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So proclaimed the front page of the Camden New Journal on 23rd November as Camden's Planning Committee gave the thumbs up to this utterly inappropriate development in the heart of Bloomsbury.

BRAG joined the Save Museum Street coalition in opposition to the proposed redevelopment of Selkirk House at One Museum Street. Built in the 1960s, the tower is already too high, but to create an even taller and larger building in this location will (as everyone says - including Historic England) be over-intensification of the site and a disaster for the Bloomsbury Conservation Area, its visitors and residents.


The site lies in the heart of Bloomsbury, on an important route from Covent Garden to the British Museum. Close by is the Nicholas Hawksmoor church, St George’s Bloomsbury (St George’s Gardens were once its burial ground) - also Bedford Square, the Grade 1 listed, a perfectly preserved Georgian Square. This is an important heritage area. It is also a place where many people LIVE.


It's not that we are against all development, but we need something here that respects its location and the special qualities of this world famous Conservation Area. 


Save Museum Street even developed their own much less harmful approach for the site - which was completely ignored by Camden's planners, who seem to have as blinkered a view of the site as the horses who were once stabled in the Victorian building the developers wish to demolish, despite the adjacent listed buildings and the importance of the heritage block in its own right.  Read this fascinating research about Bloomsbury's historic stables - which is now scheduled for demolition.


Many thanks to everyone who objected to this overwhelming tower proposal. Camden's decision to approve the scheme was, unfortunately, not unexpected.


Here's a link to the webcast  (which may take a while to upload). Two councillors voted against it (Sue Vincent and Tom Simon); two abstained (Lotis Bautista and Nasrine Djemai), but those who voted for demolition and re-building a 74 m tower block in this senstive location were Heather Johnson, Danny Beales, Edmund Frondigoun, Tommy Gale, Liam Martin-Lane, Lloyd Hatton and Sagal Abdi-Wali. 


Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London at the Greater London Authority, had the power to turn it down, but despite letters of request by statutory consultees and members of the public, he chose to approve Camden's decision.  Almost immediately, under delegated powers, the Secretary of State gave it the go ahead too.

Our final option is to seek a judicial review.  

The initial stage of our legal challenge requires £10,000.  We have already raised £2,000 and organised an experienced solicitor.  Can you contribute to the remaining £8,000?  Time is short, we have until early April to raise the funds.

We have started a CrowdJustice page.  

You can use the link to find out more, and donate.  Please publicise this to your friends, neighbours, family and anyone you think will take an interest and support us in Saving Museum Street.  Donations can also be made to:

Account name: The Bloomsbury Association
Account number: 42053560
Sort code: 30-96-26
Reference: SMS legal action
.to everyone who spread the word, sent in an objection,
stuffed a leaflet through a door and gave us a donation, we could not have made it this far without you.

This is what Save Museum Street campaign has achieved over the past three years:
  • Got the first planning application withdrawn

  • Commissioned reports from Simon Sturgis, the sustainability expert, who showed how the proposal failed Camden's climate-change ambitions

  • Commissioned a daylighting report that revealed how very dark the housing interiors will be

  • Safeguarded six Victorian buildings around West Central Street by getting them grade 2 listed by Historic England

  • Created an alternative approach which reused the Travelodge building in order to minimise climate impact, protect the conservation area and provide better quality housing

  • Identified all the relevant Camden and Greater London Authority policies that are being contravened (over 40)

  • Organised a petition to the Mayor signed by over 500 people

  • Received support and written objections from SAVE Britain's Heritage, The Victorian Society, Westminster Council, The Georgian Group, Camden New Journal and over 250 local people.


Why there was so much opposition to the development proposal

Harm to Heritage 

  • Harm to the Covent Garden and Bloomsbury Conservation areas and Grade 1 listed buildings; The British Museum, Bedford Square and Hawksmoor’s St George’s Bloomsbury Church.

  • Destruction of the stable block within the West Central Street / New Oxford Street group of Victorian Grade 2 listed buildings.

