P2022/0871, 1 Torrens Street, Angel Association, August 2022
1. This is the Angel Association’s comments on and objections to the 1 Torrens Street office led development proposal – P2022/0871. The Angel Association is the local amenity association for this neighbourhood area.
2. This is one of the most prominent development sites in Islington. The local topography offers a prominent site located on the hilltop marking the key and historic Angel road junction. The site also signals the entrance to the busy Angel area, and to City Road, and therefore deserves a building of strong character and appropriate scale to reflect this significant context.
3. This proposed development would replace the post-modern development designed by Rock Townsend. The design of the RT development with its varying height, varied and mostly brick finishes and articulated design attempted to reflect its prominent and historic location. It also carefully reflected the site’s association with other key local buildings, notably the Angel building with its dominant dome on the opposite corner. The position is indeed iconic.
The Development Proposal
4. The proposal’s main design challenge derives from stripping off the external finish of the existing building, revealing its core structure, using that core structure and attempting to embellish it to provide a finished appearance. It is claimed this has environmental benefits. The core structure is strictly rectilinear and repetitive and the proposed design necessarily follows this. The finished design is dictated by this core structure and this imposes major limitations on the design. This has resulted in a proposal which is dull and not designed to enhance this important site and its context, but which instead simply flows from an existing construction form. Overall the proposal is higher and bulkier and therefore more unattractively dominant than the building it would replace. 5. We have noted the discussions with the Council’s Design Review Panel and their serious reservations and proposals for improving the design. We consider that the
amended design where corners are chamfered, the relationship between the fenestration and building frame is marginally improved. The design, however, is still clearly strongly derived from the construction core with its limitations in articulation and variety, and the too limited marking of corners, particularly at the City Road/Islington High Street corner.
6. We note the changes made to mark the main entrance of the building on Islington High Street. The entrance is a very important feature not least because it breaks up an otherwise very long monotonous frontage all along this part of the High Street. This proposal should, but does not, make a major contribution to animating the Angel area. There is a proposal for a café accessed through the main entrance, and also a publicly accessible concession, again within the building’s ground floor lobby area. The existing pub on the corner of City Road and Torrens Street is retained within the proposal. Essentially, however, there is very limited street level animation.
7. We note that there was meant to be retail activity along street level in the adjoining large RBS building immediately to the north of this site, also a central part of the Angel retail and business district. This never materialised. The risk is that what should be a long length of busy, animated, high street simply becomes largely a dead frontage.
8. We recognise the possible benefits of the new pathway along the north side of the building linking to Torrens Street. This would be a narrow pathway which the public may avoid if it seems unsafe and insecure. The existing public courtyard space would be lost.
9. This is potentially an interesting historic short street, cut short and blocked at its northern end by the RBS building. Torrens Street itself is uncared for and further marred by TfL’s very poor treatment of the old historic Angel Tube Station entrance. This building is uncared for and has extensions encroaching onto the pavement. There is no prospect of Torrens Street becoming a pleasant area without substantial improvement and containment of this TfL station building. Torrens Street and the old tube entrance are not the responsibility of the proposed developer, and we strongly hope that the Council, TfL and the developer will work together to radically improve Torrens Street.
10. The proposed development adjoins the large RBS office building, which has been empty for over two years with no sign of reoccupation. It is likely to be redeveloped. Taken together these are the most significant sites in Islington, and they deserve a Council design brief for the whole area. It would be very useful to guide developers and others if the Council now prepared a masterplan or design brief for this very important part of Angel Town Centre.
11. Whilst there have been some improvement to the proposed scheme during the planning process, the proposal remains lacking in ambition, without the distinction or status that such a prominent site deserves. The bulk of the proposed building is substantially greater than the existing, the proposed facades are anonymous, without variety or hierarchy and there is very little activity/engagement at street level despite its significant High Street setting. The loss of the existing right of way is regrettable and, whilst the scheme includes a new entrance to Torrens Street much work will be required to meet the stated aspirations for Torrens Street and there is no detailed plan to achieve these aspirations.