Former Downsview School, Tiger Way, Downs Road E5 8QP

Photo:Proposed Tiger Way School

Proposed Tiger Way School

Hackney Council / Hawkins Brown

Downsview / Tiger Way School

2016/0307 - 14 June 2016

2016/0307 FULL PLANNING PERMISSION Demolition of existing buildings and the construction of a co-located development comprising a new 2 Form Entry primary school and nursery (Class D1) fronting Tiger Way and residential development (Class C3) above fronting Downs Road. The primary school is located on the ground and first floors with 90 residential units above in two pavilions of 11 and 14 storeys. Provision of vehicular and pedestrian access, disabled car parking, mini-bus parking, cycle parking, plant, landscaping, amenity and open space, multi-use games area and ancillary associated development. 


The Hackney Society Planning Group have not had the benefit of a design presentation of this substantial and controversial proposal for redevelopment of the Downsview School site. The proposals were reviewed by the HSPG at their meeting in March 2016. 


The Primary school and nursery is housed within the north of the site, from ground to second floor level, where play space and outdoor learning is accommodated. To the south, facing Hackney Downs, is a four storey terrace supporting two towers of 11 and 14 storeys housing 90 residential units of which 77% are dual aspect. All single aspect units are south facing.


The suggestion within the Design and Access Statement of permeability between the Nightingale Estate and Hackney Downs is unfulfilled leaving Hackney Downs almost entirely denied to the school,  apart from a first floor ‘park view room’. Avanti’s feasibility proposed blocks oriented north south to create a more successful permeability between from the Estate to the Downs. The potential for sunlight into the school playgrounds could have been harnessed more successfully. There is also concern about the security and safety of children given the overlooking from some of the residential units, although this has been well controlled; the north east flat balcony of Core 2 block probably creates the greatest vulnerability which could be designed out in detail.

London Plan guidance for a site of the proposed size, location and PTAL is for a density of 200 - 450 hr/ha yet here the proposal is substantially in excess at 670 hr/ha. Also the proposed mix of units is contrary to policy with too little emphasis given to family units. These have a distinct income generating advantage to the benefit of the applicant and detriment of the public benefit. If this were a private developer, they would be brought to task on this point. The Council must not escape the same scrutiny.


The height and bulk of the 20m x 20m towers do not relate well to the grain and scale on surrounding buildings - particularly those in the immediate vicinity. The unusually spacious context has it's own constraints and allowances, but in any event the 88m length of unbroken four-storey building facing Hackney Downs is considered to be harmful to both the public realm and the quality of school environment provided. The development might have been more successfully conceived as two separate towers each with respective plinths, possibly of differing heights, with a relieving break between.  The separation of the four storey terrace from adjacent buildings (former pub to the east and housing to the west) appears sufficiently generous.


The palette of materials is based on Niall McCloughlan’s genteel Darbyshire place housing scheme, which relies on a simplicity of the relationship between walls and openings. At Tiger Way the use of expressed horizontal floor plates, glass balustrades, articulated terracotta infill panels and floor to ceiling windows, means that the material elements lose definition, forming more of a soup than a composition.  The treatment is complex and may create a visual disturbance to the boundary of the otherwise tranquil Downs.  Glass balconies add to the glitzy tech ‘quality’ that mean the buildings will sit awkwardly with the natural context.  The palette of materials and colours requires consideration of durability and maintenance.

The impact of the relentless horizontal four storey terrace is not eased by its facade treatment. The plinth and towers are weakly defined: whilst the south facade is in a continuous vertical plane from plinth to tower, the articulation/ material treatment simply changes from from fourth to fifth floor. Some relief to the plinth may have been achieved if the towers had found a continuous expression to the ground level or at least beneath fifth floor level.  Lastly, the monumental, ocean-liner scale of the development appears to be at odds with the provision of private terraces at ground/ entrance level to the south which will, moreover offer little privacy, and so are unlikely to provide private amenity for the occupants.


The viability of the scheme and the residential element in particular is considered alongside the parallel application for 2016/0300 New Regent's College Upper School, Nile Street N1 7RD. See our comment on that scheme, here.

Together, the schemes propose 265 residential units, none of which are classed as "affordable", plus an undisclosed contribution to off-site "affordable" housing. The residential elements of the two schemes are proposed solely, we are told, to finance the two school developments.

The proposals individually and together, run significantly contrary to policy in a number areas - in particularly in the proposed residential housing tenure and mix. In addition the proposal to reduce land allocated to schools and replace it with housing in order to fund a densification is plainly unsustainable.

These exceptional departures are apparently justified by the acute need to provide more school places. This principle is acknowledged as having potential merit, but is in no way supported by figures which demonstrate a balancing exercise has been undertaken and correctly assessed.

It is of paramount concern to the public that the Council is seen to make sustainable, justifiable decisions at the all of times and it is unconscionable that where there is a significant departure from planning policy, the Council refuses to release the financial figures upon which it is expecting to make a decision itself. This is contrary to the (previous) Mayor of London's 2016 Housing Supplementary Planning Guidance which advocates transparency, and the gist of the Council's own Scrutiny Committee on Living in Hackney.

If the local authority cannot be seen to play a fair hand and follow guidance, then there can be little expectation that commercial developers will ever do the same.


Since both school proposals (i.e. Downsview and New Regent's College) are financially parasitic upon each other, the schemes must be considered together.

Until the significant issues raised in both applications can be openly discussed and robustly justified, both applications are bound to fail. 

This page was added on 14/06/2016.