Originally completed in 1969, Lincoln Court is a notable example of the architecture of the period, having been designed to the newly defined Parker Morris Standards contained in the 1961 Ministry of Housing and Local Government report – ‘Homes for today and tomorrow’ and the follow-up Design Bulletin 6 – ‘Space in the home’.
The blocks were well considered in their design, with an exceptional level of detailing for the time, and with amenity and play space standards in line with current London Plan requirements while achieving a level of density slightly above typical current standards.
The have since become an iconic landmark in north London, appearing in various media and books, as well as Lincoln Court and some of its residents being featured in a BBC Countryfile episode on nature in cities.
London Plan Policy 7.4 (Local Character) makes clear that development should have regard to the form, function and structure of an area and the scale and mass and orientation of surrounding buildings. It goes on to state that buildings, streets and open spaces should provide a high-quality design response that (a) has regard to the pattern and grain of the local area; (b) contributes to a positive relationship between the urban structure and natural landscape; (c) is human in scale, ensuring that buildings create a positive relationship with the street; (d) is influenced by existing character; and (e) is informed by the surrounding historic environment.
London Plan Policy 7.6 (Architecture) makes clear that buildings and structures should (a) be of the highest architectural quality; (b) appropriately define the public realm; (c) comprise detail and material that complement local character; (d) not cause harm to the amenity of surrounding land and buildings; (e) incorporate best practice in resource management; (f) provide high quality indoor and outdoor spaces; (g) be adaptable to different uses; (h) meet the principles of inclusive design and (i) optimise the potential of sites.
Policy DM1 (High quality design) makes clear that the Council will require all developments to be of high quality design and does on to state that, in relation to setting and context, it must be demonstrated that development proposals have addressed a number of criteria, including the following:
(i) Reinforce and complement local distinctiveness and vernacular to create a positive sense of place;
(ii) Respect the visual integrity and established scale, massing and rhythm of the building, frontages, group of buildings or street scene (including characteristic building lines and plot widths), of which they form a part;
(iii) Retain, enhance and/or create open spaces, views, landmarks, characteristic rooflines and other townscape features which make a positive contribution to the character of the area;
(iv) In the wider context, be of a height and massing which responds to and is compatible with the townscape, landscape, urban setting and adjacent buildings, has regard to heritage assets and to the particular circumstances of the site;
(v) Optimise the distinctive character of the existing buildings, landscape and topography;
(vi) Provide and ensure adequate sunlight, daylight and open aspects to all parts of the development and adjacent buildings and land and ensure that proposals are not obtrusive in relation to adjacent buildings.
Lincoln Court represents a good example of the high-density housing of its time. It provides a well-planned and cohesive place, where three evenly-placed square towers are staggered and integrated with car parking and raised decks to allow views and overlooked communal open space and play space without causing over-looking issues for the flats themselves. The existing towers provide an iconic backdrop to the East Reservoir when viewed from the west by providing a distinctive silhouette and local landmark, and front on to a residential street of mainly two-storey houses.
The proposed scheme fails to take account of the cohesive and integrated nature of the structures on the site and seeks to ‘chop them up’ and introduce three additional buildings – effectively breaking the place by displacing car parking, removing communal open space/play space and removing a communal heating boiler and damaging the character and appearance of a local landmark. It would be challenging to find an appropriate scale and architectural language to ensure that a potential scheme provides an acceptable high-quality development that satisfactorily responds to this context.