State steers clear of Bernard Morgan House row

current view: Bernard Morgan House
The current view of Bernard Morgan House from Bowater House in the Golden Lane Estate. Photo: Chris Dorley Brown

A last-ditch campaign to stop a contentious luxury flat development opposite the Golden Lane Estate was dealt a blow last week, with the secretary of state refusing to intervene.

The City of London Corporation’s planning committee green-lit Taylor Wimpey’s 99-flat redevelopment of Bernard Morgan House in May, despite widespread opposition from residents who say it will plunge the Grade II-listed estate and neighbouring park into darkness.

Now, their appeals for secretary of state for communities and local government, Sajid Javid, to call in the application have also fallen on deaf ears, with government planners ruling the decision should remain with the local planning authority.

A senior planning officer wrote to the Corporation of the decision on 5 July, lifting the Section 31 Direction, which puts a hold on plans while the secretary of state’s office considers whether to call in the application.

The decision has devastated the Save Golden Lane Consortium, who say the plans should be reviewed because they fail to comply with the estate’s listed building management guidelines, do not meet social housing contribution targets, and will result in a dramatic loss of sunlight to the community.

More than 180 locals objected to Taylor Wimpey’s plans to build 41 one-bedroom, 39 two-bedroom, and nine three-bedroom flats on the former police section site, for which it paid the Corporation £30.4million in 2015, considerably higher than the £17.5m advertised asking price.

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Taylor Wimpey’s plans for a 99-flat development on the former police section site.

The developer has agreed to pay £4.5m to the local authority in lieu of providing affordable housing on site – less than half of the 60% target set out in the London Local Plan – after a viability study found a 27% contribution was all the project could support.

A City of London Corporation spokesperson said the authority “welcomed” the decision not to call in the application.

“The Corporation’s planning and transportation committee granted this permission on 23 May 2017 and this will now proceed when the necessary legal agreements are in place.”

Richard Smith, development director of Taylor Wimpey Central London, said they were looking forward to securing full planning permission, with demolition to commence soon after.

“Meetings with local interested parties are ongoing, and a construction liaison group will be established soon for the duration of the works to endeavour to mitigate any impact during the course of construction works,” he said.

Despite the blow, the residents consortium has vowed to continue their fight against the project, raising more than £7,000 to pay for legal counsel and analysis of the sunlight reports used in the application process.

Bowater House resident Emma Matthews said they will keep trying to persuade City planners to change their decision and, failing that, mount a court challenge to the planning permission.

“This application should have been looked at on a national level; it impacts a Grade II-listed heritage site – which is universally known as a success story – as well as a park and school community in a neighbouring borough,” she said.

“But it’s clear the department of communities and local government doesn’t care about communities and local government… you only have to look at the way Grenfell [Tower fire] was handled to see that.”

Lead image: Chris Dorley Brown