At the City of London Planning and Transportation Committee meeting to discuss the CoLPAI application residents of Golden Lane and the local community were represented by Anne Corbett and Clem Cecil, both of Basterfield House.
Good morning and thank you Mr Chairman and Members of the Committee for allowing us to speak about this planning application. My name is Anne Corbett and I have lived on the Golden Lane Estate for 11 years. I am here today to represent the views of many people who live on the Golden Lane Estate where there are approx. 500 households.
From 1999 to 2014 I was the head teacher of Richard Cloudesley School which is a small special school for children and young people with physical disability. I know the site very well and I was frankly astonished when I first saw the plans to build a primary school for 450 pupils AND a sports hall and a 14 storey tower block. There is no comparison at all between a small special (the smallest school in Islington) and a two form entry primary school – not to mention the separate school hall and the tower block.
I want to make two main points this morning
First point – the vast majority of people who live on Golden Estate wholeheartedly support new social housing because we understand the housing crisis AND we hope to build an excellent relationship with the new school (COLPAI). After all, it will be the children from our community who will have priority for places along with children from the Peabody Estate – this is because admission to the school is based on distance from the home to school. We are parents too, who want the best for the children in our community!
Second point – the scheme is just too big – too much on a small site which previously had one, small special school. The scheme is massively compromised and simply does not work – there are already too many unresolved practical problems. The effects of this over development will be felt for decades – by the children, our new neighbours and the people who already live on the estate.
I will talk first about the school. COLPAI, by all accounts, has had a great start. The parents are very happy and the school has a vision to be world class. The school also aims to be fully inclusive and welcomes children with special educational needs – children with profound and multiple learning difficulties, children with physical challenge, visually impaired children, hearing impaired children and autistic children – to name just some of the SEN groups mentioned on the school website. This is a laudable and welcome aim…. however…
However, the design of the school building does not match the vision to be world class – the reality is that the school has been designed to the government’s minimum standards for school buildings -
Narrow corridors - 180cm wide – about half the width of Prior Weston and considerably narrower that other schools in the area
A north-facing nursery playground – little sunshine
A school hall for PE, Drama and school dinner - outside and separate from the school. The hall has one toilet and no changing rooms. It has been suggested to us that the community will want to use the hall for things like a children’s birthday party. We have more than enough community space on the estate and in the 14 years I was in charge of the site there was not one single request from residents for a social event.
The reality of the plan for the people who live on the state will be a harsh – particularly for the people who live in Hatfield House. The school building is in very close proximity to Hatfield House – the residents WILL be affected adversely by the closeness of the school kitchen, the noise from air con. units, refuse collection AND the increased traffic in Baltic St West. Baltic St West is already congested making it very difficult for vehicles to do three point turns. We are concerned about road safety.
The reality for our new neighbours in the tower will also not be good. There is no outside play space, balconies which overlook the school playground, access decks which means that people walk past their neighbours’ bedroom windows at all times of night or day, no space for cycles other than the basement which means that residents will be forced to use the lift to transport cycles. The lifts will also be used to transport refuse to the ground floor… the residents will then have to carry their bags of rubbish out to the street and round the corner of the building – a distance of 25 metres – this is not fair on infirm, elderly or disabled residents.
For the disabled residents there will be two street parking places when in fact there will be 7 flats for disabled people and a further 6 flats which can be adapted. This is poor planning and added to the two disable people on the Golden lane Estate (who are losing their garages next to Basterfield House) there will simply not be enough parking…
For obvious reasons I want to mention fire safety in the tower. We understand that there will be a sprinkler system and a “stay put “ policy but if there is a fire and that system does not work there is only one staircase and the London Fire Brigade ladders will not reach the top floor…. We are concerned about this.
To reiterate my two points:
Yes, we wholeheartedly support social housing - there are 18,000 plus people on the Islington housing waiting list and 800 plus on the City of London list – this is a national housing crisis – we can see the rough sleepers on the streets – we know people need good housing. AND we want the school to be world class and fully inclusive but surely you can do better than this plan. This is a second rate plan which has not been properly thought through.
We would like you to reconsider and develop a better scheme – A WORLD CLASS SCHEME which will benefit the generations to come.
I hand over to my neighbour, Clem, who will talk about the policy aspects of this planning application.
Good morning my name is Clem Cecil resident of Golden Lane Estate. I was Director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage until 2 years ago and have lived on Golden Lane Estate for over 7 years. I’ve helped organise the 4 public meetings we’ve had addressing this planning application.
You may wonder why you are considering this application, after all the site occupies only a sliver of land in the City of London - however it is your school and we residents of the City stand to be most affected by the development, so on behalf of the community, I am very glad you are considering this.
