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Top architect’s Clerkenwell offices face demolition threat

Wrangle over six-storey block that ‘looks nothing like approved drawings’, says planning chief

30 June, 2017 — By Koos Couvée

The block is within the property boundary, insists architect Amin Taha

AN AWARD-WINNING architect at the centre of an extraordinary planning row may be ordered to demolish an “awful” new office block in Clerkenwell.

Next month, Amin Taha intends to move his firm into the six-storey building in Clerkenwell Close where he and his family will live in a luxury apartment on the top floor. But he has seen the project slapped with two enforcement notices by Town Hall planners.

He insists the building, directly opposite Grade I-listed St James Church is fully compliant and claims he is a victim of administrative errors.

One of the orders – which have been withdrawn due to a drafting error but are expected to be reissued shortly – summons the architect to demolish the building entirely, while the other states he must remove the “unauthorised” outer coarse stone structure because it sticks out beyond the planning boundary.

Amin Taha: Demolition ‘is completely surreal’

Councillor Martin Klute, vice-chairman of Islington’s planning committee, said: “The problem he’s got is that the building looks nothing like the approved drawings, and the stonework on the front actually protrudes beyond the building line. It’s not within the boundaries he applied for.

“And the building is actually a storey-and-a-half higher than the drawings showed. We are extremely upset he’s built it higher than what he’d made it look like. It’s extraordinary.”

Cllr Klute added: “The building just looks so unlike the drawings the council got. It’s hard to believe how it could be built like that. Design is a matter of taste but I’ve not met anyone who has said it’s an appropriate design next to a grade I-listed church. The building is awful.”

But Mr Taha, whose partner has just had a baby, insists the building is compliant.

Cllr Martin Klute: ‘The building is awful’

He said Town Hall planners have failed to upload the latest drawings, approved in 2015, onto their online planning portal. Planners also approved the materials used, he said.

“The idea [of demolition] is completely surreal,” the architect said. “They’re scrambling about. One team is doing one thing and the other team is trying to cover their tracks.

“The building is actually marginally shorter than it is in the drawings and it actually protrudes less. It’s within the property boundary.

“Everybody makes errors but I’ve never had anything like this. With a new baby it’s the last thing our family needs.”

In the notices, planning chiefs said the building, “by reason of its scale, height, design and materials used” and “its siting and deviation from approved plans, in conjunction with the use of unauthorised coarse stone material”, fails to “preserve or enhance the Clerkenwell Green Conservation Area, harming the character and appearance of the surrounding area contrary to [planning policies].” Mr Taha has been active in Islington for 20 years. His most recently completed building is 168 Upper Street, a striking mixed-use block on a former World War II bomb site.

He said that he intends to appeal against the orders when they are reissued.

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