:52 pm

    typical selfish, profiteering from uninterested and bullying developers made worse and backed up by appalling biased governments. the architects should be ashamed of themselves.

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