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As 2024 starts to gallop through January, here’s one of our occasional newsletters to wish all our readers a Happy New Year.


A bit of background (in case you didn’t know)


Bloomsbury Residents Action Group (BRAG) was founded by a group of neighbours in 2016, with the specific aim of reminding decision-makers (eg Camden Council, the GLA and TfL) that there are a very large number of people who live permanently in the three Camden wards south of the Euston Road (Bloomsbury, Holborn & Covent Garden and Kings Cross). The ward boundaries changed in May 2022, with part of Kings Cross now north of the Euston Road; parts of Covent Garden lie within Westminster’s boundary, likewise Fitzrovia.


There is still a perception that south Camden is an area of commercial businesses and large health and education institutions, with primarily a transient population of students and tourists. This can lead to decisions which favour commercial operators but which disempower the very people whose permanent residence provides the character and vitality of the various ‘village’ neighbourhoods south of the Euston Road.


BRAG continues to insist, particularly in terms of planning and development proposals, that residents’ concerns and experiences of daily life should be properly considered, in other words that “Residents Matter”.


Our mailing list has grown steadily over the past seven years, and as a small voluntary group, we try to help those who ask for support when presented with yet another inappropriate development on their doorstep. Much of the area we focus on lies within the Bloomsbury Conservation Area. Heritage matters too.


Seeking committee members


The BRAG committee has lost members and added others over the years but we welcome “new blood” and new ways in which residents can make their voice heard more powerfully. If anyone reading this would like to join the existing committee, please contact me directly. Thank you.


Save Museum Street Campaign - update

Screenshot 2023-07-27 at 21.43.33.png

This shows the scale of the proposed tower at One Museum Street which was approved by Camden's Planning Committee on 16 November 2023

Huge thanks to everyone who made the effort to object to this grotesque development proposal, and to the community groups who joined the SMS Coalition. Thanks are also due to Councillors Julian Fulbrook and Awale Olad who have consistently objected to this scheme (and also objected to the scale of the GOSH redevelopment).


As reported in our last newsletter (November 2023) BRAG was invited to join the coalition of community and residents’ groups, led by a core team of extremely energetic Bloomsbury residents who have been running the Save Museum Street (SMS) campaign for over three years.


The campaign is focused on the redevelopment of Selkirk House (former Travelodge Hotel) and the adjacent Victorian block bounded by West Central Street, New Oxford Street and 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, 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 commissioned a plan which shows an alternative approach is possible. This was launched publicly on 7 August, submitted to the Planning Department by SMS during the recent statutory consultation process (along with 93 pages of detailed documentation) and completely ignored.


Camden's Planning Committee approved the contentious scheme on 16th November – seemingly a foregone conclusion. Councillor Sue Vincent (Labour: Holborn & Covent Garden) raised many important issues and was one of only two Committee members to raise her hand in objection. Tom Simon was the other (Lib Dem Councillor for Belsize ward).


Lotis Bautista (Labour: Kings Cross) and Nasrine Djamali (Labour: Haverstock) brought up the vexed issue of lack of consultation but obviously felt obliged to abstain rather than object to the application. The Chair’s view was clearly persuasive. Heather Johnson (Labour: Regents Park) said as follows: “The consultation may not have been perfect…but if Members think this is an important issue, then obviously the way you vote will be influenced by that. If you think there’s a lack of consultation and that’s enough reason to turn the application down, then that’s your view.”


It is depressing to realise that in the eyes of Camden’s officers and politicians, consultation doesn’t really matter (especially as yes, it's difficult) but the arrogance of developers to choose to deliberately follow a path of non or very limited consultation is a shocking example of democratic deficit. The PR company involved [London Communications Agency] were asked about numbers and eventually admitted engagement with about 40 people.


Camden's decision to approve the scheme was, unfortunately, not unexpected.


However, this is not the end of the campaign...


Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London at the Greater London Authority, has the power to turn the scheme down, so we would encourage readers to email him. If you need reasons to include in your email, please see the Save Museum Street page on our website.



Post: Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, City Hall, Kamal Chunchie Way, London E16 1ZE.  Include the reference: Selkirk House/One Museum Street GLA/2023/0604/S2 



Please also copy to Cllr Anne Clarke, who has been the London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden since 2021 and objected to the proposed scheme.


Development Control in Camden


Camden Civic Society is a campaigning charity covering the whole of the Borough whose main purpose is to encourage people to become involved in shaping the future of their surroundings. The quality of the built environment is integral to residents' health and well being and over-development has become a hugely contentious issue in South Camden.


A discussion paper about development control has been produced by Camden Civic Society. Here is a link to the draft, which can be downloaded HERE. If anyone has comments and further suggestions, please send to Alice Brown who will then feed them back to Camden Civic Society.

Redevelopment of former RNIB headquarters at 105 Judd Street

The current building  (above Left) - the additional height which got planning permission (above Right) 

Towards the end of the Selkirk House / One Museum Street Committee debate there was some discussion about Community Working Groups, which are set up to involve local people in the process of construction. It is not difficult to conclude that this is the Council’s concession to the (obvious) need for community consultation. In our view this engagement should be undertaken properly before development proposals are approved, not simply added to the Section 106 agreement in order to let the community have a bit of say while the unwanted / oversized structure is being built. 


But in some cases, a CLG can be useful. The Construction Liaison Group for 105 Judd Street has been working reasonably well as a conduit for communication and complaint. Though the PR company involved (London Communications Agency - AGAIN) seem to be frustratingly incompetent and inefficient. How difficult can it be to send out an agenda with a reminder of the meeting details?  


