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AHMM’s contentious scheme near Barbican wins planning despite opposition

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Proposals by AHMM for 99 flats near the Barbican have scraped through planning, despite opposition from local residents and the Twentieth Century Society 

The City of London Corporation granted planning permission for the 11,113m² Taylor Wimpey-backed scheme in Golden Lane, with 13 votes in favour and 10 against. 

The planning application for the new residential building, ranging from four to 10 storeys in height, received 182 objections, including those from the Twentieth Century Society and Barbican residents. 

The society hit out at the plans in Golden Lane, around a third of a mile north of the Barbican Centre, because they involve the demolition of the 1960-built Bernard Morgan House.

The former Metropolitan Police building, which has been vacant since April 2015, was designed by J Innes Elliott. 

Twentieth Century Society conservation adviser Tess Pinto said: ‘Bernard Morgan House (BMH) represents a modest yet sophisticated strand of post-war Modernism which is still massively underappreciated, as this decision proves.

‘In this part of the City of London, close to Golden Lane and the Barbican, the character of the area is of note for this particular quality of post-war architecture and for the sensitive spatial planning of the whole, which the massive replacement development at BMH will impact.’

’Bernard Morgan House represents a strand of post-war Modernism which is massively underappreciated’

She added that this development was ‘part of a worrying trend in the area that shows no sign of abating’.

In a letter to Historic England in 2015, the society also supported a listing bid for the house, stating the building was ‘remarkable for its architectural detailing’, which it said was similar to that of the neighbouring Grade II-listed Bowater House. It claimed it was ‘probably the first Modernist post-war Police Section House, and the last to be constructed for the Met’.

AHMM director Paul Monaghan defended the proposed design, saying it stepped up from the north to the south end of Golden Lane, mirroring the existing streetscape and creating a ‘continuum at street level’.

He added that the building was loosely based on a ‘contemporary mansion block’, and the practice tried to match the brick used to that of a church on the site. 

‘In terms of its aesthetic, we’ve put a lot of effort into the quality of the materials, the proportions, the composition of the windows, the depth of the facade, and the metal work,’ Monaghan said. ‘A lot of it has been has been about proportion and composition.’

Plans for the Golden Lane scheme were originally submitted in June 2016, for 104 flats also designed by AHMM. However this application was withdrawn and a revised scheme submitted in November 2016. 

John Whitehead, a resident of Breton House on the Barbican estate, described the plans in an objection letter as ‘ugly and inappropriate’ for the area.

A number of local residents also objected to the scheme over concerns that they would result in a loss of daylight to neighbouring properties, such as Bowater House. 

A BRE report for the planning application noted that the proposals would result in the loss of daylight ‘outside the basic BRE guidelines’ for 26 main windows in Bowater House. It added that this was ’mainly due to the balconies and overhangs above the windows’ in Bowater House, without which the windows would comply. 

But Bowater House resident Emma Matthews stated in her written objection to the scheme: ‘It doesn’t make sense to pretend that the balconies and overhangs don’t exist. This is illogical.

‘Remember that [Bowater House] is a listed building. Designed as part of a densely urban setting. The balconies are an important part of the architectural integrity of the block.’

Responding to the objections, Richard Smith, development director at Taylor Wimpey Central London, said the design ‘sought to respond to, and enhance, the sensitive setting and character, rather than mirror or replicate’.

He added: ‘The design has sought to minimise impact on daylight levels to neighbouring properties, with an overwhelming majority of apartments meeting the recommended BRE guideline targets.

‘The development provides an exciting opportunity to bring back into active use this disused site in the City of London. The 99 new homes will provide much needed new housing in the City.’

Smith also said the scheme would provide a ‘considerable contribution to affordable housing’. A cash-in-lieu payment of £4.5 million towards off-site affordable housing will be paid by Taylor Wimpey as part of the conditions for the scheme.

The planning report states that ‘this level of contribution is below the target set by the local plan, but it is the maximum feasible and viable contribution that could be made and therefore is acceptable under local plan policy CS21 and the London Plan’.

Some 29 objections were received by the City of London on the grounds that the scheme included no on-site affordable housing. 

Work is expected to start on site later this year, with a completion date scheduled towards the end of 2018. 

Bmh facade study models

Bmh facade study models

Source: AHMM/Taylor Wimpey

Study models

Project data

Location Golden Lane, London
Type of project Residential
Client Taylor Wimpey Central London
Architect AHMM
Landscape architect BBUK
Planning consultant DP9
Structural engineer Walsh
M&E consultant FHPP
Quantity surveyor Emmaus
Planning supervisor DP9
Lighting consultant Point 2
Start on site date Third or fourth quarter in 2017
Completion date Fourth quarter of 2018 (subject to start date)
Contract duration 24 months
Form of contract and/or procurement JCT

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Industry Professional

    The developer says they are making "considerable contribution to affordable housing" by giving the council £4.5m, the council says "this level of contribution is below the target set by the local plan", this seems to miss the point twice. No only is it below the required threshold there is no actual contribution to affordable housing. Who gives a toss about poor people anyway, they can go live somewhere else what we want is rich people. yeh get the rich ones in.

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