CASEBOOK: Appeal cases - Community facilities - Escape staircases judged to harm listed synagogue

External spiral staircases and two new doorways proposed at a listed synagogue in a London conservation area have been rejected on the grounds that they would be harmful to the special interest of the building.

The synagogue was an imposing building just over 100 years old and designed in the Byzantine style. The proposed alterations would affect the east elevation, whose symmetrical design featured a central rose window flanked on either side by turrets, with small windows at ground-floor and first-floor level on each side of the turrets. The proposal entailed two new door openings at each level, the first-floor doors being formed by extending the two existing window openings downwards, the ground-floor doors requiring the formation of two new openings.

The inspector took the view that the building's interior would be preserved and that the spiral staircases leading down from the first-floor doors would be neat, unassuming structures which would reflect the symmetry of the elevation. However, he opined that the ground-floor escape measures would interrupt and obscure the stone banding which was a special feature of the elevation and would detract from its symmetrical appearance.

He found that the proposals would comprise insensitive alterations which would harm the building. Due to the partially screened nature of the site, he considered that the steelwork would not be an obtrusive feature in the street scene, and the character and appearance of the conservation area would therefore be preserved. But that conclusion did nothing to alter the seriously harmful effect which the works would have on the listed building, he ruled.

DCS No: 34393369; Inspector: Terence Povey; Written representations.

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