Consultation has been poor - we now know that this plan has been in the pipeline for many years - but we Residents were presented with a fully worked up design just over a year ago and adjustments, following consultation, have been minor. In addition the technical reports were written before consultation began - an indication of just how far along the scheme already was before it was brought to us.
From the start, residents have been saying that this is a gross overdevelopment. Yes we live in an urban environment, yes we expect and even welcome change, but the reason our environment works, is because we enjoy a finely balanced density - that is threatened by this scheme. All other tower blocks in the area are set back from the road or placed within their own open space, including the one on Golden Lane - Great Arthur House.
We would sincerely like you, the planning committee, to move away from a situation in which a sub-standard scheme is being justified, to one where an excellent scheme is being created that works with its environment, rather than against it.
Golden Lane Estate is a model of social housing - the architecture of the estate forges and facilitates neighbourliness and a good quality of life. The estate is an exemplar that architects from all over the world study, not least because it is the forerunner to the Barbican. It is grade 2 and grade 2 *. This year GLE was short-listed for Great Neighbourhood prize by the Academy of Urbanism.
The counts on which the proposal breaks with policy are listed in the officers’ report, but I’d like to bring your attention to those issues that most impact on local residents - this includes Islington’s planning policy, as, being a cross-border case, this is of material consideration.
Local policy: Golden Lane is cited in the Islington local plan as a street for 6 storey buildings only.
Density: the officer justifies this but does not address the main problem - there is no outdoor space for the new residents to use. Yes there is some greening, but there is no outside space - simply more pressure on the tiny local Fortune St Park.
Further, Tall buildings policy: CS14, which applies, permits tall buildings in suitable locations where they are of world class architecture, are sustainable and accessible and take full account of the character of their surroundings. This tower does not do this.
London Plan Policy 7.7 includes requirements that tall buildings enhance the quality of street level and long distance views, and conserve and enhance heritage assets and their setting, exhibit exceptional architecture, and provide public space. This tower does not do this.
It is our opinion, and that of John Allan who wrote the conservation and Building Management guidelines for Golden Lane Estate commissioned by the City, that this scheme causes substantial harm to the estate and its setting. This is because of the14 storey tower, but also the substantial school hall that, due to where it is placed actually becomes a central part of the estate. We must be clear: this school hall is NOT comparable to similar amenities on the estate, although the officer claims it is in her report. It is a solid volume in contrast to the transparent and light pavilions that characterise the existing amenities on the estate at present.
Similarly, the tower is not comparable to Great Arthur House in design — and according to John Allan, it will cause substantial harm by destroying the existing hierarchy of the estate.
In addition the blank wall along Basterfield Mews will create an unacceptable sense of enclosure.
We consider that the undue pressure placed on this scheme to open the school fast has led to a poor design, that not only breaks a huge number of primary and secondary planning policies, but is also a trojan horse, containing future problems.
Light and sound pollution: some 50 flats will lose up to 50% of their light. This is hard to accept for residents who are losing half the light in their already fairly dark kitchens and north facing bedrooms.
Sound: We have found evidence that the levels of sound caused by the playground, 8.5 m from Basterfield House, have been misrepresented and underplayed in the report. We have brought this up numerous times with both authorities. We are concerned that the planning decision is going forward on the basis of an inadequate assessment. We take this seriously - some people work night shifts and their sleep will be disturbed. This could be resolved by sinking the playground below ground level and including the school hall into the main school building thus removing the need for a rooftop playground.
There is an alternative scheme, and even though that is not the scheme being considered today - we urge you to acknowledge the fact that there are other options which would provide the same result - in terms of housing units and size of school, but would have a less negative impact on the setting of the estate, the quality of life for residents old and new, leading to a much more peaceful and happy coexistence going forward.
Everyone knows at this point that it is unlikely that a school will be built by September 2019. I would like to underline, like Anne, that we support both the idea of a school and social housing. We don’t have a quarrel with the parents and see ourselves as being on the same side. On a tightly knit housing estate like Golden Lane, everyone has to work together - there has to be proper consultation - we simply live too close to the new development and stand to be impacted too much, for us not to take this scheme very seriously.
We consider that the parents have had their expectations about a quick opening raised unfairly and we the residents are not willing to be the whipping boy for this - we are pointing out important design problems that must be addressed before this development goes ahead.
We have noticed that there are very few conditions on the proposed permission - and so as you know we have asked for more to be included.
What is lost by deferring this to improve the design and get everyone on the same page as far as possible? Nothing.
There is so much to be gained - including laying the foundation for a peaceful coexistence for years to come.
We request that in its current form the planning application is refused and a decision deferred until an alternative has been considered.