CAMPAIGNERS and politicians have welcomed the blocking of plans for three block of flats in the centre of Harrow – the tallest a skyscraper at 19 storeys.
Dandara had appealed Harrow Council's planning committee's June 2009 decision to refuse planning permission for the redevelopment of the vacant former Post Office in College Road.
The developer intended to demolish the existing buildings to make way for 410 flats, 1,120 sq m of retail and entertainment premises with a neighbourhood police office, a public square and a pedestrian bridge over Metropolitan railway line.
Committee members had deferred their deliberations from the previous month in order to assess how the towers would look from the borough's various vantage points.
In the end, they unanimously agreed to reject the scheme on the basis "the proposal by reason of its excessive bulk, mass, scale and intensity will be overbearing, visually intrusive and detrimental to the character and appearance of the nearby conservation area, area of special character and Metropolitan Open Land, and would be over-dominant in the skyline, to the detriment of the long views of Harrow on the Hill and Harrow Weald."
The original application was the catalyst of the formation of the Campaign For A Better Environmental whose members collected a petition of more than 1,000 names in opposition to the scheme between the first and second planning committee meetings.
In March, a five-day public inquiry was held by planning inspector John Gray to hear Dandara's appeal and his recommendation to dismiss the appeal, published on Thursday (July 22), was adopted Secretary of state for communities and local government Eric Pickles.
Mr Gray said: "I find no objection in principle to a tall building (or buildings) on the appeal site (up to the height proposed in the appeal scheme) but I conclude that the proposed development lacks the very high quality of architecture required for tall buildings by adopted policy.
"Its Art Deco styling seems to me a cosmetic, not evolving naturally from the building form but applied to a form that seems, in places, to have been arbitrarily manipulated to accommodate it.
"I cannot see that the development would 'inspire, excite and delight'."
DANDARA DECISION: THE REACTION
Councillor Susan Hall, leader of the Conservative opposition, said: "This is extremely good news and I’m positive the people of Harrow will be absolutely delighted with this decision.
"We put forward a robust case against this proposal, based on its mass, scale, bulk and sub-standard design, and I’m very pleased to see that the inspector and the new Conservative secretary of state for communities and local government has agreed with what we said."
Councillor Keith Ferry, portfolio holder for planning and economic development, said: "Residents, the council and politicians from both parties were united in their opposition to this development making the planning
inspector’s decision all the more pleasing.
"Our argument all along was that if Harrow was to have a landmark development of this size, it needed to be of world-class design.
"I’d like to pay tribute to the planning officers and my predecessor, Marilyn Ashton, for their work in successfully opposing this development.
"I now hope we can sit down with the developers to discuss a viable way forward for this important site.”
The Labour MP for Harrow West said: "I'm delighted that this proposal has been turned down. It gives the council the chance to prepare a proper plan for the future of the town centre and work with local residents on what development would be appropriate on this particular site."
Andrew Wagstaff group property director said: "Dandara are disappointed with the decision, particularly as it came down to the single issue of architectural quality and the fact that the Art Deco style was directly influenced by officers of Harrow Council.
"However, Dandara are pleased that the decision confirmed the acceptability of all the other important principles including the appropriateness of a tall building, the height of a tall building at 19 storeys, the proposed density, a residential led development, public spaces, the provision of the footbridge, level of contributions and highways issues.
"Dandara are looking forward to working with the Council in revising the architectural quality of the scheme with a view to re-submitting the proposals.
"Dandara remain committed to delivering this key town centre project and whilst disappointed the decision was not favourable, we are pleased that it finally provides clarity with regard to the principles of an acceptable future development scheme."
CAMPAIGN FOR A BETTER HARROW ENVIRONMENT
"CBHE is pleased at the outcome of the public inquiry on the College Road site.
"We shall remain vigilant and active in regard to future town centre development applications and will ensure that, as with this scheme, the views of the people of Harrow are taken fully into account by the decision makers."
Photo: A mocked-up the view of the proposed towers, the highest 19-storeys high, as seen from The Grove Open Space.