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Amin Taha wins appeal against Clerkenwell Close demolition order

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Amin Taha’s award-winning Clerkenwell Close looks set to be saved after a planning inspector overturned Islington Council’s demolition order

The architect has been locked in a long-running battle with the local planning authority over its attempt to bulldoze his seven-storey office and home in Clerkenwell.

In February last year Islington hit Taha with an enforcement notice because, according to the council’s planners, the award-winning building was different from the designs that had been given consent.

However Taha appealed the notice and in a decision published today (15 August), a planning inspector agreed to quash the demolition order and grant the ’thoughtful building’ planning permission. 

In his decision, planning inspector PN Jarratt said while he agreed there was a ’difference’ between the parties on what was either submitted or approved, in ‘general terms’ the building was not harmful to the conservation area. 

He added: ‘This is an unsatisfactory situation for both parties and it is not in the public interest if members of the public cannot establish what has been approved when examining planning records.

’Nevertheless, the principle of development is not in dispute and the building accords with the generality of what had previously been approved.’

However the inspector did find there was some harm in the smooth ’sawn faces’ on the Clerkenwell Court elevation, which he described as ‘intrusive and prominent’.

He ordered the architect to explore ways he could ‘tool’ the surfaces to bring them in line with the building’s rougher columns and beams.

Amin Taha said he and his practice Groupwork were all ‘extremely happy and very relieved’ at the news. 

Commenting on the condition, Taha told the AJ he thought it was the result of a request by chair of Islington’s planning committee, councillor Martin Klute, getting ‘lost in translation’.

He said: ’It seems to have been muddled with Klute’s request that everything is smooth and gone the other way with everything to be rough instead, very odd.’

He added: ’let’s not get overly upset at this stage with yet more muddles, at least the major one is dealt with’.

The enforcement notice is the latest in a series issued by the council since 2016.

The first was delivered in June of that year when a neighbour complained that the building appeared to be in ‘concrete’ not brick as per the initial 2013 submission.

An enforcement officer and conservation officer were sent to visit the site where, Taha claims, he was told they had been instructed by the councillor to build a case for its demolition. This is firmly denied by the council.

That notice was later withdrawn.

In June 2017, a second notice was issued calling for the building to be flattened and replaced in brick. However this was also withdrawn after Taha’s solicitors sent the council a letter which asked to see the report backing this notice.

In February 2018, a new notice was issued. A spokesperson said at the time: ‘After an investigation, the council has come to the view that the building at 15 Clerkenwell Close does not reflect the building that was granted planning permission and conservation area consent in 2013.’

Summing up the huge interest in the Clerkenwell Close saga, Jarratt wrote that he had received 24 letters objecting to the designs and 133 written representations of support.

He wrote: ’Some 14 third parties spoke at the inquiry, including eminent persons in the field of architecture, extolling the virtues of the imaginative building and reflecting on the various design awards that the building has received and the attention given by the press to the building’. 

Other conditions attached to the approval, included lowering a solar chimney above the lift overrun on the building’s roof. 

Islington Council has been approached for comment.

 

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Readers' comments (11)

  • This whole affair has been reminiscent of the Third Reich’s persecution of ‘degenerate artists’, such as the Dadaist Kurt Schwitters. Some of the planning appeal conditions are also illogical and ill-founded.

    The inspector seems to have taken over the detailed design of the facade, and is ajududging the right amount of ‘architectural texture’ that should be applied. Such texture is a key architectonic element for the architect to decide.

    Removing the solar chimney and inserting the required mechanical ventilation will obviously increase the environment impact of the building. These objections seem petty and used in a vindictive way. Why not erect a urinal sculpture which symbolically tells these fascists to ‘piss off’ (Anglo Saxon technical term). The councillor in question clearly needs counselling, and should turn his mind to controlling food riots in his borough this Christmas.

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