Red Lion Court Latest

P1070039I have written thrice before on my website (click here, here and here) about Red Lion Court.

Red Lion Court is a building on Reardon Path which most Wapping residents would better recognise as the derelict old warehouse next to popular local restaurant, Il Bordello. I took pictures of the building in my pre-councillor days as I enjoyed the insight it gave into Wapping’s industrial past, before all the warehouses got snapped up for residential development.

I have no objection to the principle of Red Lion Court being brought back to life as a residential building. However the plans the developers consulted residents on involved the demolition of the building’s facade. I wanted to make sure that the case for such a demolition had been fully tested since the building is in the Wapping Pierhead conservation area and I have had meetings with the developer and been in correspondence with the council’s planning team.

Last week I received a letter (link below) which, to my surprise, advises that the developer has withdrawn the plans following a number of concerns raised by planning officers. Unfortunately no information has been provided as to what those concerns were.

1-93934291 – RED LION COURT

P1070035For anyone interested in an account of my meeting with the developer, held some months ago now, I paste below what I sent to one concerned resident at the time. This is an account from memory so it may contain mistakes. I also cannot vouch for the validity of the developer’s assertions since I’m not a planning expert, and my inclusion of the developer’s case should not be read as an endorsement of it:

After I expressed concerns about the loss of heritage should the existing façade be taken down, they thought it a good idea to take me through their plans for the site in detail. The architect was joined by a heritage specialist as well. 

You may be aware that one of the stated reasons for the loss of original façade is that the fenestration makes it difficult to get sufficient light in the building and create ‘liveable’ spaces. I tested that assertion by asking the architect to take me through the various proposals that he drew up for the site.

I believe, from memory, there were four which retained the façade. The first took the floor levels from the existing ground level upwards. This meant that the windows in the rooms would be so high that inhabitants would not be able to look out of them. So the architects then raised the floor levels for the second iteration. This allowed residents to look out of the windows but meant that there would be no interaction with street level, which the architect is very against, and the floor layouts are still very odd (as they are in the first). So then he put forward a third suggestion, which is to keep the façade and then build a new unit a couple of metres set back from it, with a light well in between. That looks pretty odd from the drawings.

The team is aware of the previous planning permission for the site. They had gone to some effort to track down the original drawings as there is extant permission. This forms the fourth ‘façade’ option. The original architects (from the 1990s I believe) got round the fenestration issue by putting a car park at the ground level. Again this cuts off any ‘street’ interaction which the architect thinks is not at all desirable. Nevertheless, since they already have permission, they could go ahead with that option and, they reckon, it would be more economical than the option they have gone for, which is to remove the façade altogether. Assuming you kept the façade, they explained that it would have to be modified considerably to make it usable and they showed various drawings which showed how much façade would be lost or altered for each of the options put forward. On some of the options, so much façade had to go that it begged the question if it was worth keeping at all.P1070045

Having gone through all the options, the architect recommended to the developer that it would be better to produce a new building since you can’t create good living space and retain the façade.

I expressed my concern at the blandness of what has been put forward for the new building. I said, from my perspective, it just doesn’t make the heart sing, it’s not a building about which one can get passionate and I thought that a real shame considering the wonderful heritage of the area. I said I thought it should better reflect the area if it’s going to result in the removal of the façade, and suggested that they try to echo more of that building’s essence (look at me, getting all arty!). I think the architect was a little upset that I didn’t buy into his building but he said actually, there had been a lot of thought given to the surrounding area. He then took me through the brick detailing, the brick making, the fine touches that he’d put in. I explained that you get nothing of that from the computer image put forward, which might explain why there was concern about loss of façade to make way for a samey building. I did feel reassured by his passion for his design, the brick and Wapping in general. 

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