Residents battling proposals for a tower block and primary school development next to the Golden Lane Estate are hoping more than 130 objections and a last-minute intervention from local MP Mark Field will be enough to send planners back to the drawing board for a third time.
The City Corporation and Islington Council have teamed up on plans for a 66-unit social housing block and the 420-pupil City of London Primary Academy Islington (COLPAI) on the site of the former Richard Cloudesley School, which lies to the north-east of the Grade-II listed estate.
Public consultation on the second round of proposals closed at the end of last year with 135 objections from locals who say the scheme is too dense for the site; fails to comply with local planning policy; and will cause substantial harm to the landmark estate.
The proposal outlines; a three-storey school building to house the two-form entry COLPAI; playground and hall; as well as a residential tower block for the site, which straddles the border between the two boroughs. The social housing unit allocations would be split 50:50 between the City of London and Islington.
The Golden Lane Residents’ Association (GLERA) said residents are not against development on the site and support the need for social housing, but are calling for a lower density design more in keeping with the existing estate.
Work has already begun on a controversial 99-unit private housing block at the other end of the estate, and locals fear the two developments could turn Golden Lane into “a canyon”.
But local architect Charles Humphries says the tower block can be avoided and the amount of social housing maintained or even increased if planners would redesign the scheme in a low to medium-rise format.
He has developed two alternative schemes made up of low-rise buildings, which he says would be compliant with local planning policy, cheaper to build, and, in one case, increase the number of social housing flats by 15%.
“If there had been meaningful consultation from the start we would not be fighting this development now – we would be working together to create the extension that Golden Lane deserves,” he said.
COLPAI opened last September in temporary accommodation at the Moreland School on Goswell Road.
There were 26 responses in support of the current application, several referencing the “desperate” need for more local school places, particularly with developments in King Square and Bunhill Row attracting more residents to the area.
Objectors have won the support of Cities of London & Westminster MP Mr Field, who has written to the City Corporation’s town clerk and chief executive John Barradell and policy chairman Catherine McGuinness regarding a lack of collaboration with residents.
A spokesperson for Mr Field’s office confirmed he supported residents’ concerns over “the standard of the proposals’ social housing provision, as well as the sense amongst GLERA the locals have not been listened to, nor meaningfully involved in this process”.
Some residents have also raised concerns over potential conflicts of interest among members of the planning committee, with Mark Boleat, Henry Colthurst and chairman Chris Hayward all on the board of trustees for the City of London Academy.
Golden Lane resident Paul Lincoln said that if councillors who live on the estate are expected to recuse themselves from voting on applications that affect them, other interests should be taken into consideration as well.
“Although they will not derive personal financial benefit, the body for which they have financial and corporate responsibility will be a beneficiary of a decision made by the committee of which they are members,” he said.
A City of London Corporation spokesperson, meanwhile, said that members adhere to a code of conduct and guidance regarding managing potential conflicts of interest.
They added: “Any feedback received as part of the consultation process will be considered by the committee when they determine the application.”