39 Vanbrugh Park, London SE3

Image of proposed change to house - 39 Vanbrugh Park.

Image of proposed change to house - 39 Vanbrugh Park.



The proposal is for a new extension to the back of a semi-detached Georgian, three storey locally-listed house in a prominent Conservation Area at the Standard, in Blackheath.  The house is a grand Georgian townhouse, which is part of a series of townhouses, along Vanbrugh Park.  The owner, who works from home, and wishes to extend his capacities to do so, requires an additional working studio and office spaces.  At present, there is already a three-storey extension to the rear of this property. But it is an 80’s mismatched design and is becoming dilapidated. This existing three-storey extension, in conjunction with the stepped layout of the rooms internally, does not facilitate efficient use of the space nor the owner’s need for a functioning studio and office.  Also the extension is not in keeping with the character of the house. The proposal, therefore, is to demolish this ramshackle three-storey rear extension and to replace it with a new three-storey extension, which will include a new studio and office space.  Also in the loft there is an existing bedroom with dormer window that is rotten. The client, therefore, also requires a new dormer in this existing roof space.


The proposal includes the levelling in the basement of the kitchen and studio space to be on plain with the terrace outside.  This will require a single step up to the existing dining room at the front of the house.  It will also maintain the existing lower level in the basement for a new W.C. under the stairs.  The kitchen is proposed to be in the middle of the house and will have a continuous kitchen counter that runs through to the studio.  This counter will stop short of the wide glazed opening at the rear.  This opening at the rear is designed to allow a maximum amount of light into the working studio.  2.3m above the basement studio it is proposed that a new office is created.  This office will have sliding glass doors that lead to a balcony and look out onto the garden.  2.3m above this new office, it is proposed that we have a large bathroom with glazed roof, frosted side panels (which continue below into the study on the West side) to prevent overlooking and a glass screen at the rear. Glass beams will support the glazed roof and there will be an openable glass panel to facilitate ventilation.  It is envisaged that there will not be overlooking via the side panel, as it is not only obscured glass, but that the panel is adjacent so offers an obliquely angled view, which would not look into the neighbours.  One reason for refusal was that the proposed extension was of excessive bulk and mass. Please note however, that it occupies the same footprint as the existing extension and is a bit smaller than the extension recently granted permission at number 37 Vanbrugh Hill. Another reason for the refusal was based on a misunderstanding that the proposal was not in character with the existing house nor the locally listed houses adjacent. Please note that other houses have similarly massed three storey extensions, these examples can be seen locally.

In the loft, a modest sized dormer window is proposed with side-hung windows that will have timber fenestration to match the existing windows below. The massing of this dormer is designed to be subservient to the existing main roof and sits more than 1.3m above the eaves to do so.  It is only 1200mm high and 2000mm wide- so it is smaller than other dormers along the street. In this way, the proposal is not overbearing in terms of the extension nor the dormer which was a main reason for refusal. This has been revised from the original submission.


The basement is accessed via the existing winding stairs and the W.C. at the lower level is also accessed via the existing stairs, which are to be all maintained.  Access to the office on the upper ground floor is via the winding steps half way up the stairs.  These lead to two steps prior to the door that accesses the office.  The sliding doors in the office, which access the balcony, open out to the garden and from the balcony it is proposed that there will be steps down to the garden level.  Likewise, the bathroom above this is accessed halfway up the stairs, off the winders that lead to a step up to the bathroom door.  Above this in the loft space, it is proposed that the existing steps that lead to the loft bedroom are relocated under the ridge and dormer to facilitate a more open access past the bed in the bedroom. The roof of the ground floor has 400mm wide access ways for maintenance purposes.


The proposed extension is to be built of matching London stock brickwork with the underside of the cantilevered bathroom to be rendered white.  The roof of the extension on the basement is predominantly glazed with a side roofing of lead that acts as a gulley leading to a grey pressed metal gulley and rainwater pipe.  The large opening in the basement at the rear will have a soldier course running the length of the opening.  Above this there will be a stone coping surround.  Open this stone coping, which continues onto the balcony, will be fixed a glass balustrade with stainless steel handrail.  This glass balustrade and stainless steel handrail will continue down the steps to the garden in a curved form.  The windows throughout the extension will be thinly sectioned glazed grey aluminium frames.  The obscured glass in the bathroom shall be of tinted sandblasted Pilkington glass.  The dormer windows however will be designed and constructed to exactly match the existing windows below.  The dormer itself shall have its roof and flank walls clad in lead. One reason for refusal was the mismatched materials – when in fact they all are matched to the existing.


Although this is a three storey replacement extension, it has been designed in such a way as to be in-keeping with the existing house, by carefully designing the levels to run through on the rear elevation and the careful selection of matching materials, including stained brickwork and pointing to match the existing. This proposal is also modest in character, being lower than the existing and not very wide. The client’s requirement for extra sunlight, has led to a lightweight composition of a grand elegance- that is not over bearing or dominant in massing. The proposed extension does not exceed the footprint of the existing extension and it’s volume is in fact slightly less. The proposed extension does not block any of the neighbours’ views or sunlight and the neighbours strongly support the application. So much so, that these neighbours complained to The Blackheath Society and Westcombe Park Society when they noted that these groups had objected on their behalf. Also it is worth noting that next door intend to build their own extension at some point in the future.

In conclusion, this elegant addition to the rear of a grand house in a valued part of Blackheath is a refined, contemporary enhancement to what is presently a somewhat outmoded and ad-hoc addition that is less than in-keeping with such a dignified house and adds nothing to the rear of the house.  The other locally listed houses have three storey extensions with varying degrees of traditional and modern characters and the rear is made up of different types of rear extensions. For these reasons, we believe this proposal for an extension should be granted permission to be built as a welcome addition to the Vanbrugh Park, which has various modern additions and extensions.