New threat to 1930s oasis


“Northview is the only remaining example of 1930’s ‘village-green’ residential architecture in Islington. Its sense of space and light and its attractively proportioned design remain intact. It may be modest and tucked away, but it is part of Islington’s heritage – the council should be proud of Northview. That Northview has survived this long should be celebrated” (Resident)

29 September 2011: Islington councillors unanimously reject plans to build on top of Northview. See Northview News



Northview back block

September 2011 We have heard at the ward partnership meeting that council officers are recommending that the proposed architectural vandalism is approved. (Our letters to the planning office asking for updates have gone unanswered.)

Summer 2011 Northview is now under threat from a fourth attempt at architectural mugging. Residents have described the latest plans to build an extra storey on top of the larger block as “crass” and a “car crash of a design”, and fear the estate would lose its welcoming feel.

Northview survived World War II bombs and a nearby gas explosion. It stood firm when its underground river caused a collapse in Holloway Road. It is under threat from its very owners.

How it would look

Tufnell Park Mansions and Northview Northview is to get something like the monstrosity in the lower picture on the right.

An extra storey was recently built on top of Tufnell Park Mansions (pictured), which is next door to us. Planned by Northview’s freeholder and managing agents, its sheer ugliness has not been relieved by yellow paint.

Its owners and agents want to do the same to Northview.

Now, imagine how it would look if the top floors of that atrocity, plus tacky glass balconies, were plonked on top of the sedate, balanced 1930s architecture of Northview.

Heavy and crude

“There would be a forbidding sense of being hemmed in. The estate would instantly lose its welcoming atmosphere,” warned one resident.

The hefty extension will overwhelm the estate, whose “delicacy of scale” was admired by 1930s architecture expert James Dunnett RIBA.

His comments still stand: “The transition from the taller block on Tufnell Park Road to the lower block behind around the courtyard is a very pleasant feature, a gain in ‘intimacy’ as the site is entered, and this will be lost if the courtyard block is raised, quite apart from the loss in feeling of light and ‘openness’.

“It remains very crude, for example the relationship between the raised stair ‘towers’ and the extra storey.”

The application fails council, London and national policy on heritage, housing design, space standards, layouts, noise, safety and sustainability.

Original features – such as stepped parapets, tall Crittall windows over staircases and deco banisters with a papyrus design – will be damaged or destroyed.

Safety and security

One corner of Northview backs on to commercial premises, including a bank. Intruders have used this corner of the estate to gain access to these premises. The proposal includes an open bicycle rack here, which will create hiding area for such intruders.

Poor application

The application shows arrogance as it ignores the council’s main planning document – its Core Strategy – and brushes aside or ignored council, London Plan and government planning policy.

The drawings are so inaccurate, showing, for example, metal window frames as columns of masonry.

Loss of light

Residents are very concerned that they will lose afternoon and evening light into their homes.

shadow This picture shows how afternoon and evening sunlight go into the living rooms and main bedrooms. If the new storey is built, that shadow will be a lot higher a lot sooner – one resident expects to lose an hour and a half of direct sunlight a day.

“We enjoy glorious sunshine in the late afternoons and evenings, which we would lose. This design will create a barrel effect and make the whole of Northview feel very claustrophobic,” said one resident.

proposal to build hideous extra storey

Residents are also concerned about:

  • Loss of a community feel, as more flats will be let to short term tenants
  • Feeling less safe, as a high turnover of tenants will mean more unfamiliar faces
  • Loss of privacy as balconies would provide direct views into homes
  • The size of the scheme increasing the size of the block by one third, and will draw attention to itself
  • Failure to meet local and national sustainability standards, in terms of environmental concerns as well as in providing homes that will last
  • Design and layout are poor, and will result in noise nuisance
  • The drawings misrepresent Northview, making it look dark and unwelcoming and play down the many subtle, attractive period details
  • Issues such as security, sustainable transport, parking and accessible homes have been treated merely as a boxes to be ticked

Click on this sentence or the document on the left to download our latest objection document.

Little changed with new application

The latest plans are a lazy update of the previous ones, with a bit lopped off one end in an attempt to meet daylight regulations.

The previous design as described as “architectural mugging” and “unimaginative, misleading and shortsighted” by residents. The latest design just repeats the same problems.

Compare and contrast by clicking on this sentence to download our previous objection document.


