Thames House, 4 Hartwell Street, E8 3DU planning application 2017/0320 – OPEN Dalston’s objections

Whilst welcoming the proposal to develop this derelict site, including the proposal that 12 of the 39 new flats will be for affordable rent and that 10% of the workspace will be affordable, we have strong objections to the overshadowing effect which the design of the development will have on the Eastern Curve public realm, which includes the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, adjoining the length of its northern boundary.

The applicant for planning permission has acknowledged, in its report by Cratus of earlier public consultation events, that the key public concerns were the negative impact on the Eastern Curve Garden, the height and density of the scheme and the poor natural light to many flats. These concerns have not been mitigated by any significant changes to the design of the development. This indicates that, contrary to policy, consultation did not take place during the formative stage of the design when the public’s views could have been properly considered.

The height of the development exceeds the Dalston Area Action Plan policy and whilst the northwest Block A is described as 9 storeys, it also comprises an extended height ground floor and a tall parapet above the 9 storey. Block B appears to be at least 8 storeys. In addition the adjoining Eastern Curve public realm is below ground level. The blocks’ footprints are placed right along the line of the Eastern Curve’s southern boundary and with no attempt to set back the upper storeys except for the 9th floor.

The effect of these features is to create an overbearing cliff like structure dominating and overshadowing the Eastern Curve public realm and its public garden. This indicates that the scheme amounts to overdevelopment.

This video shows the overshadowing effect on the Garden before and after the development (shown as yellow) is built. It has been produced by local architects based on the developer's own site modelling.

The Building Research Establishment's (BRE) daylight and sunlight report indicates that the new lower rise flats in the east Block C, which mainly comprise the new family homes, will fall short of the standard for internal natural light. 48% of the bedrooms and 25% of the living rooms fail to meet the Building Research Establishment's minimum guidelines for natural light within dwellings. In addition the development will compromise the natural light to windows of Springfield House. This also indicates that the scheme amounts to overdevelopment.

The proposal includes some open space within the new Thames House site itself but no information has been provided regarding the extent of direct sunlight received on those spaces. Our concern is that the north/south alignment of the blocks, and the positioning of Mews Street and Tyssen Square directly north of the six-storey Premier Inn, will severely limit their receipt of adequate direct sunlight. Furthermore the proposed Garden Square is sited closest to the entrance of the Eastern Curve public realm and is likely to share its deficiency in direct sunlight. The applicant should be requested to provide calculations and illustrations of the sunlight to the site’s open spaces as designed.

The developer seeks to justify the poor quality of natural light within the new dwellings on account of its eastern neighbour, Springfield House, being a “bad neighbour” because it is constructed right along its site boundary such that “in order to allow fair use of the Thames House site, a larger than normal loss of light may be considered reasonable”. However the Thames House development commits the same offence, of being a “bad neighbour”, by proposing buildings of eight to nine storeys right along on its northern boundary, and thereby obstructing an unfair amount of direct sunlight to the Eastern Curve public realm and furthermore compromising the possibility of any satisfactory future development there.

The applicant’s BRE daylight and sunlight report has calculated that 77.8% of the land occupied by the Eastern Curve Garden would receive at least 2 hours of direct sunlight on the spring equinox of 21 March and thereby meets the 50% BRE Guideline for open space. However the BRE Guidance stresses that “It is purely advisory and the numerical target values within it may be varied to meet the needs of the development and its location” and, at paragraph 1.6, that “In special circumstances the developer or planning authority may wish to use different target values… where natural light is of special importance”.

We consider that special circumstances do apply to the Eastern Curve public realm, and that more generous target values should be applied because, according to national criteria, Dalston is recognised as an area severely deficient in public open green space and is an area containing one of the highest population densities, and has one of the highest levels of overcrowding and child poverty, and because some 75% of people live in flats without access to private green space. In these circumstances access to public green space is of special importance to the local community such that any development adjoining the Eastern Curve public realm should therefore be designed to minimise the loss of direct sunlight.

The applicant’s BRE report indicates that an area comprising the southern entrance to the Eastern Curve public realm already receives less than 2 hours direct sunlight on 21 March. The BRE Guide states (3.3.11) that “If an existing garden or outdoor space is already heavily obstructed then any further loss of sunlight should be kept to a minimum” however the proposed development, due to the design issues described above, does not attempt to, or actually, keep such loss of sunlight to the minimum. The applicant should be asked to consider how variations in its design can keep such obstruction to a minimum.

The BRE Guide also indicates (paragraph 3.3.11) that “In this poorly lit sunlit case if as a result of new development the area which can receive two hours of sunlight on 21 March is reduced to less than 0.8 times its former size, this further loss of sunlight is significant. The garden of amenity area will tend to look more heavily overshadowed”. The applicant should be required to calculate the amount of, and provide justifications for the, loss of direct sunlight to the Eastern Curve public realm.

Contrary to the BRE’s own Guide (paragraph 3.3.13), the applicant has made no disclosure of its use of the prediction tools recommended for public open spaces, for example sunpath indicators or the BRE sunlight availability protractor or by shadow plotting. The applicant should be asked to produce these illustrations to enable a fair assessment to be made of the actual direct sunlight which would be received throughout the year.

 The Eastern Curve is presently in shadow for almost its entire length throughout most of the day

The Thames House development, as presently designed, will add to the overshadowed gloom of the Eastern Curve as a whole where most of its extent has already been blighted by the cliff effect of the towers of Kinetica, Haven East and Martel Place through which sunlight rarely penetrates. The applicant has not calculated the effect of the Thames House scheme in relation to the Eastern Curve proposed public realm as a whole, but only to the Eastern Curve Garden area, and the applicant should be asked to produce such calculations and justify the cumulative overshadowing impact of the development.
This illustration shows how, by comprehensive planning, pedestrian movement within the area could be improved without the need to use the Garden land as a thoroughfare.

We also consider that there has been a failure to consider the design of Thames House development in the wider context of the need for enhanced pedestrian movement (permeability) through the town centre and in the context of the preservation of the Eastern Curve Garden as an enclosed public green space being under consideration. We consider that the planning authority should discuss the possibilities of pedestrian movement through the applicant’s site in the same way that it has considered pedestrian movement across the land of the adjoining owner, Kingsland Shopping Centre, to the north, with a view to seeking a mutually agreed solution to the public’s needs.

We consider that the planning authority should not approve this application until the further evidence we request has been produced and it is satisfied that all necessary design amendments have been made to minimize loss of sunlight to the adjoining public realm, to maximize natural light to the new flats and open spaces on the site itself and to facilitate better pedestrian movement through the town centre.

24 April 2017

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