Finchley Road towerblock: Are they having a (Sky)lark?

In the outer reaches of West Hampstead, where it abuts the Finchley Road (indeed next to Finchley & Frognal Overground station) is 317 Finchley Road. You may know it as the heavily locked former nightclub. It could be transformed into a ten (10!) storey building. Could be.

The statutory consultation period for this planning application has closed but the application is still under consideration so in reality it’s not too late to comment – see below.

Skylark Court image: via planning application

Skylark Court. Image via planning application

The proposed development, ‘Skylark Court’, is from Linea Homes, a small developer that has been increasing the size of its developments over the past decade. One of its earliest developments was in West Hampstead, converting a house on Fordwych Road into flats; a couple of years later it redeveloped a house on Holmdale Road. Skylark Court is on a different scale.

For 317 Finchley Road, Linea is proposing a contemporary development with floor-to-ceiling windows, which might look good in Berlin, but does anyone need that much of a view of the Finchley Road? The ten storeys will tower well above neighbouring buildings, and has been rationalised on the basis of the flats next to JW3 (which is quite a distance away).

You may recall there was another recent application to redevelop 317 Finchley Road, however this was for only part of the site (the old pub). This got planning permission for six storeys, but the developer then sold the site on to Linea, who decided to combine it with two adjacent sites – and add four storeys.

Previous consented scheme image: via planning application

Previous consented scheme (note five storeys, plus a sixth set back) image: via planning application

Alongside all the glass, the developer explains its choice of materials:

Materials, colour, texture, patterns, structure and construction were under consideration while sculpting and breaking down the mass against a multiple of further competing criteria, namely Network Rail, neighbouring daylight and sunlight amenities, overlooking, road noise and atmospheric pollution, street and townscape, fire escape’.

No, we can’t understand it either, but it appears they want to clad it in some sort of red stone (see illustration below). What’s wrong with good old brick?

Berlin or the Finchley Road?

Berlin or the Finchley Road?

One final thing to note is that Linea is proposing a completely new entrance to Billy Fury Way, between the development and the Overground station, while still keeping the old one, which seems a bit odd.

The previous application attracted only a couple of comments, but this one has already reached over twenty, 95% opposed on grounds of height. If you want to add your comments on the application (2016/2910/P) you can find the related documents here or  you can comment here.

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  • Jake Vargas

    This is such a biased article. The author does not even attempt to hide his prejudice against modern architecture. Finchley Road is so dire around the site that something a little bold would be very welcome. I will be lending my support for the plan.

    • West Hampstead Life

      Jake thanks for the comment, actually the author is a fan of modern architecture. For example the Allies & Morrison designs for Kidderpore Green further up the Finchley road – in what is the New London vernacular – seem to be both contemporary and fit with the surroundings buildings. Also I don’t think floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Finchley Road are a good idea, they might work from the 45th floor overlooking Central Park but not on first floor, or second, or third floor overlooking the Finchley Road. Big windows perhaps, but not floor to ceiling as most people like privacy. Likewise I think going up to ten storeys is a mistake. One could still build a good contemporary building on this site. Just not the one they propose.

      • Jake Vargas

        Well, you could have fooled me! Kidderpore Green is hardly an appropriate comparison given it is in a residential street and parts of the development are listed to start with. Finchley Road, certainly from Swiss Cottage all the way to Arkwright Road is primarily commercial and has over the years slowly been getting progressively more modern architecture – most of which have nothing exceptional about them. But your personal feelings are given away and I dare say you would not have approved of the O2 Centre either which has done so much to revive the area near the station over the lst almost 2 decades. You refer to the floor to ceiling windows and privacy issues but no one is going to force you to live there and I don’t think it is at all appropriate for you to foist your personal tastes on others. I suspect there will be no shortage of takers for the building despite it not being to your taste and the perceived lack of privacy as those who buy will do so with their eyes open. If your views had prevailed no doubt a lot of London – in Paddington, the City and even Canary Wharf – would have remained stuck in some sort of outdated time warp. I would not be surprised if you had been one of the objectors to the London Eye even, which everyone now agrees is one of the things that makes London such a vibrant world city, given it wold have failed your definition of not fitting into its surroundings. It is interesting that you refer to Berlin several times but the architecture that Berlin is now rightfully famous for would not have come about if reactionary views had prevailed. Please remember that all change causes some discomfort and many now iconic and much loved buildings started off as controversial. Not that I’d class the 317 Finchley Road development as iconic, although it beats the JW3 Centre hands down in my opinion. I just hope it gets built as designed.

  • Jake Vargas

    Mark, I found out over the weekend that I had mixed up the Kidderpore Green development you mentioned previously with the huge new development on Kidderpore Avenue proper that is just starting and which incorporates listed buildings that cannot be altered. Kidderpore Green is actually on the corner of Platts Lane and Finchley Road and there were no listed buildings on the site. That said, I had a good look at the Kidderpore Green development. Phase 1 is complete and you described it as contemporary architecture. It may certainly have been considered contemporary at the turn of the century – 1899 that is, not 1999 – but the buildings are the most uninspiring of boxes in the 21st century. And, you should note, the buildings also have the floor to ceiling windows you so despise, overlooking the Finchley Road! Looking at the skeletons of the Phase 2 buildings, they are even more boring boxes! In comparison, the design for 317 Finchley Road looks positively revolutionary – but then again that seems to be what had set you off 🙂