The long-expected application regarding the refurbishment proposals for Alban Gate (125 and 130 London Wall) has finally been received and validated. The reference number is 22/01207/FULL and can be accessed here.
The application is for an wide-ranging list of proposals “Extensions and alterations to include: the formation of terrace areas at level 7, alteration of office entrances and facades at ground and podium level to include the addition of mesh panels to the ground floor facade, removal of glazing on elevations to Wood Street and Monkwell Square and the creation of balconies from podium to level 18, reconfiguration Class E uses at ground and podium level; change of use of former wine bar from Sui Generis Use to Use Class E; provision of pop up space at podium level for retail / leisure; alteration of Alban Highwalk City Walkway and declaration of new areas of City Walkway; new access arrangements to include the replacement of escalators to Wood Street South with new stairwell; removal of escalators to Wood Street North and insertion of new lift for public use; infill of office atria; associated hard and soft landscaping to include revision of cycle parking and associated works”.
There are 111 documents accompanying this application which makes it extremely time consuming and difficult to go through all of the necessary details in a thorough fashion.
However we would make a few key points:
Pedestrian access to be radically changed
Plans to radically change the pedestrian access to the site remain unchanged. This is despite numerous concerns voiced at the time of the initial consultation regarding the loss of the escalators both on Wood Street South and Wood Street North and their replacement with a “green” set of steps (South) and a new lift (North).
The developers talk of wanting to build a better connection of the building to the streetscape and yet these plans show that they aim to achieve this by removing both sets of existing escalators and replacing them with one lift and a static staircase. Will this really attract more pedestrians to go from street to podium level? Or the reverse?
Balconies to be created from Podium to level 18
Although the size and height of the building will not change, the formation of balconies from podium to level 18 is still planned despite the development team stating at the September consultation briefing that the balcony works would not form part of this initial application.
Concerns about the creation of balconies and the consequent potential for noise, light pollution, overlooking etc – of most particular concern to those residents in Monkwell Square and Wallside – therefore appear to have been disregarded. Indeed it could be construed that their “creation” has been brought forward, presumably to make the building more attractive to potential buyers in 2025 when J P Morgans’s lease on the building expires.
Opening into Monkwell Square
Concerns also exist about the plans to create an opening from Podium level into Monkwell Square. As residents are aware, Monkwell Square is currently a fairly secluded residential space and these plans most definitely threaten that seclusion. There do not appear to be any commercial benefits of opening up the space and this therefore will just cause further damage to residential amenity.
Design & Access Statements provide detail
The Design & Access statements contain the details of what is being proposed. There are 5 parts on the website and links have been provided to Parts II and III as they provide some helpful information and illustrations.
Part I (not attached) provides a general introduction to the proposals, the history of building, the site etc and seeks to set out the objectives of the work with all of the usual box-ticking phrases to be found e.g “ The aim of the project is to deliver a reinvented and transformed building….. The building has a difficult relationship with the ground plane, precluding any meaningful relationship to its surroundings… The proposal seeks to address this by opening up its ground floor and creating a visual connection between Wood Street North and Monkwell Square, thus integrating the inside and outside spaces. The podium …… will be re-invented to provide a meaningful destination that can be integrated with its context and curated to keep relevance. Terraces and balconies at upper levels will be introduced to provide access to fresh air and improve the user experience and at the same time animate and complement the original design of the existing facades. Lastly, the proposal seeks to rationalise the roofscape to create meaningful spaces, maximise views of London and celebrate the existing building. The project aims to follow strong sustainability principles starting with retention and transformation as opposed to demolition and rebuilding…”
Possibly the most useful page of Vol I is on page 24 where it talks of the Podium Pedestrian Movement survey undertaken which provides the basis on which the revised pedestrian access and routes have been formulated.
Part II (attached here) states that “The proposal embraces the values of Post Modernism and the current emerging cultural and artistic movements surrounding New London Fabulous” n.b New London Fabulous is an architecture and design movement “characterised by bold and joyful use of colour, pattern and form” – hence primary colours abound throughout. The public space is to be bigger and can be used as a canvas for art, retail will be retained, and colourful lighting is planned to be introduced over the London Wall traffic junction…..all with the aim of adding “vibrancy and excitement to the spatial condition”.
Volume III (attached here) provides more pictorial representations of what is being proposed.
Volumes IV and V go through the Lighting proposals “Light will be focused in a manner which makes intended movement evident, and creates curiosity”
Issues arising from the application
There are many aspects of these proposals that can be questioned, albeit that some may be based on subjective choices and to individual tastes. For example, some may not like the proposed bright primary colours in the style of New London Fabulous but some may think they are indeed fabulous. On an objective basis, however, there should be genuine concerns over the proposed changes to the pedestrian access points, the creation of balconies and the timing of these works given the works already being undertaken in London Wall.
The BA will be submitting an objection letter and we would urge all residents to look at these proposals in detail and make their own representations if felt appropriate.
The Standard Consultation Expiry date is 20th March 2023. This appears to be an aggressive and far too short period of time given the scale of the proposed refurbishment – not least given the fact that the application was originally submitted on 14th December 2002 but was only validated on 9th February 2023.
Nevertheless, all representations made until the actual date of the committee meeting to appraise the application will be accepted.
Any representations can be made here.