Architect hopes documents will make appeal against enforcement notice unnecessary
Amin Taha is preparing to submit detailed drawings of fossils on the façade of 15 Clerkenwell Close as part of his battle against a demolition order issued by Islington council.
He has been ordered to tear down the building on the grounds that it does not comply with planning approval – something he strongly disputes – and that the fossils are “haphazard and deleterious to the conservation area”.
Other architects have rallied to his defence including Charles Holland, Hanna Loftus and David Bickle, while developer and BD columnist Martyn Evans tweeted: “Unbelievable. This is a truly beautiful building. When’s the sit-in? I’m there…”
Taha will submit plans showing the precise locations of the fossils in the limestone used in the building in a bid to bring the long-running dispute to an end.
“The approved drawings only referred to stone with physical samples stating that as it’s a natural material we wouldn’t know exactly which fossil ends up where on the façade,” said Taha.
“We will be submitting the same elevations as already approved but with the precise location of fossilised shells and coral in the next couple of weeks.”
He will also submit statements from heritage and townscape consultants backing the opinion-dividing building which was nominated for the Carbuncle Cup but which has also won two RIBA awards.
He hopes his submissions might avoid the need for the appeal hearing scheduled by the Planning Inspectorate for spring 2019.
It is the latest twist in an extraordinary saga which has seen the building served with two enforcement notices on the grounds the building does not comply with its planning permission.
The first was withdrawn when Taha was able to demonstrate that it did in fact have consent.
Angry opponents, including a local councillor who is an architectural technologist, complained when they couldn’t find the final plans with a new façade treatment on Islington’s website. But that was because the changes had been approved under delegated authority in 2015.
Taha said when the wraps came off some neighbours objected to what they thought was a concrete building when the plans available on the council’s website showed brick. The final material is actually limestone specially sourced from a quarry that dates from the same period as the grade II* St James’ Church across the road, he said.
Taha is appealing the second notice which was issued in February. In summary he said the objections and his ripostes are:
a. the fossils make the building look rough, hap-hazard and therefore deleterious to the conservation area and listed buildings plus nine other points (No one would know exactly what it would look like as it’s a natural material not altered when splitting the stone along its sedimentary layer so physical samples were submitted but apparently the conservation officer who signed them off only saw photographs so ultimately though approving the material didn’t realise the fossils would look that rough.)
b. Three points relate to conditions signed off by email which the enforcement officer has refused to allow case officer to sign off by letter so that these can now be included in the new enforcement notice.
c. office door has moved to the side (to lose three risers to stairs to basement),
d. internal arrangements have changed (to eliminate a dog leg corridor),
e. is the roof a private terrace (no),
f. an earlier drawing shows a neighbouring building at the wrong height (pre-survey, post survey showed it at correct height),
g. not all the ground floor office space has yet been built (we don’t need it yet),
h. the columns protrude from the neighbouring 1970’s brick office building and are outside the building line (they are columns drawn proud off the neighbour and sit well within the old light well retaining wall and therefore well within the site boundary).
A spokesperson for Islington council said: “After an investigation, the council has come to the view that the building at 15 Clerkenwell Close does not reflect the building that was granted planning permission and conservation area consent in 2013.”