At issue was a site located on the periphery of an Urban Conservation Area (UCA) next to a Grade 1 Building. Applicant was proposing to extend the current topmost floor of an existing building complex as well as introducing two penthouses instead of the overlying airspace.
Insofar as the floor area of the penthouses was concerned, the Planning Directorate had no issue since the floor area was found to be in excess of the minimum required.
As to the height limitation, the area was officially designated for three floors and an underlying semi-basement. Having said that, the officer observed that the Strategic Plan for Environment and Development (SPED) should take precedence, meaning that ‘a contextual approach towards controlling building height within UCAs’ should be adopted for new development.
Reference was also made to the setback floor policy which states that ‘in the case of setback floors within Urban Conservation Areas, the setback from the façade must never be less than that of the committed adjacent properties on one or both sides’.
In this case, the site was located adjacent to a scheduled building, to which end the officer was concerned with further construction on the top levels.
The officer went to observe that, in the current case, there were no similar commitments in the immediate vicinity which could possibly justify applicant’s proposal. More so, the Superintendent for cultural heritage took a cautious approach by saying that should the development be approved, ‘the penthouses will alter the height of a Grade 1 building and the streetscape within a UCA’.
Applicant was therefore requested by the case officer to amend his proposal, providing a setback of at least three metres at fourth floor level ‘in order to create an adequate transition and to better mitigate any new blank walls that will be created’. Nevertheless, applicant had not acceded to such a request.
Against this background, the Planning Commission was warned that the proposed building envelope ran counter to Urban Objectives 2.3 and 2.4 of the (SPED) which promote ‘a context driven approach for the control of building heights within Urban Conservation Areas in order to protect the traditional urban skyline’.
The Commission was further told that the proposal was incompatible with policies P35 and P39 of the Development Control Design Policy, Guidance and Standards 2015 which require that building heights are based on a streetscape analysis in order not to create an unacceptable visual impact. It was further underlined that the proposal lacked a transition design solution which is inevitably required along the edge of transition between different zones or areas.
When the proposal was discussed by the Commission earlier this week, applicant seemed to have had second thoughts about providing a transition solution and signaled his intention to scale down the proposal in view of what the case officer had previously recommended.
For its part, the Commission gave applicant the opportunity to submit fresh drawings showing the removal of ‘the washroom at the uppermost level’ as well as the provision of an adequate recess at third floor level.
The case was, therefore, adjourned and a decision should be taken next month once applicant complies with the Commission’s direction.