A dip in standards

27 Nov 2023

Whilst this blog has been posted under ‘something to make you smile’, it could equally be posted under ‘something to make you cry’ if such a category existed. Maybe it is time to expand the blog categories and all printable suggestions are welcome.

As with almost everything, there are varying degrees of quality for something that essentially does the same ‘job’. Outside of consumerism and inside the world of planning, this too is true of design, architecture, materials, buildings, public realm, landscaping, the list goes on….and it is fair to say that planning and property professionals aim to drive up standards.

No wonder then that an inspector rejected an appeal to retain a DIY disaster of a community building in Hackney (400-043-201). With the best of intentions the appellant had created an indoor play area and mikvah (ritual immersion pool) for the residents of the square, by reconstructing the fire-damaged remains of a former light industrial building. It was not in dispute that there was a demand for the mikvah from the local Jewish community, and that local children, some of whom live in cramped conditions, would benefit from the playroom.

However, the inspector observed the building works were extremely poor quality with blockwork walls and no heating or insulation, and the mikvah, a rainwater pool used for ritual cleansing, had been created from a former inspection chamber no less! Not the obvious environment for a spiritual experience, it must be said. Furthermore, he found the building unsafe, noting a 13 amp wall mounted double socket in the mikvah room, roof timbers that would not support snow loadings, and external doors that opened in and not in the direction of travel in the event of a fire incident. Dull brown external render had been inexpertly applied to the outside and, not to beat about the bush, the inspector described the building as ugly.

Dismissing the appeal, the inspector urged the appellant to seek professional assistance to secure the provision of a building that would be acceptable in planning terms, that would satisfy the Building Regulations, and that would ensure the health and safety of the residents who would use it. Amen to that.

See DCP 26.131 for more cases concerning religious buildings in urban areas.