Refurbishment of existing building; 5 storey partial infill extension to eastern elevation, single storey extension to northern elevation and two storey roof extension with roof terrace to provide additional Office floorspace (Class E(g)(i)); reconfiguration and alterations of front and rear entrances to the western and eastern elevations; provision of one flexible Retail (Class E(a)), Café Restaurant (Class E(b)), Fitness (Class E(d)) and Office (Class E (g)(i) unit at ground floor level; provision of cycle store and associated facilities at basement level and plant at basement and roof level with green roofs and other associated works. Listed Building Consent application: P2021/2360/LBC also submitted.
Item was taken in conjunction with item B4 which is seeking listed building consent
In the discussion the following points were made:
· Meeting was advised that since the publication of the report officers have received additional comments from 9 residents and that Officers consider that no new material planning issues have been raised.
· Planning Officer highlighted a correction to paragraph 6.14 of the report, that the fourth floor roof extension to Jahn Court is recessed by 2.5 metres from the eastern elevation rather than 2.7 metres.
· Meeting was advised that on further review of the daylight assessment, officers would like to make the following minor corrections to the total figures in the daylight assessment in the officer’s report as follows:
- At paragraph 10.244 on page 227, 149 rather than 102 rooms were assessed;
- That 42 instead of 40 windows and 12 rooms and not 9 as stated in the report would fail the BRE guidance criteria, so 15.1% of the windows would fail to meet the BRE Guidance rather than 14.4% and 8.0% of rooms would fail BRE guidance rather than 8.8%.
- In addition a correction to paragraph 10.248 on page 229, that in the Ironworks, 40 windows rather than 42 would meet the BRE guidance and 11 rather than 14 rooms would meet the BRE guidance with the result that 54.7% rather than 57.5% of windows passing and 61.1% of rooms rather than 77.8%
· Meeting was informed that site is part of the Regents Quarter which comprises two city blocks of building and lies within Kings Cross Area and is within the designated Central Activities Zone and Employment Growth Area.
· The Planning Officer advised the meeting that the key material considerations are principle of development, land use, affordable workspace, design, conservation and heritage, neighbouring amenity, biodiversity, energy and sustainability, highways and transport, safety and security and fire safety.
· Meeting was advised that the existing building was consented as part of a redevelopment approved in 2002 and that the proposal would primarily increase the floor space and improve the quality and efficiency of the existing floor space within the building as well its flexibility of use and is acceptable in principle.
· With regards land use, members were advised that Jahn Court has an existing Class E(g)(i) office use and that the provision of additional class E office use within the Kings Cross Employment Growth Area and the Central Activities Zone is policy compliant.
· That the inclusion of flexible Class E office, retail, café/restaurant or fitness unit on the ground floor seeks to provide active ancillary uses to the predominant office use, whilst ensuring quiet frontages to the Ironworks Yard to respect the residential character of this part of Regent Quarter.
· The proposal would redevelop the site to provide a building that comprises 10,286.2sqm (GIA) of commercial floor space and that it is estimated that the proposed development would generate approximately 156 additional full time jobs on site a significant uplift from the existing 460 jobs.
· The Planning Officer informed the committee that through the use of appropriate planning conditions 15, 16 and 17, the Council would be able to retain control over any subsequent change of use of the site and prevent any unacceptable change of uses within Class E which would result in significant loss of office and employment floor space.
· Members were advised that the entirety of the existing commercial unit at 34b York Way which amounts to the provision of 388sqm will be dedicated affordable workspace for the council to subsequently lease to a council approved operator, secured by S106 Agreement.
· The Planning Officer advised that with this application, it will amount to an uplift of 2,315.7sqm of guaranteed office floor space and that the linked application at Times House and Laundry Buildings will bring an uplift of 1,427.2sqm of office floor space.
· Members were advised that taking the current and emerging local plan into account it is considered that an on-site affordable workspace unit based on a 10.4% of the uplift of guaranteed office floor space across the two applications (Jahn Court and Times House and Laundry Buildings) at peppercorn rent for 10 years would be acceptable and support was received from the Council’s Inclusive Economy Team.
· The Planning Officer advised that the proposed development would create additional height and massing on site and would inevitably increase the visual prominence of the buildings within the site
· In addition, the meeting was advised that having carefully assessed the visual and heritage impact, it is considered that the proposed development would not cause a large degree of harm to the character and appearance of the area.
· Meeting was informed that in design terms, the proposed extensions and alterations to the existing building would result in improvements to its overall appearance and its relationship to the wider public realm.