New scheme is “very crude” says expert

Modern architecture expert James Dunnett RIBA (pictured below, at Northview) commented:

James Dunnett RIBA“The scheme seems very similar in bulk to … the first application, with modified architectural details, not evidently for the better –  i.e. it remains very crude, for example the relationship between the raised stair ‘towers’ and the extra storey.”

“It doesn’t seem to me that the daylight study tackles the main issue, which is the effect of the extra storey on the existing flats beneath it and the courtyard – the study concerns the impact on neighbouring properties, which have never seemed likely to be the worst affected, apart from flats in the taller block on Tufnell Park Road. So in that sense it seems irrelevant.

“The fourth storey on the block on Tufnell Park Road itself is on the north side so will have less effect in overshadowing the courtyard than would an extra storey on the south side. An extra storey on one side should not mean that an extra storey would be acceptable all round.”


Concerns not addressed

Most of our concerns were raised with previous applications but have not been addressed.

We were so taken aback about sustainability that our previous document was accompanied by our paper: The least sustainable housing proposal of the year?

These proposals sparked many comments, which still stand:

Community and heritage

“The proposed storey would mar that rare thing on this stretch of the Holloway Road – an intact example of period architecture that creates a sense of community and offers a peaceful environment – an oasis if you like, from the bustle and noise of what is already a densely populated area”

“A peaceful and distinctive community of flats will be architecturally mugged if this proposal goes ahead. This design, badly conceived and poorly presented, will only suffocate the clean architecture squashed underneath”

“Northview maintains its distinctive 1930s domestic design and feel. If you walk into the close, you immediately find yourself cut off from the hustle and bustle of Holloway Road, and back in time. The period bay-front flats themselves create an urban scene all of their own”

“This residential enclave creates our very own London version of Hitchock’s Rear Window urban setting, and as such desirous of conformity in design”

“The drawings misrepresent the estate to the applicants’ advantage. They make it look dull and plain and play down the many subtle but attractive period details”

“Northview has survived this long because it works. It is an asset to a much-maligned area and should be protected from cynical overdevelopment”


Bad design

“The proposed storey is too big and will draw attention to itself”

“The cycle rack is insecure and would create a dark recess, hidden from public views, which could attract crime and antisocial behaviour”


Loss of light

“We will lose the only sunlight we get”

“The proposed work would make my flat seem hemmed in. One of the reasons the flat is so pleasant is because of its airy, light-filled rooms. Diminished sunlight will affect the warmth of the flat, leading to higher fuel bills and decreased comfort, especially during the wintertime”


Loss of privacy

“People would get a direct view into my bedroom”

“According to Islington’s policy, living areas should not be over bedrooms. The plans contravene this issue. My bedroom is directly under a proposed combined living/dining/kitchen, which four people could be sharing. The door to it is also over my bedroom, which means the tenants will be walking over my bedroom all the time”

“There will be a massive loss of privacy, and noise pollution”


Unsocial housing

“The flats are far more likely to attract flat sharers such as students or transitory workers than families or people with mobility disabilities. This leads to an imbalance in the demographic and a move away from the mixed social community that the original design promotes with its green areas and smaller scale”

“Why would any one want to cart prams and buggies across the car park and up four flights of stairs with no lift?”

“The facilities cannot cope with an increase in residents and the cycle store is woefully inadequate. Security is perceived as an issue of little or no concern”


Previous attempts

The end of 2009 saw the freeholders’ first attempt to impose an appalling piece of architectural vandalism on Northview. See “Architectural vandalism’ threat to Northview estate with own village green” in the Islington Tribune. The planning application was withdrawn in July. A second application, made shortly afterwards, was declared invalid. A third application was made in January 2011; the planning officer asked the applicant to submit new drawings.

Letter rejecting Nissen hut applicationThe council recognised the value of the block when it refused permission for extra building back in 1948 on the grounds it was “detrimental to the amenities of the adjacent buildings”, when the estate was hardly a decade old (click on the letter, right, to read it).

We trust it will apply the same wisdom for something much worse on a far greater scale now, and act to preserve a unique example of Islington’s heritage.




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Home: Northview – a rare survivor of its time

Northview news

Fifth threat to deco heritage

Northview’s architecture – an enclave with deco features

Living in a flat, 1930s style

A 1930s corner of Holloway – group value

Living over the Hackney Brook

Archive: It started with a Nissen hut … stop architectural vandalism

Archive: Buildings at risk – neglect at Northview

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