Agenda item

347 Crescent House, Golden Lane Estate, EC1Y 0SN

Report of the Chief Planning Officer and Development Director


The Committee considered a report of the Chief Planning Officer and Development Director in respect of Flat 347, Crescent House, Golden Lane Estate, EC1Y 0SN – specifically, the alterations to and replacement of existing single-glazed windows and framing structure for a temporary period of 2 years to sequentially test double and triple glazing options.


The Town Clerk advised that an addendum containing amendments to the report and late representations, and the officer’s presentation, had been circulated to Members in advance, before outlining the Committee’s usual procedure for the consideration of planning applications.


The Chief Planning Officer and Development Director then introduced the application to Members and presented the officer’s report, informing the Committee about the details of the scheme and its wider implications and outlining the reasons for the officer’s recommendation. The officer’s recommendation was that the Committee resolve to grant planning permission, in accordance with the details set out in the attached schedule.


Jason Hayes, on behalf of the City of London Corporation, addressed the Committee in support of the application. The proposals represented a once in a lifetime opportunity to undertake a pilot project, with a planned sequence of works aimed for completion within 2 years. The scheme was important step to resolving current issues, with the existing windows around 60 years old and at the end of their serviceable life. Resident feedback suggested the existing windows contributed towards fuel poverty, poor acoustics, heat loss and solar gain, and the pilot project would seek to address these issues.


Will South, on behalf of Etude, also addressed the Committee in support of the application. The existing units at Crescent House were responsible for significant carbon emissions and needed to improve their efficiency. The proposals aimed to reduce heat loss and improve air quality and energy demand, and would provide quick payback on whole life carbon.


Richard Partington, on behalf of Studio Partington, also addressed the Committee in support of the application. The Committee heard that discussions had demonstrated that there were strong views about the proposals, and that the applicant wished to reconcile differing points being made. The aim of the proposals was to provide substance and demonstrate the need for a wider scheme, within the constraints of a listed building and heritage asset. Whilst it was regrettable that the façade could not be restored as part of the proposals, the replacement option presented was a good one. The two-step pilot process was essential for assessing and demonstrating the need for a wider scheme.


The Chairman then invited questions from those speaking in support of the application. In response to a question from a Member, the Committee was advised that the impact for residents if the scheme were not approved would be demonstrated through the pilot scheme, which would provide the information required on the effect of double or triple glazing options. The pilot scheme would also be used to measure the disruption for residents as well as the impact on the homes. In response to a related question, the applicant confirmed Flat 347 had been chosen as it was a void flat, with good existing timber, which would be informative as to the accuracy of the survey, and as the flat was on the upper floors and on the façade side, it would be useful for assessing noise and other variables.


In response to a question from a Member, the applicant advised that void flats were hard to come by and this was currently the only one available, which fit the requirements for testing. Different ways of undertaking the pilot scheme could be considered with a view to condensing the timeframe or increasing and improving learning from the proposals, with the scheme itself also being a learning process. The applicant also confirmed that vacuum double-glazing would form part of the pilot installation.


The Chairman then invited those making representations in objection to the scheme to address the Committee. Sarah O’Connor, on behalf of residents, addressed the Committee in objection to the recommendations. The Committee was advised that residents were supportive of improved windows and did not wish to hold up the project, but as the project would affect all of Crescent House, residents wanted to work with the applicant and had already done so to make the scheme acceptable. Residents had looked carefully at the information provided and had reached a collective position. The Committee heard that 81% of residents surveyed wanted the windows to be refurbished, with vacuum double-glazing, and only 4% wanted triple-glazing. The Committee was urged therefore to prevent Stage 2 of the proposals from going ahead.


Gavin Hutchison, on behalf of residents, also addressed the Committee in objection to the recommendations. Whilst residents supported improvements, the building was Grade II* listed and window replacement would cause substantial harm, and did not meet the test for justification on the basis of exceptional circumstances. A condition survey had found the timber to be sound, and the issue had been a lack of maintenance to rectify minor defects. Refurbishment would be faster than replacement, and the triple-glazing option would cause the highest amount of embedded carbon between the available options. The solution proposed was vacuum double-glazing, as it was thin and light, and ideally suited to heritage projects such as this one.


Jacqueline Swanson, on behalf of residents, then addressed the Committee in objection to the recommendations. The Committee heard that residents wanted the work to be undertaken as soon as possible, but triple-glazing would be destructive and cause excessive disruption. The listed status of the building should be respected, and there were multiple benefits to the refurbishment approach. This was an opportunity for all stakeholders and inspire confidence in the scheme. Residents would support vacuum double-glazing, and the approval of the scheme with several conditions attached, which were set out for the Committee.


The Chairman then invited questions of those speaking in objection to the application. In response to a question from a Member regarding repairs, the objectors advised that there had not been a significant maintenance to the windows for fourteen years, despite a history of maintenance issues.