  • The harm caused by the height and bulk of the tower is opposed by all the relevant organisations qualified to comment: The Victorian Society, Historic England, the Georgian Group, SAVE Britain's Heritage; also by many local amenity and residents' groups (including the Bloomsbury CAAC, Soho Society, Covent Garden Community Association) and by over 500 people, concerned at the way the proposals would change the character of a much loved area. 

Poor Housing

  • Everyone knows we need more housing; it makes no sense to eradicate the existing 26 dwellings on the site, then provide only 18 additional homes, all of which are over-shadowed by the tower.

  • Of the proposed 112 habitable rooms, 101 fail to meet the minimum daylight and sunlight standards. 

  • 48 habitable rooms and 13 of the  social housing / affordable homes will have zero...yes ZERO daylight and sunlight penetration all year round. 

  • 51 habitable rooms and 13 of the living rooms of the 19 social housing /affordable homes will have zero,,,yes zero daylight and sunlight penetration all year round.  Why should new low rent housing be so below the minimum standards and be contrary to the Greater London Authority’s and Camden’s basic housing standards?

Climate Change
  • The amount of carbon dioxide that will be squandered by demolition and rebuilding on this site is at the very upper end of ‘rip it up and start again’ schemes.

  • The recent decision by the Government to stop the demolition of the M&S store in Oxford Street made clear climate change considerations are now in the forefront.

  • According to both Camden and the GLA’s policies, retrofit of a structurally sound building should be the chosen route.  There are no good reasons not to re-use this building as reported by Camden’s own independent assessors Hilson Moran, but ignored by Camden’s planners and politicians.

Should the redevelopment go ahead in its current form, the question will be asked in years to come. How was this possibly allowed? And why?


Is it possible that Camden Council's plans for public realm improvements in Holborn were key to the "Yes" vote at the Planning Committee meeting?


Currently under consultation is Camden's policy document "Holborn Vision" and various projects under the label "Holborn Liveable Neighbourhood" were made public in 2019.  Then nothing happened.  Was this because they could not go ahead without the developer's financial obligations to Camden, which are enshrined in the legal agreement for planning approval for Selkirk House / One Museum Street? 


Looking at the payments to be made by the developer for "Public Realm Improvements", these describe the same projects identified in the Holborn Liveable Neighbourhood.  Camden NEEDS the money to ensure credibility for their proposals. Where does the money come from? The answer: at least partly from the construction of a 74m tall office block at One Museum Street.


So what about the long term harm to heritage - as identified by Historic England and other heritage groups? What about the negative impact on residents' quality of life during construction?  These are to be sacrificed for a so-called transformation project initiated by Camden Council.

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Save Museum Street coalition is comprised of the following local amenity groups in conjunction with the largest local landowner, The Bedford Estates

Bloomsbury Association   •   Bloomsbury Residents’ Action Group 

Camden Climate Emergency  •  Covent Garden Area Trust. •  Charlotte Street Association  Covent Garden Community Association  •  Drury Lane Residents Association 

Dudley Court Tenants Association  •  Goldsmiths Court RA   •   Grape Street Residents   Leicester Square Association   •   Red Lion Residents Association  •. Rugby & Harpur RA  Friends of Russell Square   •   South Bloomsbury Tenants & Residents Association . Tavistock Chambers Tenants Association  •  The Soho Society 

West Central Street Residents  •. Willoughby Street Residents    

CLICK HERE to read BRAG's initial objection to the scheme in 2021. This application was submitted by Labtech, the owners at this time

CLICK HERE to read BRAG's 2023 Objection. The Applicant is still Labs Selkirk House Limited; a company based in Guernsey, but now owned by BC Partners (a property & investment company) 

CLICK HERE to read a personal objection by DR

As two members of the BRAG committee are also members of Bloomsbury Conservation Areas Advisory Committee (BCAAC) - here's a LINK to BCAAC's objection, focusing on heritage concerns, and a RECENT ADDENDUM

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