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Tall Building Proposal - Appeal Refused on Design and Heritage Grounds by Secretary of State

Craig Howell Williams QC
Douglas Edwards QC
Charles Merrett

Meyer Homes appealed against the decision of The Royal Borough of Greenwich to refuse an application for planning permission for the construction of a 27 storey building (1,056sqm of commercial floorspace at ground and first floor, 206 residential units at upper floors) and the construction of buildings between 9 and 16 storeys (1,793sqm of commercial floorspace at ground floor and 598 residential units at upper floors), both with associated ancillary development. The appeal was recovered by the Secretary of State and heard at a public inquiry lasting six days.

The Inspector’s report identified the main issues as: the effect of the proposal on the character and appearance of the area; the effect of the proposal on the setting of a range of heritage assets; the effect of the proposal on the living conditions of existing residents through visual impact and any loss of sunlight and/or daylight; whether the proposal would provide acceptable living conditions for prospective residents; whether the proposal would make adequate provision for affordable housing; and whether any other impacts of the proposal had been properly mitigated. 

The Secretary of State agreed with the Inspector’s recommendation that the appeal should be dismissed principally be reference to the height of the 27 storey element of the proposal. 

The case is of some interest in relation to the issue of tall buildings and heritage considerations in the context of London Plan policies and paragraph 196 of the NPPF. In short, it was concluded that the proposed tall building would cause less that substantial harm to the significance of: the Grade I listed Royal Brass Foundry and the Royal Arsenal Conservation Area; the Grade II* listed Royal Artillery Barracks and the Woolwich Common Conservation Area; and the Grade II Equitable House in General Gordon Square and the Woolwich Conservation Area (the conservation of which assets being given great weight).  Although the Inspector and the Secretary of State agreed that the development of the brownfield site for housing was a significant benefit and that the site proposed for the tall building should be developed to meet wider townscape objectives, the public benefits of the development overall did not outweigh the heritage and design harm which would be caused.

Craig Howell Williams QC represented The Royal Borough of Greenwich and Douglas Edwards QC represented Meyer Homes.

Charles Merrett was instructed to assist Speak Out Woolwich in preparation for the Inquiry

The decision can be found here