Former Hoxton Cinema, 55 Pitfield Street N1 6BU

former Hoxton Cinema, 55 Pitfield Street

2016/0809 - 4 May 2016

2016/0809 Variation of condition 1 (development to be carried out in accordance with approved plans) attached to planning permission reference 2012/1945 dated 09/10/2012 to allow for full demolition of the existing cinema facade and rebuild to match existing.

This application seeks to remove the condition of permission 2012/1945 requiring 'retention and restoration' of existing cinema facade, to allow for full demolition and rebuild to match appearance of existing.

In fact, without the benefit of any statutory protection for the site, demolition has already occurred. The original application is now incapable of being built out as described. The applicant relies on technical argument in their explanation of why they wish to vary the permission:

  • in relation to the rear elevation it is argued that it would not be possible to support the mid level of masonry in demolishing the upper and lower levels;
  • it is argued in respect of the front elevation that such a significant amount of fabric is being replaced/altered in the approved proposals, that there is no heritage value in retaining any fabric.

Prior to demolition, the circumstances, detail of proposals and condition of the fabric would not have altered since the original submission was made for 'Retention and restoration of existing cinema façade…’ Specialists contributed expertise to the original design of the proposals, and were relied upon to identify risk to the undesignated heritage asset in undergoing such a radical redevelopment.

The original proposal was a balancing exercise with the conservation nature of the proposal and the retained elements significant factors in that balancing exercise. 

In particular, there was Council sympathy for the scale and nature of the development specifically due to the high costs of the restoration aspect of the project, and the benefits that this would bring. To quote from Morse Heritage’s submission in support of the approved scheme: 

  • 'With regard to the quantum of new development proposed, information is provided in the D&A regarding the substantial costs associated with restoring the Hoxton Cinema façade, and how this is balanced against the level of profit anticipated from the proposed 18 unit residential scheme. This financial information demonstrates that the quantum of new development proposed will deliver only a below-market level of profit, once the costs of heritage repair and restoration are taken into account… The proposed development is therefore very much presented to the Council for consideration, as a ‘facilitating’ development proposal, with the new residential space provided being a conservative and reasonable scale of a new development required to secure the preservation of the locally listed Hoxton Cinema façade'.

The applicant has failed at this stage call upon expert advice to assess whether the facades ought to be demolished and reconstructed, only that of the contractors that have likely undertaken the demolition. 

The planning merits of the scheme must now be rebalanced against the now significant harm of total loss of the undesignated heritage asset. The public benefits must be significant to outweigh that harm. Notwithstanding the failed attempt (however poor or well meant) to retain the facade, the applicant now faces a different scenario where no costs of 'heritage repair and restoration' can be considered in any viability assessment. See para 130 of the NPPF:

  • 130. Where there is evidence of deliberate neglect of or damage to a heritage asset the deteriorated state of the heritage asset should not be taken into account in any decision.

This should result in a more favourable outcome in respect of the affordable housing provision than that originally proposed.

In the circumstances, the proposed design is now entirely pastiche and must be reconsidered on its own merits. This has less than no heritage value, and now might be a moment to reconsider the design in its entirety to reach a more sustainable, high-quality and authentic development. It is requested that: 

  • Where viability assessments influenced the type and scale of development, that these are updated and reconsidered and a further report submitted as part of this application and on a publicly scrutinizable basis.
  • In the case that approval is granted, the following conditions should be included;
  1. Detail drawings (sections, plans and elevations) at a scale of 1:20 and 1:2 are submitted for approval prior to further development taking place 
  2. Detail of methods, materials and finishes are submitted for approval prior to further development taking place 
  • And that discharge of conditions applications should be considered by Hackney’s Conservation Officer
This page was added on 04/05/2016.