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Concern as Mayor of London calls in planning application near historic graveyard

Islington Council has expressed concern after the Mayor of London intervened to “call in” a planning application that could see an 11-storey building dominating one of London’s most historic burial grounds.
 
Bunhill Fields, in City Road, is the final resting place of more than 120,000 Londoners, including the artist and poet William Blake, whose work includes ‘Jerusalem’, and the writer Daniel Defoe, author of ‘Robinson Crusoe’.
 
The graveyard was established in the 1660s near the site of an even older burial ground. It became a well-known resting place for Nonconformists, and contains the graves of writer and preacher John Bunyan, and Susanna Wesley, the mother of Methodist founder John Wesley. It closed to new burials in the 19th century and is now a quiet public open space managed by the City of London.
 
A planning application lodged with the council seeks to demolish existing buildings on the corner of City Road and Featherstone Street, beside the graveyard, and replace them with four buildings, two of which would be 10 and 11 storeys and two five storeys.
 
The council had expressed initial concerns that it was an unacceptable location for a tall building and the design could cause “significant harm” to the setting of Bunhill Fields, which is a Grade I Registered Park and Garden of Special Historic Interest, and has 75 listed tombs within its boundary.
 
But the Mayor has “called in” the application – taking the decision-making away from the council. He set out his decision to intervene and “act as the local planning authority” for the application in a letter to Islington Council. 
 
It states that failure to promote development on sites such as this “could potentially impact upon the economic health of…London as a whole”.
 
Islington Council’s executive member for Housing and Development, Cllr James Murray, said: “Once again, the Mayor has ignored local decision-making for a major planning application.
 
"He has also disregarded our concerns that the applicants have not provided the evidence needed to properly assess how this proposal will affect local residents."
 
This is the third time in two years that the Mayor has decided to “call in” a major planning application in Islington.
 
In January 2014 he “called in” a planning application for the Mount Pleasant site after the council raised concerns about the small amount of genuinely affordable housing proposed in the plans.
 
A few months before, in December 2013, he called in the City Forum development on City Road after the council refused the applications.
 
The application is due to be considered by the Mayor at a hearing at City Hall on 8 February 2016.

For more information contact:

Eugene Grant
Senior Media Officer
0207 527 2530
eugene.grant@islington.gov.uk

Notes to editors

Under Section 2A of the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act, the Mayor of London has the power to act as the local planning authority for the purposes of determining planning applications.