Plans for family accommodation to be built on top of an existing Hoxton block of flats have been thrown out by the Town Hall amid questions as to how the families destined for the homes would be able to access them without lifts.
In often heated exchanges this week, Hackney Council’s planning committee threw out the plans from Long Term Reversions (Torquay) Ltd, who were accused by councillors of “threatening” them and being “arrogant”.
A decision on plans for eight flats to be built on top of Finn House had previously been sent back for further information by councillors last year, with a justification sought for the lack of a lift.
Cllr Peter Snell said: “I think the applicant has been arrogant both to residents and the committee, which does not help them make their case.
“What I don’t understand is when we have a new development, which I assume will be worth around £10m on completion, why a responsible landlord wouldn’t look at that income coming in to get improvements for everybody in the building.
“If I look at the options for lift viability, the obvious thing, and we’ve done it on loads of similar council blocks, would have been to put a lift in at the front to create level access on all the floors for all of the residents, then making the new flats on the top floor more accessible.
“I don’t understand why that hasn’t happened. The report says, ‘Well, we don’t think it looks very nice, and therefore we haven’t tested the viability of it’. That to me is completely unacceptable.”
Long Term Reversions were questioned as to why they had not consulted with residents, responding that discussions would take place once permission had been granted, with a construction management plan to be drawn up – though none was presented to the meeting, despite councillors having requested it.
Jon Murch, representing the developers, said: “The applicant has remained committed to working collaboratively with officers. The applicant has provided a significant level of detailed support for this submission, including a number of comprehensive and detailed further submissions in response to feedback.
“This resulted in a positive officer recommendation being achieved, with no objections from statutory consultees. The proposal sought to provide a varied mix of housing, three three-bed units, two two-beds and three one-beds, which will assist in contributing towards the borough’s housing supply targets.
“It is recognised the residents have concerns about the impact of construction works, and the officer recommends the submission of a construction logistics plan, and this is welcomed by the applicant.
“You may have seen in the news that the government has announced a new permitted development right to allow upward extensions of two storeys on blocks of flats, without the need for planning permission. It is clear that the site is exactly the sort that the government is looking at to help address the national housing shortage.”
Cllr Katie Hanson criticised Murch for this last point, saying: “If I understood the applicant’s representative correctly, he was suggesting that we should accept this now, because we might get something worse in August when the rules change.
“I don’t like being threatened, and I suggest it wasn’t a terribly helpful thing to say.”
Residents had been supported in their bid to prevent the extension taking place by Hoxton councillor Yvonne Maxwell, who questioned the branding of offering “family housing” up five flights of stairs with no lift.
Speaking after the decision, Cllr Maxwell said: “I am very pleased for the residents of Finn House that this application was rejected. It offered nothing in terms of real improvements.
“Perhaps if the developers had listened and engaged with the residents then something of real benefit in terms of housing could have been achieved. Flats six floors up with no lift, supposedly for families, was not that. It was a lost opportunity to improve the block for everyone.”This was the right result.”