Published: 17 August, 2012
• VIEWS of the Union Chapel, one of Islington’s most important buildings, are in danger of being lost for ever.
Islington Council is considering an application, ref P121277, for the former Highbury Ford site between Canonbury Road, Compton Avenue and Edward’s Cottages, for redevelopment by Notting Hill Housing, following refusal of permission (after appeal) for a previous scheme.
Many of Islington’s amenity societies and other interested groups, including the Union Chapel itself, have objected to the proposed development.
They all welcome the principle of development by a housing association, but there is huge opposition to the present scheme for a number of reasons, including height, materials and general overdevelopment.
However, in this instance there is a further overarching concern, which is that the development, if carried out as planned, would eliminate the only full view, unobstructed by trees, of the rear of the Union Chapel and its ancillary buildings.
This view, from Canonbury Road just north of Edward’s Cottages, is currently partially obstructed by the two-storey buildings of the former workshops and offices.
It would be significantly enhanced if a gap were left between any new buildings so that the wonderful cascade of roofs and the brickwork of the rear elevation of the Union Chapel complex were exposed to public view in all their glory.
The much closer view from the north end of the site would also be significantly restricted by new buildings much closer to the chapel than at present.
The inspector’s appeal decision over the original application in September 2010, while acknowledging the importance of views of the cascade, only suggested protection of a distant view of the chapel from Canonbury Square, which is obscured by trees for more than half the year, during the summer months.
The chapel itself was upgraded in November last year to Grade I listing and the ancillary buildings, the former Sunday school, lecture hall and vestry block, were listed as Grade II* in their own right. This means that they are hugely important buildings of national as well as local significance.
The new National Planning Policy Framework requires that “Local planning authorities should look for opportunities for new development… within the setting of heritage assets to enhance or better reveal their significance”.
Our case is that this object can only be achieved by enhancing or opening up, not destroying, views of the Union Chapel.
The change to the listed status, of which the applicants in their submission appear to be blissfully unaware, surely gives the opportunity to set aside the inspector’s suggestion and ensure that the setting of the chapel is both enhanced and better revealed for future generations.
The council has the opportunity to prevent this development affecting the setting (including views) of the chapel complex. The application is likely to be considered in the near future by the planning committee.
Although the period for formal objections has expired, anyone who has concerns about this development should write to the council to voice them and, if possible, turn up at the planning committee meeting when it is considered.
Compton Terrace, N1