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Agenda item

Willen House 8-26 Bath Street, London EC1V 9DX


Extension, alteration and refurbishment of the existing building to provide re-modelled student accommodation comprising 212 student bedrooms (with 10% wheelchair accessible) with ancillary amenity spaces and secure cycle parking (sui generis use), together with retention and extension of existing office units (Class E) at ground floor and new landscaping at basement level, installation of pavement lightwells, removal of access ramp and replacement with platform lift

(Planning application number: P2021/0616/FUL)

In the discussion the following points were made:

The Planning Officer highlighted a number of updates and amendments listed below:-

§  That description of the proposal be amended to state that ‘Access ramp will now be provided to the front of the building rather than  a platform lift’

§   A number of responses received from objectors following the third consultation phase on June 2021 be included, although all issues raised have been addressed in the report

§  Amend Condition 26 to ensure that it secures a method of evacuation for the ambulant disabled.

§  To amend the BREEAM (New Construction) Condition 14 -to change the reference from BREEAM (New Construction)(2018) to BREEAM “Bespoke”

§  To include condition on hours of use for the external courtyards, that it shall not be used between the hours of 2300 and 0700 and

§  To modify the bird and bat boxes condition, details shall be submitted including the number, design, specification and location prior to the commencement of work.

In the discussion the following points were made:

§  The Planning Officer advised the meeting that application site comprises Willen House, a 7 storey building which is a non-designated heritage asset located within the Moorfields Conservation and is not situated within the setting of any designated listed or locally listed buildings

§  Meeting was advised that building was converted into student halls of residence following planning consent in 2007, initially with 142 bedrooms and with a rear extension it has increased to 157 for post graduate students in City University

§  In land use terms, the Planning Officer advised that the scheme proposes the intensification rather than the provision of new student accommodation which is not constrained by adopted and emerging policy

§  35% of the bedrooms in the uplift will be provided as affordable bedrooms.

§  The accommodation is tied to higher education institutions and existing bedrooms are upgraded and retaining the commercial floor space on the ground floor

§  50 additional student accommodation units will be provided within the development to make it 207 in total

§  Members were advised that the front elevation will be materially and thermally upgraded and the rear elevation will be reconstructed in brick and cladding with new fenestration to make it more sympathetic to surrounding areas and having minimal impact on conservation area

§  In terms of land use consideration, the Planning Officer advised that the scheme proposes the intensification rather than the provision of new student accommodation, that the scheme provides 35% of the uplift as affordable bedrooms, provides for student bursary payments at £22000 pa at the policy compliant rate of 2.4%

§  Members were reminded that the accommodation is tied to higher education institutions ie City university, that the existing commercial floor space on the ground floor is retained and all the existing bedrooms are upgraded and that 10% of the whole development will be wheel chair accessible bedrooms.

§  Scheme has been subject to a number of iterations over the course of its submission to the council so as to mitigate the impact of the scheme from sunlight and daylight loss, height has been reduced so that occupiers of Merino and that all units have passed BRE guidelines

§  On the issue of daylight and sunlight loss , the planning officer advised that the new scheme is compliant

§  In terms of design, meeting was advised that scheme does not have any significant impact on locally listed buildings, that council design officers have not submitted any objections.

§  With regards to height and massing concerns, meeting was informed that the proposed increase in height is considered acceptable, that it is a building with proportionate comfortable contextual fit. In addition it was noted that the proposed elevational treatment is considered successful, and that the proposed changes of the rear of the building will enrich the appearance of the building overall

§  A number of key amenity considerations as highlighted in the report include, an updated student management plan which will be secured through legal agreement; curfew hours between 2300- 0800 will be introduced with associated disciplinary procedures in place; an on-site concierge and facilities management will be put in place.

§  Further to the above it was noted that single bedrooms is only available for post graduates and foreign students; that conditions are recommended to prevent the use of flat roof as amenity spaces and operating hours for external courtyards will be introduced. Air quality report has been submitted and conditions have been recommended to limit noise impacts from plant.

§  Members were advised that as the proposal is fundamentally refurbishment and extensions, which prevents harmful release or embodied carbon, for the CO2 reductions target to be met, a carbon offset contribution of more than £213000 has been secured.

