Fate of Finsbury Park’s old Powerhaus site could lie in hands of new London Plan
PUBLISHED: 09:31 22 March 2018 | UPDATED: 19:33 10 October 2018
Fewer than two hundred yards from Finsbury Park station lies the abandoned, derelict site of the former Powerhaus nightclub and music venue.
It has lain empty for three years: the old Victorian-era three storey building was demolished in 2015.
Plans are currently with Islington Council for a 10-storey, 228-bedroom hotel, including a restaurant and music venue, to take its place.
But its fate could lie outside the town hall: in the hands of Sadiq Khan’s draft London Plan.
Described by the Mayor of London’s office as “one of the most important documents for the city”, it will shape how London’s planning decisions are made.
A public consultation on the plan has recently closed, after initially being drawn up in 2017.
When it has been adopted, all future planning decisions will have to comply with the plan. It also sets a framework for local plans across London.
Currently the mayor’s office has power over plans of potential strategic importance.
Applications are referred to his office if they meet certain criteria over size, or whether they are on the Green Belt or Metropolitan Open Land.
The proposed Seven Sisters Road development was put on ice last year as the plans didn’t comply with the previous London Plan, which runs out next year.
It was referred to the mayor’s office due to the amount of floor space that will form part of the hotel.
It also breaks one of the rules in the Islington local plan, to promote small business, as the barber’s shop currently on the site will be lost.
In their response on November 13, the Mayor’s office said issues around transport, and the impact on the local environment, need to be addressed.
It also wants developers of the Seven Sisters Road site to look at energy efficiency and sustainability.
The proposed plan covers a range of areas regarding future development, including air quality, heritage and culture and the economy, with a particular focus on housing.
According to the plan London will need an extra 650,000 houses over the next decade if demand continues to increase.
As a result, Islington is set to build an extra 7,750 houses. The figure is one of the lowest targets in London, with the higher targets given to “outer London” boroughs.
Around 50 per cent of the new builds have to be “genuinely affordable”.
According to the plan, boroughs should publish an annual update on how many houses have been built.
This means if the plan is passed, there will be a “presumption in favour of development” of all applications that provide between one and 25 houses, and involve the “demolition and redevelopment of existing buildings, and new homes built on top of existing builds”.
As part of the London plan, the previous presumption against building on garden space has been dropped.
Green Party London Assembly member Sian Berry is concerned about the potential impact on Islington’s gardens from the London Plan’s housing guidelines. There is no part of the plan which means garden developments have to be for new housing units, sparking fears the rules will simply let people extend their own houses without proper scrutiny.
Cllr Berry, who represents Highgate ward on neighbouring Camden Council, said the draft plan also doesn’t set out the maximum level for new developments.
“The section on housing density talks about optimum density and making the best use of available space,” she said, “but not enough about what the limits for those builds should be.”
Her concerns are shared by David Gibson, chair of the Islington Society, who said he was supportive of the plan, but disagrees with proposals for “upward development” – building on top of existing housing.
“What you could see is housing density increasing,” he warned. “That then conflicts with existing housing and residents.
“There is this drive for increasing density and that means taller and bigger buildings. That isn’t something to be welcomed.
“We agree with the proposal to have more developments on small sites, but we’ve got to look closer at density.”