img(height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="")

Page of consents: Sustainability and controversy

Will Jennings

Four diverse schemes clear the planning officers’ desks this week, but not all have got past without a battle

This selection features a diverse mix of architectures, each with differing approaches to their setting. Bennetts Associates and Ryder Architecture have both gained planning permission for bold statement projects, a theatre and office development respectively, while Paul Testa has buried a new Passivhaus-standard family home in greenbelt hills near Bury, and in London a highly controversial Fleet Street scheme by Eric Parry Architects has raised the ire of conservationists.



Total area 50,000ft2 / 4,645m2

Client Muse Developments

Architect Ryder Architecture 

Planning authority South Tyneside Council

Planning ref ST/1070/20/LAA


This Tyneside office will give workers broad river views from a site centred within a cluster of office, cultural and residential buildings, offering new Grade A office space and landscaping of the brownfield site to connect the town to the neighbouring Customs House arts centre.

Targeting a BREEAM Outstanding rating with plans for around 200 rooftop solar panels – with a peak capacity of around 70 kWp – the development is intended to be adaptable, with the ability to plug into a future renewable district heating system. Acknowledging that a prospective ‘millennial’ workforce may desire a variety of spatial solutions for working, the floorplans include coworking spaces as well as more traditional layouts, while the fourth floor also features a southeast facing roof garden.

A solitary chimney – from the former glassworks from which the scheme takes its name – is retained in the new landscaping. This takes in the slope of the site, an historic nod to the roots of an industry which is now capable of creating the solar-controlled glass wrapping on this new scheme.



Total area 4000ft2 / 375m2

Client Private client

Architect Paul Testa Architecture 

Planning authority Bury Council

Planning ref 66308

A decade after the client bought this greenbelt-located plot, offering 180 degree south-facing views, this scheme for a spacious family home with Passivhaus design principles has been granted permission.

The architect was first contacted by the client’s appointed planning consultant, Maybern Planning and Development, seeking advice on gaining planning for sites of such special circumstances, leading to a collaborative relationship which Paul Testa says was integral to a successful outcome, though one which he acknowledges was not always an easy process.

Critical to that collaboration was TPM Landscape, forging a landscape-first approach in which a ‘heavy plinth’ of a local vernacular dry-stone wall supports the floor above, modelled on a ‘sheds in a field’ aesthetic. These sheds – five bedrooms and three bathrooms – offer divergent views from the house, while below and semi-submerged into the landscape is a generous arrangement of living spaces including two living rooms and spaces for dining, a gym, home office and play room.

Despite many comments of opposition from local residents, largely centring on the issue of greenbelt protection, the project was granted permission in April. Testa says the he hopes that the building  ‘feels like it belongs in the landscape’.



Total area 3,228m2 (of which 2,147m2 is new build and 1,081m2 is retained)

Client East Hertfordshire Council

Architect Bennetts Associates (architecture) with Citizens Design Bureau (Interior Design) 

Planning authority East Hertfordshire Council

Planning ref 3/20/2285/FUL


Hertford is set to welcome a new cultural centre comprising of a 550 seat theatre, 150 seat studio and three cinemas for 200 people, alongside spaces for hire, a café bar and new river terrace, all due for completion in 2023.

The client had identified that the existing public spaces were awkward to manage or generate income from, and had numerous ‘dead spaces’. Additionally, back of house spaces were in need of modernisation not accessible for wheelchair users, and the auditorium had insufficient capacity to attract the sort of performers that the town desired. Finally, it was considered that the building did not operate in the townscape context as well as it could, with the primary entrance away from the street and no accessible relationship with the adjoining River Lea.

Bennetts Associates is reconfiguring the building to address these demands through partial demolition of the existing theatre massing, while retaining the recognisable shell of the existing main auditorium. The auditorium roof – a form perhaps suggesting the historic castle and watermill that once stood close to the site ­– will be reroofed with a metal cladding, the new volumes wrapping it to present an envelope of textured brick and glazed brick stretcher courses of graduated density.



Total site area: circa 4200 ft2 / 45,000m2

Client City of London Corporation 

Architect Eric Parry Architects

Planning authority City of London

Planning ref 20/00997/FULEIA

This major scheme provides new courts and a police headquarters within the heart of the City, alongside offices, retail, and a range of public realm improvements. The City of London Police currently holds its functions across an estate of predominantly heritage buildings, which are both expensive to maintain and inappropriate for modern policing. This scheme will pull all its requirements into one modern complex, while Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service will have new provisions including 18 new courtrooms and a range of judicial chambers, consultation rooms and associated offices.

To squeeze all of this into the Fleet Street site, several unlisted historic buildings are due to be sacrificed, with a partial demolition of the grade II-listed 2-7 Salisbury Court. Historic England opposed the scheme, stating that the ‘eclectic mix of historic buildings and their juxtaposition upon remnants of an historic street pattern’ is of heritage value, and that if No 8 and No 1 Salisbury Square were retained the harm would be ‘considerably lessened’. The Victorian Society raised several concerns, leading with a strong objection to the loss of 80-81 Fleet Street and asked for new design respecting the prevailing scales of the streetscape rather than the ‘monumental’ approach taken. There were letters of support though, including from deputy chair of the Design Council Paul Finch, who described the buildings both heritage bodies are trying to save as ‘monotonous, undistinguished architecture’.

SAVE has launched a petition in opposition to the scheme, calling for DHCLG secretary Robert Jenrick to hold a public inquiry and intervene in the demolitions, so there may yet still be hurdles before this project starts on site.



PiP webinar: Architecture for Schools and Education Buildings

Are you a brilliant early-career design professional? We want to recognise your potential

Rising Stars is an opportunity for talented early-career professionals to be recognised

The 1957 modernist Dover Stage Hotel was designed by Hungarian-born Louis Erdi, one of the many refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe being celebrated at an RIBA conference

Dover Stage Hotel, 1957, Louis Erdi

Use of local craftspeople and sustainable innovations helped Jonathan Hendry Architects win planning consent for this 2024 RIBA East Midlands Award-winning house in open country

Local craftspeople help Jonathan Hendry Architects raise rural standards

Studio Partington used Dutch standard Energiesprong to retrofit 63 houses in Sneinton, in a scalable response to the climate crisis that has won it 2024 RIBA East Midlands Sustainability Award

63 retrofitted homes in Sneinton snap up 2024 RIBA East Midlands Sustainability Award