The Independent London Newspaper

Plan for new flats opposite music venue threatens to pull plug on Union Chapel gigs

Music promoters fear that a homes development could affect events at Islington's Union Chapel

Published: 9 November, 2012
by PETER GRUNER

PLANS to build 90 homes opposite Islington’s Union Chapel could mean the end of gigs at the popular music venue, according to a warning this week.

Music promoters fear that the development could affect late-night sessions at the Chapel and threaten its use as a rehearsal space and homeless centre.

Supporters of the venue are being urged to attend a planning committee meeting at the town hall on Monday night when developers will seek approval for their plans.

A spokesman for the Chapel said: “The scale and proximity of the planned housing could have a real impact on our operations.

"The late-night nature of much of our work and deliveries could cause noise and traffic complaints from our new neighbours.”

Plans for the development were radically scaled down after they were thrown out by the same committee in July this year following complaints by conservationists that they threatened to block views of the Chapel.

The new scheme going before councillors on Monday is for a five-storey building, rather than seven storeys, and 90 flats rather than 134.

Notting Hill Housing Trust, which is behind the development, maintains it has now moved the scheme slightly to the south, precisely to avoid overlooking the Chapel.

Philip Walker, chairman of Canonbury Society, said: “The trust has reduced the scheme by about 30 per cent but we still think it is far too big and imposing and compromises the ‘setting’ of Union Chapel, which has now been promoted to Grade I listing.”

Mr Walker added: “We are concerned at the effect the scheme will have on the operation of Union Chapel as a concert venue, homeless centre, church and a place where rehearsals and conferences take place.”

Local resident and architect Roger Mears said the scheme has been radically improved but there are still concerns.

“They have improved views of the Chapel but I would like to see a private garden for residents of the planned development opened to the public,” he said.

“Also, I’m also concerned about the need for proper access to the rear of the Chapel. All in all, they have made good improvements but I’d like to study the details further before I decide whether or not it is a suitable compromise.” 

The proposal involves demolishing the existing former Ford showroom and structures in Canonbury Road and putting up two new buildings, including a five-storey development plus basement. Another building facing Compton Avenue and Edwards Cottages will range between four and two storeys.

During the earlier public consultation more than 100 people wrote to complain while a further 114 signed a petition against the scale of development.
A spokeswoman for the trust said: “Notting Hill Housing has listened carefully to the feedback we received during our local consultation meetings.

“As a result we have made substantial changes to our plans. For example, we have cut back the number of homes provided from 134 to 90, reducing the height of the building considerably.

“We have also taken steps to ensure we safeguard key views of the Chapel from the north-east and south-east, by moving our buildings further to the south, removing the northern tip of the building and creating a new enhanced view of the full roof cascade.

“We now believe we will be providing beautiful new homes in the area, in a way that is respectful to the historic and very special Union Chapel.”

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