Objecting to proposed tower blocks next to railway station

Planning Application Ref: 18/02277 Unity Square, Nottingham
To: Nottingham City Council Planning
From: Michael Edwards

I object to the planning application and will wish to speak as ward member at the Planning committee meeting.  

The proposed building is higher than envisaged in the outline planning process.  It is too high.  It will break the skyline when viewed from Nottingham Castle.  It will spoil the views from much of the Old Meadows and in particular deny some residents the existing view of the dome of The Council House, a graphic of which was only made available on 21st December.  I am concerned for the view from Queens Walk.  

For a building of such prominence, it is not especially beautiful.  There is no distinguishing attractive feature that such a prominent building should be expected to have. The top of the building is utilitarian.  The last time HMRC applied to build an office, the city council required a competition to obtain something worthy of its size and location.

Its energy consumption will be huge because it is such a broad building.  Unlike the current HMRC office, no significant effort has been made to use green heat management technology to significantly reduce the energy bill. One Meadows resident, an architect, has stated “In environmental terms and in its current form this building is effectively a 1960’s design. …

This is clearly not going to meet even current targets by the time building is built in two years and means the building will completely redundant in energy use terms by the end of its 25 year lease.”  

I hope the existing train franchises are flexible enough to cope with increased rail commuter traffic.  I expect that proper arrangements will be in place to cope with emergency evacuations of 4,000 from the block, given the concerns of the proposers for maximising security.  

Significant aspects of the tower’s design comes from the expectation that a second tower for the site supporting 3,000 national government jobs is required, but is there certainty that such a plan will be followed through on behalf of national government?  

I remain frustrated that the view of the proposed tower from the Old Meadows took so long to be supplied, and too many residents of The Meadows may not be aware of the proposal.  

From: Cllr. Nicola Heaton

I have reservations, primarily related to the height of the building. Historical views of the city skyline, from the Meadows, will be blocked as a result of the shape and height of the building. Such a tall building will, by obscuring these views, cut The Meadows off from the city. This can particularly be seen in the photograph from Beauvale Road, where half of the Council House is blocked by the proposed development. These concerns have been echoed by a number of community activists, and many long-term residents of the area.

I also have concerns about the environmental standards which the building will meet, and their appropriateness for a 21st century building. …

Cropped version of photo produced to show the impact of the tower block on the view from Beauvale Road

From : Meadows resident

I attended the public consultations on the proposed Unity Square development on Tuesday 27th November 2018 and have only recently been forwarded on a copy of a long view of the development from Beauvale Road. I spoke to both City Council representatives and a gentleman who advised on the planning application. I have however not personally received the aforementioned image as I was promised.

The image is from Beauvale Road, one street from where I live on Woolmer Road. If the picture was taken from Woolmer I’m fairly certain the entire view of the City Council House dome would be hidden! As a resident of the street that would be a great loss.

Views of OMTRA

Though individuals will have some differences in views on the development, it was our collective agreement that the design of the proposed HMRC office and in particular the height of the building is not in keeping with the surrounding landscape and we are opposed to a building of such height on our doorstep and within our view of the city centre. Similar concerns apply to the second proposed building, though clearly fewer details have been released about such.

Having read ‘ENVIRONMENTAL STATEMENT V1 CHAPTER 5 TOWNSCAPE AND VISUAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT’, it is our view that the declared scope of the assessment “Effects on peoples’ views of the Site and its setting, or visual amenity, are also assessed” has not been fulfilled as regards the impact on views from the Old Meadows despite being well within the ‘visual study area’ of 1.5km.

Whilst it is appreciated that some effort has been made to consider the impact on the Meadows more broadly, the [initial] two ‘Verified Views’ from the Meadows area do not cover the scope of the impact on views for the whole of the Meadows and offer no assessment on the impact on the ‘Old Meadows’!

On the following excerpt: “Within the Built Environment section of the saved policies document, policy BE8 relates to the city skyline and tall buildings. The policy sets out a number of criteria for development of a tall building which rises above the predominant height of surrounding buildings and / or is prominent in longer views of the city skyline, including: that “the scale of the building is appropriate for its location and respects the character of Conservation Areas; and it does not detract from existing views of landmark buildings, structures or roofscapes, listed buildings and scheduled ancient monuments or their setting, or landscape features.”

It is our view that the scale of the proposed building is not at all appropriate for its location and that it will detract from existing views of landmark buildings from various vantage points in the Old Meadows because of its height, including the Nottingham Council House, and various attractive historic city centre church buildings that are currently clearly visible from the Old Meadows.

