Proposals For Iconic Local Building Cause Concern

Top floor extension and alterations at Coleman Court are gathering objections

Artist's impression of top floor extension proposals at Coleman Court. Picture: Mohsin Cooper

Plans to redevelop the Art Deco apartment building on the corner of Kimber and Burr roads have provoked local concern. There are now almost a hundred objections and comments regarding a planning application for the development of Coleman Court which proposes the addition of a fifth floor containing 20 new flats, the demolition of a bungalow in the courtyard, and the construction of a three-storey block of apartments.

Wandsworth Council will be considering the planning proposals from the properties owners Manhill Co Ltd and architects Mohsin Cooper in the coming weeks.  

Sue Wixley, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Putney, Southfields and Roehampton said: “This is an iconic local building and a much-loved home to many, so any new development requires careful planning and consultation with the community.”

“It’s crucial that new homes are designed to meet the needs of Wandsworth residents as set out in the Council’s planning policies. Unfortunately, the proposed plans fall short in some key areas, which is why I have lodged an objection and encourage local residents to have their say too.  

“By the developer’s own calculations, 0% of the new homes in the plan will be affordable. All but one of the news flats will be inaccessible, ruling out disabled people from being residents or visitors to these new homes. And most of the units are one-bedroom and studio flats which means that families would not be properly catered for. While the plan would certainly provide new homes, it’s not clear that they’d be the right types of new homes..”

Coleman Court

Benjamin Cohen of Coleman Court’s owners Manhill Co said: “Regarding affordable housing, whilst it is correct that we are proposing to build a large number of flats, developing on a rooftop has various complex and challenging constraints that need to be overcome and therefore does not provide enough return to offer affordable housing.

“However, I would add that rooftop development does offer the opportunity to add a large number of flats to the local housing stock without building on land designated for other uses. Building upwards is the only way for dense cities like London.”

With its distinctive curved frontage and sunny courtyard, Coleman Court was built in 1939 behind the ‘OK Sauce’ factory on Merton Road. It was designed by Berlin-born architect  Peter Caspari  who fled the Nazis for Britain during the second World War.

It is one of the stops on a walking tour organised by local historian Geoff Simmons who says: “It would be such a shame to see this distinctive landmark development altered in this way… Telling people on my tours about how the architect found sanctuary here, in Wandsworth, from persecution is so important and ties in with our historical support and connection with refugees and the oppressed in this borough, such as the Huguenots whose tears are of course enshrined on our council crest.

“Coleman Court is a hugely distinctive building positioned as it is in front of a very wide, open space. It’s even been appreciated from the air through a magnificent series of photos taking during its construction on the 'Britain from Above' website (EPW058596 ENGLAND (1938). Coleman Court, Kimber Road, Burr Road and environs, Southfields, 1938 | Britain From Above ).

Commenting on the proposals the Wandsworth Society added: “ The Society has no objection to the extension of the residential accommodation at roof level as although the building has some historical interest by way of the architect Mr David Caspari, who was concerned with the design and construction of Art Deco/Streamline Moderne buildings in the 1930s, the building is not listed nor in a Conservation Area.

“Our objection is to the reconstruction of the "porters lodge" backing onto Burr Road. The plans submitted by Mohsin Cooper drawing No 0280-PO21 show a most uninspiring flat roofed (although green) three storey building providing three two bedroomed units. The elevational treatments are bland and although the brickwork is stated to match the existing brickwork of the Court, the impression which is given is drab and out of keeping with the quality of the remainder of the estate.

The Society concludes: “If your members (Wandsworth planning committee) are minded to grant consent in principle, could a condition be imposed that revised designs for the porter’s lodge need to be agreed.”

June 8, 2020