'Bunkum': Opponents of Kingsland Road co-living proposal slam landowner's claim 'noise does not travel downwards'
PUBLISHED: 15:16 08 November 2019 | UPDATED: 15:20 08 November 2019
Are the 121 tiny flats at the proposed co-living and working space in Kingsland Road, Haggerston, an innovative solution to the housing crisis or just a lot of expensive bed sits? Emma Bartholomew reports
Landowner Edward Benyon's claim that "noise goes upwards and outwards but not downwards" has been branded "preposterous" by neighbours worried about the impact a block of "high-cost bed-sits" with a communal roof terrace he wants to build would have on them.
An application to build 121 co-living units - some as small as 19sqm - on the Travis Perkins builders' yard in Kingsland Road co-owned by Mr Benyon has been submitted to Hackney Council.
Kingsland Road Developments wants to demolish the current mid-20th century three-storey brick building in Haggerston to make way for a six and seven-storey building with student flat-style communal kitchens, co-working space and shared space like the roof terrace to compensate for the tiny rooms.
Opponents fear it will hamper the peace of the Kingsland Basin, and have accused the developer of trying to add on an extra storey without a roof. To allay their concerns, Mr Benyon sent an email to a dozen of them, reassuring them it would be screened with acoustic material.
"This should make sure that noise does not escape however it is important to note that noise does not go downwards," he said to them.
"It can go upwards and outwards, but it is unlikely that you will hear this terrace from the basin even without the screening, but it will have screening."
The Gazette asked Mr Benyon, who co-owns The Benyon Estate property company, if he had any specialist reports to back up his claims, but he declined to comment.
Independent acoustic consultant Rob Cant dismissed what he said however, stating: "Noise most certainly does go up, down, and all around."
He continued: "If there is a barrier and screening from the edge of the proposed roof terrace then that will limit the amount of noise transmission, but wouldn't necessarily mean that there isn't future disturbance or loss of amenity."
Wine columnist and co-presenter of the former BBC TV show Gluck Gluck Gluck, Malcolm Gluck who lives next door in Hertford Wharf branded Mr Benyon's claims as "bunkum".
"Only someone who doesn't live in the real world could consider such an idea rational," he said.
Neighbour Alan McMahon also criticised the comments as "rather flippant".
"Noise travels in all directions from a sound source, although of course the arrangement of the immediate environment has a crucial effect on it's dispersal," he said. "Residents' concerns about communal external areas at high level and overlooking our courtyard are fully valid."
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He is not reassured by Mr Benyon's assurances that the quality of management at the development that would be called Pause, would sufficiently safeguard against noise disturbance.
"The development would serve the community much better by being replaced by one of more modest proportions containing one and two bedroom flats of proper proportions," said Mr McMahon.
"I can't help feeling that the proposal is heavily profit-driven and I worry that the council, under pressure to fulfil housing quotas, will be seduced by the large number of units crammed onto this site."
Planning consultants CMA Planning, co-owned by Charles Moran, is submitting the application on behalf Kingsland Road Developments Ltd, which Mr Moran also co-owns.
CMA Planning says the design is "based on an innovative approach towards mixed-used development that reflects the working and living needs of modern occupiers" better than HMO (house of multiple occupation) accommodation.
Mr Moran told the Gazette: "Instead of taking houses and flats that could be used by families and that aren't designed specifically for sharers, it's like a house and flat share that's been purpose built.
"Providing amenities and better landlordship beats absentee landlords."
Mr Benyon said the planning application had been submitted "after years of thought and deliberation".
"This application is answering to a very real need. There is a serious housing crisis in the whole of London and especially in Hackney. It is imperative that key workers from both the public and private sectors together with generation rent are provided with decent homes. The way these people, or some of these people, are going to live in the future may well be different to the way a lot of us have grown up and we must be able to accommodate them."
Whether the developer will make any section 106 contributions or provision for affordable housing elsewhere in the borough remains under discussion.
Speaking in a private capacity as a neighbour to the development, Alex McCallum, a senior analyst at housing charity Shelter, criticised the current lack of provision in the proposals, and alleged the development called Pause, is "a great example of how the housing system is failing families in need".
"Co-living is nothing new or special," he said. "It's just high cost bedsits. Hackney has a clear need for affordable homes for families, yet London planning policy has chosen to open up another avenue for developers to build sub-standard accommodation.
"The local landowner would not get a great price for a new commercial development, so the developer has proposed a project that only makes a minimal nod to the "commercial" element of the planning requirement, and then maxed out on a residential element so as to boost their profit margin alone.
"Hackney needs affordable housing of various sizes to help house the 3,000 odd families who are already stuck in temporary accommodation."
A spokesperson for Kingsland Road Developments said the proposals will create "much-needed homes for Londoners", as well as offices and other workspaces and "provide a significant boost" for the economy.
"The planning application has been informed by the views of local residents and we very much hope that it will be supported by councillors in due course," they added.