Proposed redevelopment – how it might look

The Civic Society has objected to the plan to add two storeys to the grade II listed Regent House and to build a 5 storey building  on the car park opposite. The intention is to use both buildings as student accommodation. The deadline for objections is the 15th Feb and we’d like as many of you as possible to add your personal objections to the growing list of them from lots of private individuals.

You can object to this application by clicking on this link – https://planning.leicester.gov.uk/Planning/Display/20222167 – and then on ‘Comment on this application’ at the top of the page.

On behalf Of Leicester Civic Society I am objecting to planning applications 20222167 (71 Princess Road West  – Waterloo House, 80 Regent Road  -Regent House & land south of Regent Road between Tigers Way and West Street) & 20222168 (80 Regent Road)

I would like to start off with comments regarding the proposed changes to the grade II listed Regent House. This building consists of three separate villas built in the nineteenth century and converted into a hospital in the 1920s. The building was given grade II listed status in 1975 while still in use for that purpose. When the building was converted to offices some years ago, the facades of the building were retained as-is.

In the response to the pre-application letter from 2021, the developer received an opinion that the increase in height to the building could detract from the original elevations (Design and Access Statement 3.1.4). Despite this, the proposed application will have exactly that effect. In keeping with the vast majority of the New Walk Conservation Area, the buildings were originally constructed with three floors (plus a partly visible lower ground floor). Adding two storeys to Regent House would increase the height by roughly two thirds, making it significantly taller than all the neighbouring buildings. This would also negatively alter the overall proportions of the building, as the mansard roof would comprise too much of the overall size of the building. The Heritage Impact Assessment states that the primary architectural interest of Regent House lies in its façade, which is true, but the impact on this would be significant if the proposal is approved.

In section 5.10 of the Design and Access Statement, several examples of mansard roofs which have been added to existing buildings are shown and 5.10.2 specifically cites an example from Gusshausstrasse in Vienna. They state that this shows a modern, two storey roof extension being combined seamlessly with classical architecture. What they don’t mention, or show in their photograph, is the height of the original building. A search on Google Street View shows that it is six storeys high, so the addition of two extra storeys will have less of an impact on the building, or on the surrounding buildings, which are of similar height. The roof extension in this case is barely visible from the street below. In contrast to this case, the proposed extension to Regent House would be clearly visible from all surrounding streets and would dominate the immediate area.

Section 3.2.57 of the Heritage Impact Assessment states that the increase in scale would reinstate the prominence of the building, especially in relation to the neighbouring Waterloo House. In my experience of regularly passing this building for a number of years, Regent House has never lost its prominence in the local setting. Waterloo House may have a longer façade along Tigers Way, but overall it was built to a scale which would not detract in any way from the prominence of Regent House on its corner site.
The colour of the roofing materials would also negatively impact the appearance of Regent House. As the roof extension would constitute such a significant part of the overall elevation, the contrast between the white of the existing façade and the grey of the zinc roofing tiles would negatively affect the appearance of the building.

The Heritage Impact Assessment repeatedly states that there would be little impact on the surrounding listed buildings, but this is simply not the case.  The closest of them to Regent and Waterloo Houses (New Walk Museum, Paget House and 59 & 61 Princess Road West, including 1 West Street) are either two or three storeys high, in keeping with the vast majority of buildings within the conservation area. By increasing the height of Regent House, and to a lesser extent Waterloo House, these buildings will be increasingly overshadowed.

The planning documents make frequent reference to the desire to see Regent House and the new building on the land opposite as a gateway to the part of New Walk Conservation Area west of Tigers Way. Regent House already acts in this capacity without being overly dominant in the surrounding area. Apart from obvious landmarks, such as Holy Trinity church further down Regent Road, the Conservation Area does not have any overly prominent buildings which stand significantly higher than neighbouring ones.

The scale of the proposed building on the car park opposite Regents House is also of some concern; in fact this concern was raised as part of the response to the pre-application letter in 2021 (Design and Access Statement 3.1.13).  This stated that a five storey building on this site could have an overbearing impact on the houses at 77-95 Regent Road. I would like to add that the same impact would be felt by the residents of the south side of West Street. The drop in elevation on Regent Road would mean that a building of this size built so close to West Street would appear more like a six storey building.

My other concern is that the four trees covered by TPOs in the car park (mature beech and lime trees) are only going to be retained “subject to more detailed technical information” (Design and Access Statement 3.1.15). These days the importance of trees in an urban environment is widely recognized, so any works on this site should not be allowed if they damage them in any way, especially the beech trees, which have shallow root systems, making them more susceptible to disturbance.

For the reasons stated above, I urge the Planning Department and the Planning and Development Control Committee to refuse planning permission in relation to these two applications.

Regent House – Planning Application – two storey extension and conversion to student flats