From Ma Planning committee
We have several serious concerns about these proposals:
· Sustainability and Energy
The council has announced a climate emergency and yet the alterations to this building have a BREEAM target of “Excellent” rather than “Outstanding”. This is unacceptable.
There is nowhere near enough commitment shown in the application to the need to improve the environmental performance of this building. The applicant claims that upgrades to the building solid fabric will not be possible due to heritage concerns. This is extremely unconvincing.
The applicant has shown some indications of secondary glazing and double glazing, but there is nowhere near enough detail on this.
The applicant mentions their intention to use air source heat pumps but doesn’t mention how heat will be delivered in the building and whether or not there will be a need to produce cooling.
There is no indication of how the secondary glazing in the sports hall roof light will operate to alleviate the overheating problem that occurs in summer.
As currently designed, it seems there will be a significant requirement for mechanical ventilation in most of the building but there doesn’t seem to be detail as to how this is being provided.
· Entrance and Circulation
We are strongly opposed to the council’s insistence on having a single entrance to the building. It may result in lower staff costs, but having an entrance to the library and café through the same door on Seymour Place as the leisure centre uses results in a mean-spirited and insular building which is supposed to be welcoming and open. It is surely obvious that the entrance to the café and library should be through the Bryanston Place entrance to the building which already exists
The location of the soft play area is as far away as it is possible to be from the café. Anyone who has used a play space such as this knows that proximity to the café would be highly desirable.
· Use and Location
We accept that the questionable decision to locate the library in this building is not a matter relating to this planning application.
Large amounts of space have recently appeared on the plan noted as “flexible/office”. We think the applicant should explain what they plan for these areas.
· Design and Heritage
In spite of the significant alterations to the uses inside, no noticeable external alterations are being made to the building. In 2023, we would expect any new, or newly refurbished public building containing a library, leisure uses, and large amounts of community space to be welcoming, open, inviting and appealing. No significant efforts whatsoever have been made to do this. Instead from outside we have a building designed in the early 20th century which is, relatively solid, closed, unappealing and unwelcoming.
The heritage of the building could easily be protected and enhanced even with increased and enlarged openings along the south elevation and perhaps on the south-east and south-west corners. Creating some external space for users of the building when the weather is good would also be easily achieved within the constraints of the historic building. Both of these moves would help the building attract people in, and make it much more generous and public-spirited.
The three computer generated images of the proposed building interiors show an appalling lack of interest in creating a high-quality, modern, attractive and engaging public building. Moreover, these images demonstrate a lack of understanding of the importance of the historic fabric. Cheap aluminium glazing, vinyl flooring and brilliant white paint shown in these images is not acceptable for a sensitive refurbishment of an important public building.
There are many examples of recently designed, high quality library and leisure buildings in the UK and elsewhere showing how public buildings can offer new uses and provide additional services within a welcoming environment. The applicant needs to look at some of these and take on board a much more ambitious and modern approach to the future of this building rather than one that is stuck in the mid-20th century.
This application seeks to create an extremely important public building for the future of our neighbourhood. Unfortunately it shows a notable lack of ambition, together with an apparent lack of understanding of the potential of a building project such as this.
The Marylebone Association
6 Wimpole Street