The Chairmen then invited Ward Members to address the Committee. Mark Bostock, in his capacity as a Ward Member, addressed the Committee regarding the application. The Committee heard that the windows were in a bad state due to a lack of maintenance, and this had impacted the wellbeing of residents. This had been a significant issue for some time and had been raised before, which was acknowledged by the City of London Corporation. It was not correct to suggest that the issue had only arisen within the last 2 years. The Committee had received a number of good-quality objections which should be taken into account, as well as the presentations given by residents addressing the Committee. The survey of residents cited had received a good number of responses and was clear that the will of residents was for repairs and vacuum double-glazing, and it was hoped that the Committee would accept and apply the conditions suggested by residents. If these were not satisfactory, then the scheme could proceed to Stage 2 as planned.


Anne Corbett then addressed the Committee in her capacity as a Ward Member. Whilst there was no doubt that the windows needed improvement, the residents had explained their objections clearly, and the majority of window frames could be replaced. Residents did not want further delay due to the effect of heat loss and high energy bills, but wanted the best solution possible. Mention of a project to repair the windows could be found fourteen years ago, so was long overdue, but triple-glazing was not the solution, as it had no demonstrable benefit, and residents had put forward a good proposal regarding vacuum double-glazing. The Committee was urged to properly consider the residents’ proposal and work closely with them, and was shown examples of triple-glazed glass compared with vacuum double-glazed. Cost and environmental factors also needed to be taken into consideration.


At this point, the Chairman sought approval from the Committee to continue the meeting beyond two hours from the appointed time for the start of the meeting, in accordance with Standing Order 40, and this was agreed.


The Chairman then invited the Committee to ask questions of officers. A Member asked how the situation had gotten to this stage, as it was indicative of a breakdown in communications or a disconnect between officers and residents. The Chief Planning Officer and Development Director responded that issue of engagement was more relevant to the applicant, as planning officers had only acted on the submitted application, on which consultation had been carried out. Responses to the application had then been addressed.


A Member asked whether officers had any issue with the conditions proposed by residents, and if not, proposed that the Committee accept them. The Chief Planning Officer and Development Director advised that officers had only received the proposed conditions recently, but did not have an issue with them, adding that they could be incorporated alongside the existing conditions, particularly conditions 6 and 9 (conditions 7 and 10 respectively on the Listed Building consent). Condition 9 could be suitably used to prevent the application proceeding without permission following assessment.


Members noted that there appeared to be agreement on the need for repairs, and that the contentious point was around triple-glazing, and asked whether the applicant objected to the vacuum double-glazing option proposed, and what differences there would be between the two options. The applicant responded that whilst vacuum double-glazing was attractive, the objectors had overlooked the risk of leaking around the frame with vacuum double-glazed windows. Whilst there were advantages and the applicant was not against the technology, it needed to be tested and therefore the application advocated undertaking the necessary testing and making objective measurements.


A Member commented that they were still unclear as to why the pilot scheme testing needed to be done sequentially, and proposed that condition 9 (condition 10 on the Listed Building Consent) be amended so that any use of the phrase ‘double-glazing’ meant both conventional and vacuum double-glazing for testing. The Chief Planning Officer and Development Director advised that officers were satisfied with the proposed amendment.


The Committee then proceeded to debate the application. The Chairman commented that there were question marks surrounding the history of the issues at hand and the process which had led to this point, and that the Committee should not be agreeing specifics with this many outstanding questions. However, the proposals were for a pilot project, which would providence an evidence base and address some of the outstanding issues ahead of a more substantive scheme. The Chairman reiterated his support for the proposed amendment to condition 9, commenting that this would increase the scope of the trial and better inform the outcomes.


A Member commented that Stage 2 of the pilot project also seemed to be contentious, and queried whether the matter should return to Committee before proceeding. The Chief Planning Officer and Development Director responded that ordinarily this would delegated, but it was understandable that on this occasion it might be preferred for the matter to return to Committee.


A Member commented that the proposals were for an experiment on a flat suited to that purpose, and that it was not good science to fix an experiment in order to achieve a desired outcome. A number of variables would be measured and assessed as part of the pilot project, including heat, energy, moisture, pollution and noise levels, all of which were connected to the airtightness of the windows, which the project would ultimately seek to maximise. The pilot project was about experimentation and if the results were not good, they would not be rolled out more widely.


Arising from the discussion, the Chairman moved the Committee to vote on the application, beginning with the proposed amendments to the conditions; that condition 9 (condition 10 on the Listed Building Consent) be amended so that any reference to ‘double-glazing’ should mean both conventional and vacuum double-glazing. Sixteen Members voted in favour of the amendment, with no Members voting against the amendment, and no abstentions. The amendment was therefore agreed.


The Committee then proceeded to vote on the application, with conditions amended as per the Committee’s agreement, with 11 Members voting in favour, 4 voting against and no abstentions. The recommendations were therefore agreed.


RESOLVED – That Planning Permission be granted for the above proposal in accordance with the details set out in the attached schedule.

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