On the following excerpt: 
“Policy DE1: Building Design and Use. The policy lists the design criteria that planning applications will be considered against including, “whether the development would respect and enhance the streetscape, local environment, townscape and character of the area, and in particular its established scale, massing, rhythm, landscape (including ridge lines), historic views and materials.”
It is our view that the proposed building would not respect or enhance the townscape and character of the area or historic views.

On the following excerpt: 
 “The townscape within the southern and western extent of the study area which includes the Site itself is more industrial in character compared to that of the north and east with fewer features of historic importance
We believe the document to be negligent of the extensive historical significance of the Old Meadows area, which is in close proximity to the site, despite having been carefully researched by Historic England for the purposes of a proposed application for Conservation Area Status of the Old Meadows. 

On the following excerpts:
“The sensitivity of viewers is affected by the susceptibility of the viewer to changes in views and visual amenity and the value attached to particular view locations and views. The context of the location contributes to susceptibility, for example, people viewing from residential properties or from a valued landscape are likely to be more susceptible to change than people viewing from an industrial context. Particular views may have importance and be valued as part of the experience of a valued landscape or promoted recreation facility or route.”
It is our view that obstructions of views by the proposed development of landscape buildings from the Old Meadows including those referred to above should be classified as high sensitivity since it applies to residential properties for many viewers on a daily basis. 

It is our view that the scale of magnitude of the changes in visual amenity should classified as ‘Great change’ because this would affect views from a wide area with permanent and irreversible effect.

Please note that OMTRA has not formally opposed, in this way, many other developments that have been given planning permission in the development area around Nottingham Station, due to their restrained design and height.

For us, this appears to be an exceptional proposal and will have an irreversible (and in our view detrimental) impact on our ability to appreciate long-standing views that have been visible to some for their whole lives and which are today only possible as a consequence of careful planning of the area South of the city over a century ago.
Please note that this is not an objection to the presence of a HMRC hub in this area, but an objection to the sheer size, dominance and out-of-characterness of it.
A severely reduced height is the priority for [us].

From: Emeritus Professor Brian Ford RIBA FRSA
Professor Julian Marsh MA Dip. Arch FRSA

Critique of the Environmental Targets and Comments on the Design of the Proposal

The UK’s carbon target for 2050 requires an 80% reduction of carbon emissions from 1990 levels.
The current target for 2020 is a 34% reduction in carbon emissions.
This building is promising a reduction in carbon emissions over 1990 levels of 22%.  This is clearly not going to meet even current targets by the time building is built in two years and means the building will completely redundant in energy use terms by the end of its 25 year lease. Because of its deep plan design it will not be able to be converted to other uses or have its design easily changed to a more environmentally friendly one, meaning that it is not resilient.
The current building proposal suggests that daylighting will contribute to a lower carbon approach, however the deep plan means that permanent artificial light will be required further in than 6 metres from the perimeter. It is also part of the proposal that the building will be permanently air conditioned which could amount to 35-45% of the total electrical load of the building.  The life cycle costs of the fan coil units proposed to provide HVAC to the offices needs to be carefully reviewed as it will be very significant. The use of these could be avoided entirely by using radiant cooling for instance and a comparison should be made between the two systems if a more radical approach is not to be adopted. 

In environmental terms and in its current form this building is effectively a 1960’s design. It is not necessarily the case that a noisy and polluting external environment precludes the use of natural ventilation. By the use of buffer spaces on the external facades it is possible to provide acoustic and thermal protection whilst simultaneously promoting natural ventilation at appropriate times. The negative aspects of the deep plan can be alleviated by some form of central natural venting as shown in some of the examples below.
BREEAM ratings can be very misleading when it comes to judgements about energy efficiency and energy use in buildings. This is because the BREEAM system allows trade-offs between the various target categories. This building will score very highly just based on its location which means its energy performance doesn’t have to be so ambitious when meeting its BREEAM Excellent Plus target.

With only twelve years to go to bring global warming in check and stop a rise above 2 Degrees Centigrade, carbon emissions must be given a much higher priority in building design. Consequently this building needs to have a much higher level of ambition in environmental terms.
Examples of medium and tall office buildings that achieve the ambition and resilience that is needed are:
1: The San Francisco Federal Building by Morphosis
2: The Lanchester University Library in Coventry by Short Ford Associates which has very similar environmental conditions being next to a very busy noisy roundabout and highway. This is also a deep plan building which draws fresh from a labrynth under the building and exhausts at the perimeter
3: The Liberty Tower, Meiji University, Tokyo  by Nikken Sekkei. A sealed building with a riser and a natural ventilation floor.
4: The Manitoba Hydro Place in Winnipeg by KPMB Architects. Uses a double skin façade with allows natural pollution and noise free ventilation. 
5: The GSW Headquarters in Berlin by Sauerbruch Hutton
6: The Torre Cube in Guadlajara, Mexico by Estudio Carme Pinos.

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