PIC 1: Pizza Express building in Kentish Town
PIC 2: Artist’s impression of how the former polytechnic building in Prince of Wales Road could look
Published: 29 August, 2013
by DAN CARRIER
DEVELOPERS who own the former North London Polytechnic building in Kentish Town are weighing up a new bid to convert the one-time further education institute into homes.
The red brick building on the corner of Prince of Wales Road, designed in 1929 by the celebrated architects Riley and Glanfield, was recently a Pizza Express.
There have been two failed bids to demolish the building in the past decade – and now the new plans would see the facade kept, a dozen flats on two new upper floors set back from the roof line, and the ground floor used for either shops or a public space.
It is rumoured that a boutique cinema chain is considering opening a small screen in the ground floor – there was a Gaumont opposite the site that closed after the Second World War.
In 2011 a bid to knock the building down and replace it with flats was thrown out by the Town Hall. An appeal to the Whitehall planning inspectors by owners Redbridge was also thrown out.
Now renowned architectural firm Allies and Morrison are preparing a planning application to put 12 new flats on the roof and inside, create a new private courtyard and provide a retail or entertainment space on the ground floor.
The firm converted other parts of the poly into flats in 1998 and have worked on the Royal Observatory in Greenwich and the Royal Festival Hall. At a recent exhibition at the site to show off plans, their display stated: “The brick facade is an important part of the character of the existing building.
It has already been altered since the original 1929 design – new windows were added when the building was adapted for Pizza Express and higher railings were added at the rooﬂine.
“Our current scheme proposes modest alterations to the elevation so that we can provide windows for new ﬂats inside the building.”
It stated they would also consider enlarging windows on the ground floor to make the building more attractive and open.
With the scheme having more than 10 flats, they would also reach the threshold for providing a contribution to affordable housing in the borough – be it flats on site or a cash contribution.
Vice-chairman of One Prince of Wales Residents Association Alan Morris said they cautiously welcomed the new plans, and said it was an improvement on previous ideas.
The flats he represents are attached to the building and were also part of the polytechnic.
He said: “We want a high quality building for Kentish Town. The first scheme proposed was very bad. The second scheme proposed was very bad. Frankly. This is much better.”
He said one crucial selling point was the way the architects wanted to keep the red brick frontage, a well known and much-loved feature in Kentish Town Road.
He said: “It is a relief the architects have recognised that the facade is worth utilising.”
He added they would be happier if the number of flats offered were reduced and the footprints made bigger, as this could reduce the height proposed.
The scheme has also got the tacit backing of the Kentish Town Neighbourhood Forum. Forum secretary John Nicholson said Allies and Morrison had engaged with them, meeting before the public exhibition and listening to their concerns.
“They have been very open to what people want,” he said. “We have been very impressed and they have been conscious of the history of what happened here before.
“We are of course aware they are representing a developer who wants to make a profit: they want to build and make money out of it but they have come up with a design that is infinitely better than the ideas suggested previously.
“Importantly, they remain open to what the ground floor could be used for. It could be a small cinema, or for craftsman with small stalls.”