· Meeting was advised that Officers have considered that any harm to heritage assets should be weighed in its planning balance with its public benefits.
· The proposal includes energy and sustainability measures such as the creation of green/blue roofs, installation of 73no. solar panels, attenuation tanks and future proofing for connection to a district energy network to ensure that the proposal would maximise energy efficiency and the sustainable design of the site.
· With regards the impact of the scheme on residential properties in terms of loss of privacy, overlooking or noise impacts, the meeting was advised that it is not considered to have an unacceptable impact and conditions have been imposed to mitigate any concerns that might have raised.
· Members were advised that it is a car free development and would be secured by condition.
· In summary, Planning Officer noted that in the overall planning balance, the public benefits as listed in the report outweigh the limited harm caused from the development to neighbouring amenity in relation to loss of daylight (VSC) and loss of sunlight to properties in the Iron Works and to the character and appearance of the Kings cross Conservation Area.
· In response to a question on whether the demand for office space is based on pre or post pandemic projections, members were reminded that the council’s current policy requirements state that office space is required in the area.
· In response to a question about the proposed affordable work space offer for 34B York Way and in particular the 10 year lease at peppercorn rent and 50% service charge, the planning officer stated that the offer is policy compliant as the scheme offers 10% which exceeds the requirement of 5%.
· On the issue of more animation to the York Way frontage especially to its courtyard and walkways which at the moment is relatively sterile, the meeting was advised that a flexible active use unit has been introduced within Jahn Court on the ground floor which brings forward a number of uses such as cafe, restaurant, gym, office. In addition the alterations to the glazing facing York way to the windows and the amended entrance have been introduced to increase animation and it is important to note that the scheme is restricted as it is within a Conservation Area.
· A resident requested that the committee refuse the application, questioning the committee report attempts to justify every failing and then concluding that the benefits from the scheme outweighs its harms. Resident questioned the notion that the scheme will allow 125 cyclist to pass through the development despite its current prohibitions which is currently not being enforced, that this will result in an increase in anti-social activities. Resident noted that in light of post covid working arrangements that there is no evidence of a demand for office space especially as there is an increase of empty office floor spaces in the area and queried if the proposed £312,000 could be regarded as a substantial affordable housing construction.
· Resident also had concerns with the proposed 9 cycle parks in the public realm area, as this could not be regarded as a replacement for the secured lock cycle parks for residents which will be removed from Block B. Concerns about plans to invite local schools into the development would result in the increase in the number of people traffic passing through the area thereby affecting residents amenity.
· An Iron Works resident had concerns with the proposal, noting its impact due to its close proximity to nearby heritage assets and 52 flats. He indicated that the Jahn building is too tall, twice the height of other buildings resulting in the reduction of lights to flats and its adverse impact on the contextual heritage assets. He queried the loss of 34.5% VSC and 43% skyline loss to bedrooms and light reduction of 28.7% in hallways, stating that this is not acceptable.
· Resident was concerned that despite the scheme being described as a place to visit and work, nothing in the report makes any reference to residents and its impact on those who live in one bedroom flats. Resident was concerned with officers claim that any loss of light is acceptable as it only affects bedroom describing it as minor, reminding the meeting that amenity of residents should be protected by the Council. Resident also had concerns about the height and mass of the building especially as this will result in loss of privacy and overlooking concerns. Additional concern raised by resident was the impact of the building on heritage assets as it is in close proximity to Kings Cross and St Pancras, reminding members of concerns raised by Islington Society.
· Another Iron Works resident reminded the meeting that when consent was granted in 2002, residents were assured that the scheme will protect the amenity of existing residents within a mixed use area and heritage areas, that Jahn Court is a tall building an increase in height within a low setting urban area which contravenes policy D3 of the local plan. He disagreed with Officers comment that it does not exceed the 30m requirement.
· He was also concerned that due to the size of the building, multiple properties within the area will lose light exceeding BRE guidelines, that within Iron works alone 95% of the windows tested failed and that due to the scheme’s design, between 50-90% of the flats will be energy inefficient. He also queried why considerate weight should given to the benefits despite the harms already identified to residents amenity and local heritage assets.
· An Albion Yard resident was concerned that despite the fact that Jahn Court is surrounded by listed buildings and sited within the Kings Cross Conservation area, there appears to be no consideration been given to the impact of the scheme, noting the external works being proposed to be carried out to Jahn Court, reminding the meeting of objections from Islington Society.
