While one arm of the council refused planning permission for the owner of 92/93 Francis Street to demolish it, another arm ordered the owner to do “minimal taking down/making-safe works”.
But one thing led to another, and by Tuesday morning what once was a derelict four-storey building had become nothing but a bit of ground-floor facade and a pile of dusty bricks.
“Works necessary to make a building safe carried out under a Dangerous Buildings Notice do not require planning permission,” a council spokesperson said.
On 11 January, architects studio dsq, on behalf of Plunkett Homes Ltd, proposed a four-storey-plus-penthouse, 19-bedroom aparthotel, with a “cafe/community space” on the ground floor for the site.
The building, recognisable for its big “Stop Wars” mural, is listed on the council’s “derelict sites register”. “The buildings are beyond the point of repair and need to be removed to enable effective regeneration,” the architect’s report said.
The planner’s report said there was an overconcentration of hotels in the area. (When asked what methodology was used to determine that – a certain number of hotels in a certain-sized geographic area or what? – a council spokesperson did not give one.)
The planner’s report also said “the existing historic facades of the building should be retained or reconstructed in order to preserve the character of the Architectural Conservation Area”.
True, the council had issued “a dangerous building notice” on 19 January 2021, “following a complaint regarding fallen debris”.
That “DB2” notice required the applicant to make the building safe within 14 days, according to the council spokesperson. However, the planner’s report says, by 2 March “no repairs works, clearing out or further bracing for the facades have been undertaken”.
Still, “the instruction is in no way to be deemed or implied demolition or partial demolition arrangement and that planning permission is required for any demolition works to the building”, the planner’s report says. Any repairs to the building should ensure that the facades are protected and retained, it says.
However, over the past couple of weeks, workers have been tearing the building down, bit by bit.
The dangerous building notice had required “Minimal Taking-Down/Making Safe works to ensure structural stability”, according to a council spokesperson.
But “As the work to remove dangerous parts of the structure were undertaken, it was determined during daily inspections by the Dangerous Buildings Section that the unstable and dangerous condition of the building required the further removal works that have been carried out,” the council spokesperson said.