Story of 400 year old Finsbury building takes another twist

The Pump House (Pic: Alec Forshaw)

The Pump House (Pic: Alec Forshaw) - Credit: Archant

The future of a 400-year-old building pivotal in London’s history has been plunged into doubt.

The New River Pump House, a Grade II listed building between Rosebery Avenue and Amwell Street, Finsbury, is once again in danger of being turned into flats following a new round of applications by developers.

Built in the 1600s, the pump house marks the head of the New River, a waterway created by philanthropist Hugh Myddelton to bring fresh water to the people of London.

Back in 1997 Thames Water, which owned the building, said it would pay £50,000 to turn it into a heritage centre, providing that this was done before 2005.

The deadline passed and in 2010 it was sold to developers Turnhold with no objection from the council.

In November 2011 Turnhold asked for planning permission to turn it into flats and offices and the town hall was set to agree until it remembered the heritage centre agreement and halted the process.

Greek tragedy

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Turnhold took the case to the Planning Inspector, who turned down its appeal last August, but on March 11 this year Turnhold submitted an amended proposal to the planning committee.

Cllr George Allan, who represents Clerkenwell ward, which covers the Pump House, said: “This is just another chapter in a story that is becoming like a Greek tragedy, with two opposing forces expending themselves against each other. The new applications do not address the fundamental objections to the scheme, so I will calling on the planning committee to reject it.”

Andrew Smith, from Islington Building Preservation Trust, said: “We consider that they will cause substantial harm to the listed buildings and, because there is no counterbalancing public benefit whatsoever from these applications, indeed only private gain, the National Planning Policy Framework requires that they should be refused.”

He added the applications would prevent public access to the historic site.

Previously a descendant of the 17th century philanthropist, also called Hugh Myddelton, has opposed the development, as has the Friends of the New River Head – a conservation group set up to protect the building.

The public consultation on the development finished on Friday. Islington Council will make a decision in the next few days.