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Protect the Green plea as new ‘warehouse’ block is approved

Planning chairman says six-storey office building will not wreck historic setting

06 March, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

How the new six-storey office block will look at Clerkenwell Green

PLANS to build a six-storey office block on Clerkenwell Green have led to conversationists calling for more protection for the area against new developments.

The Town Hall gave the green light to Maurice Investments Ltd’s application on Monday, but the designs were likened to a “warehouse” by objectors.

The new office block will sit in an area synonymous with Charles Dickens, who set pivotal scenes from Oliver Twist on the Green, and Vladimir Lenin, who worked out of what is now the Grade II-listed Marx Memorial Library.

Other listed buildings on the Green include the former Middlesex Sessions House.

Clerkenwell Green Preservation Society founder and director Ann Pembroke called the proposed building “wholly unsuitable” in the context of the historic Green.

“This area should be protected,” she told the Tribune.

“The building they have proposed is far too large, with no particular architectural merit. It looks like a warehouse. For Clerkenwell Green you want something that’s going to be blending in with the historic environment, and that building just isn’t.

The Preservation Society’s Anne Pembroke

“The building that exists now isn’t particularly attractive. It’s quite small and unobtrusive, but people don’t notice it, and that’s fine. The buildings around it have a Flemish feel about them.

“You could put two buildings in that space, rather than one that’s too tall and not in keeping with the rest of the Green.

“In my objection I really concentrated on the importance of Clerkenwell Green. Anything that comes in should fit in with the remarkable history of the place.”

Ms Pembroke attended the planning meeting to speak against the proposal, and said she was disappointed planning councillors on the committee only discussed the building itself, rather than its surroundings and how it would add to the Green.

She added: “This is very concerning because it potentially starts a precedent. I’m very disappointed.”

Labour councillor Martin Klute, head of the Town Hall’s planning committee, said it was “unclear” what Ms Pembroke was objecting to.

“The existing building on the site was probably built in the 1960s or 70s, is of very poor quality, is an ill-thought-out design, has been clumsily altered several times, and as such exerts a negative influence on the heritage value of the area, and cannot be said to contribute anything to the area’s historic identity,” he said.

“The committee agreed that the proposed building is a much better design, and provides a more coherent and elegant frontage to Clerkenwell Green.”

The scheme was also supported by the Islington Design Review Panel, which is an independent panel of design experts which provides peer reviews of all major schemes in the borough, and provides design advice to the committee when making decisions of this sort.

He added: “The committee has asked for the developer to do further work on selecting fully contextual materials for the exterior of the building to ensure that it blends in with its surroundings, achieves a similar quality to the listed buildings surrounding it, and contributes positively to the Green.

“These materials will be agreed by the council’s design officers and the chair of the committee before work starts.”

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