Published: 28 May 2010
by RÓISÍN GADELRAB
THE historic Turnmill nightclub building has been saved from the bulldozer.
Following an appeal hearing last month developers Derwent London have been told Islington Council were right to reject its plans to flatten the site.
Planning inspector John Papworth backed the Town Hall’s original ruling made in November last year. A copy of his conclusions was sent to the Tribune last night (Thursday).
But campaigners have warned that the conditions of the decision have “left the door open” for future redevelopment. Derwent London wanted to knock down the building which, along with the famous Sessions House opposite, marked Clerkenwell’s historic Gateway to London.
The developers wanted to replace the former Turnmills nightclub, which was once an early 19th-century stables building, with a seven-storey glass office, café and shops complex.
But Mr Papworth said: “The existing building has strong historic connections with its location and despite its pretensions to architecture that do not succeed, it has features of interest. It makes a contribution to the conservation area and its loss would cause appreciable harm, but less than substantial harm.”
But in the same ruling he added: “It does not appear to have a sustainable long-term future without intervention which could itself cause harm. I conclude that the building has reached, or is reaching, the end of its viable life and that replacement may be acceptable.”
The inspector said the proposed replacement building was too tall for the site, and agreed with the council’s argument that it affected the setting of the Sessions House and the Clerkenwell Green Conservation Area.
Labour councillor Martin Klute, who has campaigned to preserve the building, said: “His report was broadly supportive of our view of its historic value. But I’m concerned he’s left the door open for a new building on the site.
“He acknowledged the historic value but said he wasn’t that concerned about it. We will fight to either keep it or to get a decent replacement.”
Town Hall environment chief Labour councillor Paul Convery said he’d like to see the building turned into quality affordable housing, adding: “We’re very pleased.
“It shows what local residents can achieve when they exert their will and when people take firm decisions.
“It exemplified everything the new administration wants from the planning process – human-scale development, high-quality design and buildings that respect the amenity of the people that live there.”
Islington’s former conservation officer of 20 years, Alec Foreshaw, felt so strongly about the proposed destruction of the 123-year-old building that he came out of retirement specifically to speak against the plans at the council’s planning hearing last November.
He said: “As a piece of architecture it’s not spectacular but it’s very nicely put together. It’s got a very elegant curve. What was proposed to replace it was enormous.”
Turnmills nightclub closed in 2008 and is now home to a number of small businesses.
Derwent London declined to comment.