70 High Street Demolition Appeal

Three storey building with shop unit not in useThe new building at 70 High St - the former After Office Hours - got planning permission to demolish the original building and replace it with a similar size building with a traditional frontage. But what has been built bears little resemblance to what what approved. Following representations from ourselves the Council issued an Order demanding that this replacement building should be demolished. The owner has appealed to the Planning Inspectorate. Our submission to the Inspectorate arguing why the Order should stand is below.

APPEAL 3267195     70 HIGH ST

The location of this property is of particular significance being located in the heart of the historic town centre. The row of buildings stretching from no 46 up past the Church as far as no 96 is included in the Wood St conservation area. Nos 52, 54-56, 58 and 66 are statutory listed building and nos 50, 60-62, 64, 68, and 90-94 are locally listed. The variable height of the buildings is one of the attractive features of this row. Facing the open area just south of the Church where the main road divides, No 70 is notably prominent. The presentation of this building therefore has a significant impact on the integrity of the conservation area.

Previous alterations had not been kind to the ground floor, and in recent years a mock Tudor frontage was added (without planning consent) - though that could have been removed without difficulty. The first floor windows and in particular the tiled roof remained notable features. It was with considerable reluctance that we felt obliged to accept the owner’s assessment that the building was beyond repair and should be demolished, though we did foresee an opportunity for a replacement frontage that could rectify the earlier abuses.

Planning application B/02129/14, for a ground floor bar and nine residential units, came as a major disappointment, with the proposed height the same as No 72 and a modern frontage. It was evident the developer had no appreciation of the importance of this building and its place in the conservation area. The application was withdrawn following comments from planning officers.

What quickly followed was application B/03673/14, again featuring a bar but increasing the residential units to ten. It was still a modern design, and with the roof stepped along the middle of the building it was a clumsy attempt to respond to criticism of the height of the previous design. There were several reasons for refusal but in particular it was noted the window height and floor to ceiling height did not relate to the adjacent buildings, and in summation the proposal was an “incongruous development detrimental to the character and appearance of the area failing to enhance the Wood St conservation area”.

The following year application 15/04358/FUL still featured a bar but the number of residential units was reduced to a more sensible seven. The criticisms of the previous application had been corrected with the overall height the same as the original building and featured the same floor to ceiling height and window alignment. We did not warm to the mansard roof but accepted this as a compromise. The overall design of the frontage was traditional except the bi-fold doors, but the developer agrees to replace these with a stall riser. We thus considered what was then approved was acceptable. So after a bumpy ride we thought the developer had taken heed of the sensitivities and the design was now settled.

Application 17/8018/FUL therefore came as a surprise, attempting to increase the number of residential units from seven to nine and to achieve this it was proposed to build to the height of no 72 in the central part of the building. The application was quickly withdrawn, but left us in no doubt that the owner was continuing to be motivated by the desire to pack in as much development as possible.

The demolition of the original building was followed by a long period of inactivity which eventually resulted in the council initiating enforcement action. Having endured the eyesore of an empty plot for so long we were relieved when work started. But our hopes then turned to ashes when we realised that instead of the approved design the monstrosity that we now have began to take shape. Given the history of planning applications for the site it is astounding that the developer should have proceeded with something that would clearly be unacceptable. The sensitivities surrounding the conservation area, with the requirement to keep to the proportions and alignments of the original building, had been clearly spelt out in the context of the previous applications. We remain at a loss to understand how the developer came to disregard the importance of following the approved design, and cannot identify any excuse for the failure to do so. Not only does this building fail to ‘enhance’ the conservation area, it demonstrably causes considerable harm.

Gordon Massey
Barnet Residents Association
March 2021