Inspector gives go-ahead for Archway Tower alterations

Out-Law News | 18 Aug 2014 | 5:11 pm | 1 min. read

A planning inspector has granted permission for a developer to make exterior alterations to a north London tower block, after disagreeing with Islington Council's assertion that any changes at the site must significantly improve problems with local wind conditions. 

Prior approval was given in September for developer Essential Living to convert Archway Tower from an office building into 118 residential flats, under office-to-residential permitted development rights introduced by the UK government in May 2013.

The developer submitted a further application to the Council in April, seeking permission to extend the ground floor of the building and re-clad two sides of the tower. When the Council failed to give notice of its decision within the eight week period prescribed by law, the developer appealed to the Planning Inspectorate to determine the application.

The Council had no objections to the principle, design quality or appearance of the proposed alterations. However, it recommended that the application should be rejected because a wind report concluded that wind conditions would be worsened by the proposals in more locations than they would be improved. This was contrary to local planning policies that called for buildings causing "unacceptable harm" to wind microclimate to be resisted, and for existing wind turbulence problems at the site to be addressed in any redevelopment scheme, the Council said.

In a decision issued on 8 August, planning inspector Hilda Higenbottam noted that, while more individual locations would experience slightly worse conditions than improvements under the proposals, most sites would see no change and "overall, the proposals would produce improved pedestrian comfort levels to the west of the tower and improvement to the public space to the south of the tower and within the vicinity of the [Archway London Underground] station entrance fronting Junction Road".

"I appreciate that the Council and some interested parties consider that this is not enough and that a significant improvement to the wind microclimate must be achieved for this site," said the inspector. "However, in determining the appeal all the benefits and harms of the scheme must be weighed up and the context of an application which simply seeks to re-clad, extend in a minor way and do minor works to an existing tall building must be borne in mind."

Allowing the appeal, Higenbottam said that the proposals would result in "significant improvements to the appearance of the building" and that an active frontage would be created at the ground floor, in line with local planning policy. While the overall wind microclimate would not be "significantly improved" under the proposals, the inspector noted that "nor is it significantly worsened". Higenbottam concluded that there would be "some very positive gains" at some locations and "the whole of the area remains fit for its intended pedestrian use".