§  In addition to the above, PV panels will be provided and connections to the District Heat Network is proposed which will be secured through S106

§  Other measures include a green procurement plan secured through condition with a commitment for green procurement and the installation of a bio diverse brown and green roof

§  In response to a question on whether all the units will have access to natural and daylight, especially as some of the previous studio flats had no access, the planning officer advised that all units above ground floor will have windows, however with units particularly close to Merino Court, these will be glazed units to protect due to its proximity.

§  On the question of whether there is any material difference between units described as affordable bedrooms and the other bedrooms, the Planning Officer advised that the scheme proposes a variety of room sizes ranging from 16-27sqm floor space so prices will be charged at different market rates.

§  In terms of daylight and sunlight loss, the planning officer reiterated that the revised scheme has resulted in significant reductions to the quantity of daylight received in the units, acknowledging that there were some units that fails in terms of BRE daylight distribution of VSC. Members were reminded that with the reduction of the height of the rear building, it is noticeable that the degree of losses has now reduced from 20 to 4 units

§  Members were advised that following a number of revisions and negotiations with  applicant, a suitable compromise has been reached not only in reducing daylight and sunlight losses but also  to ensure that the scheme has no harmful effect on the conservation and streetscene

§  On the definition of affordable rent, the Planning officer referred to page 203 paragraph 9.2 of the report which states that an affordable student bedroom is provided at a rental cost for the academic year equal to below 55% of the maximum income of a new full time student studying in London and living away from home.

§  A Neighbouring resident had concerns with the daylight and sunlight assessment results as presently 4 flats completely fail VSC, that the figures of 97 % in the report are questionable. Objector also had concerns that the assessment was based on a small sample and only assessed windows of living room and bedrooms especially in this period of covid when lots of people are likely to be working from their bedrooms if working at home

§  The objector highlighted health and safety concerns as he lives in a designated red zone especially with dust and noise pollution from construction activities, that this had not been taken into consideration.

§  The objector was concerned that issues raised within the contamination pollution report such as possible asbestos risk and unexploded ordinances had not been assessed in the officer’s report. He also queried the Air quality report that was submitted with the scheme, indicating that it is flawed as it claims that the BIS figures should be used rather than Defra figures. Additional concerns included loss of privacy, the visual appearance of the building, increase in levels of traffic and noise as a result of ongoing construction activities, all not fully addressed in the report.

§  In response, the agent acknowledged the daylight sunlight impact on Merino Court, that the scheme has been amended to mitigate the loss, acknowledging the tight relationship between the site and Merino court, that applicant has been working closely with officers to strike a planning balance between enhancing the building, reducing its massing so as to have slight impact on neighbouring amenity

§  Members were advised that a dust assessment has been submitted and with conditions to address pollution and that there are no issues of unexploded bomb on the site as it is a post war building. Agent stated that the Air quality report is not flawed. On the issue of loss of privacy a proposed condition has been recommended

§  In response to an enquiry about removing the two storey building from the scheme, the agent noted that although a viability assessment was not a requirement for the scheme, any further loss of room will make it unviable, that the extra rooms at the back is essential for the viability of the scheme

§  The agent reminded the members that with this new scheme , there is a marginal loss of sunlight if there is no two storey building and the loss of 8 rooms out of the 50 extra rooms is quite a lot.

§  The Chair noted the difficulty of the site and close proximity to other buildings; that construction noise and plant noise and other issues have been addressed in the report.

§  Cllr Khondoker moved a motion to remove the two storey extension from the scheme. Motion was not seconded. 


Councillor Klute proposed a motion to grant planning permission  This was seconded by Councillor Poyser and carried.





That following consideration of the case officer’s report (the assessment and recommendations therein), the presentation to Committee, submitted representations and objections provided verbally at this meeting, planning permission be granted subject to the conditions and informatives set out in Appendix 1 of the officer report and the additional condition outlined above; and subject to the prior completion of a Deed of Planning Obligation made under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 securing the heads of terms as set out in Appendix 1 of the officer report as amended above, the wording of which was delegated to officers; and subject to any direction by the Mayor of London to refuse the application or for it to be called in for determination by the Mayor of London.


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