When it comes to designing and planning in the various boroughs of London, there may not be as many differences as many people assume. However, it’s crucial to recognize the significance of having a deep understanding of each council’s specific preferences, tendencies and preferred methods of communication for design professionals. To get planning permission in Islington, having this local knowledge and using Islington Architects can make all the difference in successful project discussions and execution.

Islington Borough is often thought of as having strict conservation and design guidelines, but it’s not quite that simple. Yes, most of the borough is a conservation area, so conservation issues are always at the forefront of planning discussions and it’s true that the conservation officers are dedicated to their mission statement. However, the planners aren’t as strict as some may think, and there’s definitely room for creativity and individuality in the designs that are approved. So if you’re considering a project in Islington, don’t be intimidated by the conservation label – there’s plenty of opportunity for beautiful and unique designs.

While many may hold misconceptions about Islington’s design preferences, the reality is quite the opposite. Islington is actually home to some of the most advanced and innovative design attitudes in London. The borough has a soft spot for creative contemporary design that values thoughtfulness and innovation above simply recreating the past. As long as proposals are considerate and respectful of the conservation context, Islington’s planning and conservation officers are flexible and open to discuss any good proposal.

Listed buildings and buildings in conservation areas present an exciting design challenge. Two distinct approaches can be taken to maintain the integrity of the area. Firstly, creating something new but giving it an appearance that blends in with the existing architecture. Alternatively, a bold and modern design can be introduced while still preserving the clear distinction between old and new. It’s an opportunity for architects to showcase their creativity and sensitivity to the historical significance of the location.

The UK, and London specifically, are gravitating towards involving planners early on in the design process rather than treating them as an external enforcer. Islington’s planning professionals are also in alignment with this trend. It’s crucial to collaborate with planners and include them as a valued member of the project’s team. This shift reflects the importance of considering planning and design holistically rather than as isolated elements.

As with many other such professional interactions, your own approach and the attitude which you bring into the process will strongly affect what you will get out of it.

Achieving success in design requires collaboration with the planning process and current trends. To ensure success, it’s crucial to present clear and concise information early on during pre-planning consultations. Innovative and friendly designs are a must, but they must also blend seamlessly with their surroundings and adhere to planning and conservation regulations. Simply being distinct and modern is not enough. Careful consideration must be taken when integrating a design with its local context.

The steps are as follows:


1. Design a beautiful, considerate, yet bold scheme which you can back up with clear logic internally and externally, both in terms of design and usability but also sustainability and careful regard to planning and conservation aspects.


2. Prepare an extensive pre-planning document covering much more than just plans. Create a comprehensive and balanced document discussing the site within its current and historical contexts and all relevant implications of your new intervention.


3. Rather than passively submitting a pre-planning application and patiently awaiting the council’s written advice, take proactive steps to engage with the planners early on. Invite them to join your team by genuinely discussing your client’s aspirations, timeframes, and any considerations you may have overlooked.


4. Show willingness to listen to their comments and create a fruitful discussion that benefits everyone involved. By collaborating and working together, you can ensure a smoother and more successful planning process.


5. Our hands-on and long-term experience with this approach is that when we are starting our discussions with the council on these lines we meet positive responses which enables us, in turn, to yield the desired results to your clients.


An Example:


Our client had a family-owned house that had been around for almost a century in the Barnsbury conservation area. Originally a shop with living space, the client wanted to expand the backyard for either personal use or sale. Unfortunately, the site had no views, was very small and confined, and could not be visible from the road due to strict conservation area rules. The project became even more complicated as new build regulations and standards had to be followed. Despite these challenges, the designers had to come up with a unique solution to allow for natural light and airflow while still meeting open space requirements. It was a challenge, but in the end, they provided an architectural triumph.

Rather than allocating a single area for a small patio garden, the open space wraps around the house and weaves in and out of the Living room and kitchen areas. This offset of the building line from the boundary along with the strategic location of skylights results in an airy and light space which feels much larger than it actually is.

At first, our proposal met strong resistance from the planners due to the obvious restrictions on outlook, light conditions and great difficulty to achieve the standard requirements of open green space. However, with further analysis involving extensive use of 3D (BIM – Building Information Modeling) technology, we managed to demonstrate, to the planners how our innovative design can tackle and alleviate all of their justified concerns one by one. During this collaborative process we took on board many valid points raised by the planners, and finally, the scheme was granted planning permission. More than anything we attribute this success to our continued collaboration with the planners; we always made them feel as though they were a part of the process.

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