Bestway Cash & Carry, Geron Way
A mixed-use development including 233 homes in a series of blocks between five and seven storeys, a replacement Cash & Carry store, office space, community and retail uses and a cafe. Designed by Cornish Architects.
22 October 2009
Planning reference: F/01608/08
We think the mix of uses and scale of development proposed with this current application could work on the site. We have a number of concerns, however, for the distribution of uses on the site and the quality of living accommodation being proposed. We regret to say therefore that the development, in its current form, should not be given planning permission. The following points should be addressed before the planning application is determined.
Relationship to the Regeneration Area Development Framework
While we welcome the mix of uses proposed with this current planning application, we note that they do not align with the uses proposed in the adopted framework for the Cricklewood, Brent Cross and West Hendon area. When deciding this current planning application, the local authority needs to be confident that the masterplan has been reassessed to account for this change in use.
Type of application
Combining a large retail unit with residential, office and other ancillary units is a typology which requires a high level of design input. There are potentially a number of complex interrelationships between the uses that need to be considered in detail from the very early stages of design. We suggest, therefore, that the proposal is considered as a detailed planning application so that a realistic assessment of the quality of accommodation can be made. A detailed application will also help to demonstrate that a high level of design thinking has been applied to the proposal as well as show how the following concerns have been addressed.
Cash and Carry unit
The cash and carry unit will extend to over 100 metres in length, over six stories in height and will only have three small cores fronting the street. It is unlikely that this will create the active frontage to Edgware Road that is intended. Furthermore, because the cash and carry unit extends close to the boundary of the site, particularly to the west and north, there is little room for any meaningful landscape. The development, therefore, misses an opportunity to improve the quality of the public realm and the environmental quality of the area.
Quality of residential units
We have a number of concerns for the quality of the residential accommodation being proposed. The units facing east, towards the railway line, have a poor outlook and are likely to experience noise disturbance from passing trains. While the majority of flats have been orientated so that they face north or south (to avoid the overlooking of the railway line), the majority of the units are single aspect. This will result in units either overheating (if facing south) or receiving insufficient sunlight (if facing north).
Access into the residential units is convoluted and the entrances are inconspicuous. This could make way-finding difficult.
Whilst the use of the podium deck as amenity for residents is to be welcomed, the local authority would need to assure itself that the spaces created are well-defined, attractive and overlooked, and would be well maintained over time. We are concerned that the office block, combined with the residential units, will overshadow the amenity space at podium level P2 for much of the day.
The scale of this development, the mix of uses proposed, and the client’s ownership of the site, all suggest that it should set high standards in terms of energy efficiency and environmental design. The local authority would need to assure itself that any sustainability targets set in this application are sufficiently high and that full advantage is being taken of the mix of uses proposed for the site with a view to minimising carbon emissions across the development. We recommend that the design team refer to CABE’s new web resource Sustainable Places which gives expert advice on planning, designing and managing a sustainable place.
The green wall screen to the amenity space to the east of the site (at podium level P2) will require constant maintenance to ensure its quality is maintained over time. As recent built examples have shown, such as the Paradise Park Children’s Centre in Islington, living walls can deteriorate quickly if not closely monitored and managed. The local planning authority should be mindful of this when approving any planning application.
Given the fundamental concerns we have for the current planning application, we recommend that site layout and the distribution of uses across the site is reconsidered. In doing so, the quality of the residential accommodation and the local environment should be a key focus of any design changes