Student housing with daylight-blocking rooms wins UK's 'worst new building' award

Natural light is a luxury not a necessity for some students in UCL's multi-million pound block in London

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The Independent Online

A £18m student block criticised for letting rooms without daylight has officially been named the UK’s worst new building.

Part of University College London, the development on Caledonian Road was awarded Building Design magazine’s annual Carbuncle Cup today, weeks before welcoming its first residents.

The now infamous building has 23 rooms that face directly onto an old, listed façade and do not meet legal requirements for daylight. Students allocated to these rooms will have to look sideways to see outside.

Planning permission was refused by Islington Council and only awarded after a 2010 appeal, in which a planning inspector decided the rooms 'would not be unacceptably oppressive within the context of the intended typical nature of occupation'. He ruled that daylight is not a necessity for the average student.

Cllr Paul Convery, chair of the Islington Council committee which turned down the original planning application, said: "We refused planning permission for reasons including the poor quality of the design, and the poor quality of amenity for students.

"We were very disappointed that the government inspector overturned the council's decision and granted planning permission for this building."

Defending the decision to go ahead with the new build, a spokesperson for UCL commented: "The final design complies with all necessary planning regulations in respect of outlook, amenity and natural daylight. It evolved through in-depth and extensive consultation with Islington Council’s planning, conservation and urban design officers."

The flats are advertised on the UCL accommodation website with prices at £169.05 per week for a single ensuite. With rents in university housing rising annually and many students struggling with debt, the rooms have been met with fierce criticism and dubbed "unfit for purpose" by the National Union of Students.

This article was updated to include a comment from Islington Council.