Riversdale Road entrance to Barcham House. Photograph: Hackney Council.

A planning application for a roof extension on a 1930s art deco-style building in a conservation area to build six one-bedroom flats has provoked questions over the council’s ability to secure affordable housing on smaller developments.

Leaseholders in Alcock, Barcham and Richard Fox Houses are up in arms about the extension for a number of reasons, not least in pointing to the building’s original purpose as having been built for affordable family housing.

While developers will be making a £300,000 donation to the council for affordable housing off-site, resident Theresa O’Brien argued that giving current property prices in the area, this would see the Town Hall receiving less than 10 per cent of the value of the homes.

O’Brien said: “This will have a detrimental impact on the character and the historical visual amenity of the building and local streets. It fails to meet modern housing standards in the London Plan and does not preserve the character and historical interest of the building.

“There have been minimal changes to the previous refused application. That the development will provide significant public benefit is a considerable overstatement. How is it beneficial? It is a non-compliant mix, lacking access for the elderly and disabled, one-bedroom apartments which will attract mainly transient renting young professionals, not families.

“There is no discernible benefit to existing resident leaseholders, except a few more one-bedroom homes. In fact, it is a detriment to them living in their apartments. Why is it not affordable housing?”

Ward councillor Clare Potter, who abstained from voting on the development, welcomed the £300,000 contribution while empathising with the inconvenience to residents of being having homes built over their heads.

Responding to her views, planning committee chair Cllr Vincent Stops said: “The developer has put in an application and we have to take it on face value. He does not have any obligation to people that live below the building.”

Cllr Clare Joseph, who voted against the scheme, said: “It would be good to start getting stuff on site. I understand this is a relatively small development, but we still need to find the land to build our social housing on with these contributions.

“Are we going to start asking for onsite social housing within some of these smaller developments in the future? Why are we not asking for something on site?”

Council officers explained that an ‘either/or’ approach exists under the new local plan’s policy, with applicants able to either propose on-site affordable housing, or to pay the full planning contribution of £50,000 per unit, rising to £60,000 in Shoreditch. A third alternative would be to submit a viability appraisal which gets reviewed by the independent consultant.

The £300,000 proposal for Alcock, Barcham and Richard Fox Houses is therefore a “policy-compliant approach.” While a similar planning application was refused in the past, officers explained that the “overall bulk” of what is being planned by Property Network Ltd this time around has been reduced.

Planning officers said: “There are some people who think if it’s a conservation area you can’t build anything, you can’t extend buildings. This building has been carefully examined by our design officers and they are of the view that this design has come forward does preserve the character and appearance of the Brownswood conservation area.”

Mark Sleigh, planning consultant for the applicant, said: “The principle of extending the building upwards for residential purposes has been established by a previous planning permission. The local development plan supports the provision of residential dwellings in sustainable locations such as this one.

“WIth the [conservation area] designation in mind, the proposal for one additional storey to the existing building has been carefully considered to reflect the surrounding character and context.

“Concerns have been raised on overlooking from the terraces. The new homes sit directly above the existing dwellings and so overlooking would be limited, but suitable screening will be implemented to mitigate any concerns.

“The proposal will deliver six new homes through an exceptionally designed and in-keeping extension to the host building and surrounding area. The homes themselves will be of high quality, exceeding space standards, and provide an access to private amenity space and nearby Clissold Park.”

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