· Members were reminded that Jahn Court will overlook the rooms of neighbouring homes, that the proposal will result in a radical alteration from its original intention. Meeting was informed that the building will standout and not in line with the Kings Cross Area, that that the chimney of 34 B York way will no longer be prominent along the skyline and that the proposed Victorian brick materials used would be a break from the other neighbouring property and it will distract.
· Councillor Hyde on behalf of Caledonian ward residents welcomed the attempt to re enliven some of the heritage and listed buildings, however had concerns of lack of engagement with residents noting that right from its commencement in December 2020, developers did not engage with residents until July 2021. Councillor Hyde was concerned with the reports description as the area being commercial and importantly its failure to recognise non-designated assets which need to be protected. She noted that despite revisions to the scheme, the proposed extension to Jahn Court is too tall with the additional proposed floor an increase of 10m or 60% of what is there at the moment, that it is not only unsympathetic and monolithic in scale and massing, it is inappropriate and will have an adverse impact on the immediate Conservation Area.
· Councillor Hyde acknowledged the corrections to BRE levels, but was concerned that only 54.7% of windows in IronWorks and 67 windows in Albion Yard met BRE guidelines.
· Members were reminded that the area is a tranquil area, that the item should be deferred for further consideration, an opportunity to allow applicants and officers to work in collaboration with residents and produce a scheme that is in harmony with locally listed buildings, that developers could bring back a smaller,congruent and sympathetic scheme that benefits both the residents and the community.
· On the question of possible improved offer for the local schools instead of non- paid work experience jobs secured under s106, the agent informed the meeting that recently they have been engaging with local schools on partnership offers with primary school. In addition the agent stated that although non paid and work experience is secured through s106, there is scope for more paid jobs for young people.
· On the lack of consultation on conservation concerns and impact of scheme on heritage assets, the agent reminded members that both the heritage design officers and residents views had been taken on board for example with regards to the changes which have been focussed on the contemporary elements of the scheme, the heritage element such as the listed building, the hub building and the adjacent Jahn building to the south have been respectively refurbished with minimal changes and also with the contemporary glass entrance which does not sit well with the brick entrance have been replaced and there have been some setbacks so that they don’t dominate the heritage assets to the front and the additional height 5th floor has been set 18.5m from York way
· On the question of provision of 600 jobs and 1 million GVA, the agent acknowledged that they are net jobs, that the net increase will see an increase of 150 additional employees.
· On the question of a locked bike park being removed, the agent advised that this is related to an existing cycle storage which is not actually on the application site in block B, that it will be removed, that the proposal is a 6 bicycle stand which is to be installed on a public way.
· The Chair in summary acknowledged that although it is a complicated scheme, that the removal of cycle park seems unfair, concerns still exist regarding the public realm, further animation to the frontage, that it appears that the height of Jahn Court appears to be the overriding concern.
· A member welcomed the proposals attempt to reposition the building and the offer of affordable workspace but had questions on the impact due to the height of Jahn Court, that it was too big, that issues with the transgressions of 20% plus of BRE guidance was too much. On the issue of affordable workspace and the peppercorn rent for 10years member felt this was inadequate. He was particularly concerned with the impact of the scheme to both the listed Kings Cross station and St Pancras and would want the contribution to affordable housing revisited. Member questioned the promise of 626 jobs, that there is no net additional jobs, that this was more or less between 20-30 net additional jobs.
· In terms of harm, massing and scale, Member noted that heritage impacts are very profound and although NPPF has changed over the years, putting up a large building in an area of a relatively low Victorian urban landscape right next to Grade I Kings Cross and St Pancras Stations does not sit well so suggested that the scheme be refused.
· Another Member acknowledged the light loss, that it is debatable given its urban context, however there are some positives in terms of design however would request a deferral.
· A member suggested the application be deferred as it appears that applicants have not listened to the issues raised by residents.
· The Chair noted that having viewed the drawings he agrees that the building is a floor too high and that a removal of a floor would give better proportion and reduce daylight and sunlight concerns.
· Member agreed that the benefits of the scheme have been overstated and although no objections have been received from both the design and heritage officers, he felt that an improved affordable workspace, possibly with an extended lease from 10 to 20 years would be welcomed.
· The Chair reiterated most of the above concerns, noting that in this case, design is a material consideration especially with the size of the building, that although committee are keen to get to a resolution with the application, there still remain concerns about the height and for the applicant to improve the scheme benefits.
Councillor Clarke proposed a motion to defer. This was seconded by Councillor North and carried.
That consideration of the application be deferred for the reasons outlined above.