1 Torrens Street

Planning Application P2022/0871
1 Torrens Street (corner of City Road and Islington High Street)

This is one of the most significant development sites in Islington, in a prominent position at a busy, exciting historic crossroads. We are writing to object to the current application for planning permission on the following grounds, which we have previously reported to you in outline

a. The application is premature.

This site is a key component in the Angel and Upper Street Site Allocationsschedule as represented in Figure 2.5 of the Strategic and Development Management Policies within the Local Plan, currently under consultation. It forms a key component of the combined AUS-1 Royal Bank of Scotland, AUS-7 1-7 Torrens Street, AUS-16 Angel Square (this site) strategic group of sites for which Paragraph SA-MM-34 looks for a “Comprehensive Development and Master Planning of the area including AUS1, AUS7 and AUS16” and the development of this site in isolation scuppers that aspiration.

It is notable in the current proposals that the loss of the existing footpath through the building with its courtyard public open space has resulted in a narrow chasm pathway to the North of the new building between it and the RBS site. This terminates at its eastern end in a high flight of steps and a disagreeable vandal- and ASB-prone public lift. This unsatisfactory arrangement might be avoided in the comprehensive masterplan guided by a planning brief envisaged in SA-MM-34.

Similarly, the poor state of Torrens Street and its dilapidated buildings might be improved if it is included in a masterplan alongside this site. It has the potential of being a pleasant historic public area.

A full Planning Brief and Master Plan for this group of sites is required to which the development of this site should be subject.

b. The proposed development is of insufficient architectural/townscape quality for this site.

This is the most significant, important site to come up for development in Islington in many years. At the crossroads where Pentonville Road, St John’s Street, City Road and Islington High Street, it can be said to be “at the Corner of Islington”. As such, it requires a building of exceptional merit and character. This isn’t it.

The Design Review panel was similarly unenthusiastic in its observations, generally expressing the same view.
It said “The Chairs [considered] that the scheme would benefit from the inclusion of a range of devices and techniques … to further break up this building.”
Summing up, “the Chairs consider that whilst this is a good, well-designed building, given the significance and prominence of this site, it needs to be better than ‘very good’. Its failing is in its insufficient reflection of the character and grain of its context. The juxtaposition into the grain of the current design is still considered too stark “

We have written to you previously expressing this view.

c. Marginally noticeable changes that have been made to the external envelope, do not adequately address this objection.
The Applicants’ report the view from the 2nd Design workshop (17 May 2022) that “the representation of the proposed development was much improved, and enhanced by the imagery – which successfully described the corner as a special and unique entry point, forming a contemporary ‘circus’ with the buildings directly opposite” or that “the [amended] enhanced [sic] detail to the side flanks of this corner window, along with an expressed shadow-box ‘trim’ to these windows [adds] richness and variety to this
important corner window.”

This is an exaggeration of the minor modifications that have been made.

d. Whilst widening the pavement at the south-western corner of the site and the augmentation of the entrance to the building are welcome, they are only a modest improvement to the public realm.

Together with the dead hand of the permanently blanked-off retail spaces of the Royal Bank of Scotland, the proposed new building promises scant enlivenment of this frontage. The proposed café, with its entrances through the building foyer and from the City Road frontage, and small proposed retail unit could be developed into a lively, active street presence.


We recommend :

That his application is withdrawn pending the Comprehensive Development and Master Plan of the area envisaged in Site Allocations Paragraph SA-MM-34 and/or a comprehensive Planning Brief for this strategic area of the Borough

Or alternatively that the application is refused awaiting a proposal with a strong enough character, appropriate scale and design complexity that this site deserves.