The demolition process has now been delayed, and will not commence until April 2024. At the last CLG meeting the project manager confirmed this was a result of market conditions, particularly the cost of materials, which has had an impact on the tender process for the next stage of development. We were told this may cause decisions to be made regarding the main construction works, for which a different contractor will be appointed. We are likely to receive more details at the next CLG meeting, which has not yet been announced.


There is a separate BRAG email list for those who are specifically interested in updates about the redevelopment of the former RNIB building. If you are not on this, and wish to be, please contact me directly on

Redevelopment of Belgrove House

View of Kings Cross station from Argyle Square: for now....but not much longer

This major construction project is currently taking place south of the Euston Road and at the north end of Argyle Square, which lies within the Bloomsbury Conservation Area and is surrounded on three sides by Grade II listed buildings. The Belgrove House footprint was the Access Building, which has now been demolished.


A huge ten storey building will eventually rise to overlook both the historic square and the Grade 1 listed Kings Cross station opposite. Belgrove House is described as a new-build specialised laboratory and office building for the life-sciences sector. It will be occupied by MSD, which is another name for Merck & Co, an American multinational pharmaceutical company.

For those who are interested, there is some information on this website - which was created

 This is what will be built on the former Access site - hugely inappropriate in scale - 

the listed Georgian Argyle Square lies to the rear

The Belgrove House development also has a Community Working Group, once again administered by London Communications Agency, but Mace, the contractors, appear to have little interest in the concerns of local residents or those who run the small hotels, many of which occupy the heritage buildings surrounding Argyle Square.

To add insult to injury, portacabins have been plonked on the west side of Argyle Square, a few metres away from a family home, thereby causing harm (according to Camden’s policies) to both residential amenity and heritage. This unwelcome intrusion is merely to provide welfare accommodation for the Belgrove House development – but surely the developers could have found a more appropriate location? A planning application has recently been submitted for these portacabins, which have therefore been installed without approval.

Camden Centre Licensing Approval

View of Bidborough Street showing the proximity of QAM flats across from the Camden Centre at Camden Town Hall

BRAG submitted a written objection in support Queen Alexandra Mansions (QAM) residents, who were appalled to learn that a new licensing arrangement was being applied for by Il Boccaccio, the company that won the contract to run the Camden Centre (attached to Camden Town Hall) as a late night events venue. The new permitted opening hours are much later than they have been in the past.


Il Bottaccio has now secured the right to keep the venue open until 4am on some weekends, with late finishes also slated throughout the week. Although the north side of the building abuts the busy Euston Road, the new licence does not seem to take into consideration the residential character of the three streets to the rear (Judd, Bidborough and Hastings) especially the proximity of the QAM flats.


In a mixed-use area, it is not easy to create a balance between commercial aspirations and residents’ needs to enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep. A reasonable licensing arrangement is usually the answer. But in this case, there will be 24 nights a year where late-night entertainment for 1,200 people is permitted, leading to the potential of large numbers of people piling onto the street at four o'clock in the morning.


The Camden New Journal has reported on this issue, and in the article on 30 November 2023, readers were reminded that “The Town Hall will collect an annual windfall of more than £400,000 after councillors granted a late licence to event organisers using the council-owned Camden Centre.”


For further details:



The Generator Hostel in Tavistock Place

The Generator's entrance viewed from a flat in Knolly's House, the residential block immediately adjacent to the hostel

For many years Knollys House RA and other local groups and individuals have been battling the impact of the Generator Hostel on the local residential community. BRAG and the Chair of the Residents Association met with the current manager (Felix Array) in July 2023, and were assured he would take a more proactive approach in dealing with concerns and keep intrusive noise to a minimum.


This is not always obvious, and frequently the hostel’s guests gather early or late for noisy conversations that inevitably reverberate around the courtyard, a short distance from residents’ homes. The decision to operate a 800 bed hostel for (mostly) large groups of young visitors in a residential neighbourhood inevitably causes friction. This means that residents living in such close proximity to the hostel have no option but to make a fuss to enjoy a reasonable quality of life.


Brunswick Centre - proposed Underground Hotel

A planning application was submitted in November 2023 which proposes to repurpose part of the two-storey carpark beneath the Brunswick Centre as a 207 bedroom hotel with associated reception and food and beverage facilities. This would involve lowering the existing basement slab currently separating the upper and lower basement levels. An entrance to the hotel would be provided within a retail unit (unit 38a) at ground floor level, and air source heat pumps and PV panels located at roof level. These would have an unwelcome impact on the design of this Grade II listed building.


Concerns were raised by the 20th Century Society, Bloomsbury CAAC, the Tenants & Residents Association, BRAG and many individual residents of the mixed-use Centre. To date there has been no further information on the progress of this application, though it is likely that conversations with Camden’s planning department continue behind the scenes.

Great Ormond Street Hospital’s new Children’s Cancer Centre

Design of the future entrance and facade of GOSH (hugely increased in scale) on the north side of Great Ormond Street

This development received planning approval in 2023, despite considerable opposition from local residents and businesses, and articulate deputations from objectors at the Planning Committee meeting.


The demolition of the Frontage Buildings in Great Ormond Street, to be followed by the construction of such a massive new building, will have a huge impact on the immediate neighbourhood. Great Ormond Street itself is a very narrow road, lined on the south side by several important heritage buildings. It is not a suitable route for a large amount of construction traffic.


Prior to receiving planning approval, GOSH refused to engage with nearby residents and businesses who raised a large number of concerns about the sheer practicality of enlarging the hospital facilities within such a dense residential neighbourhood. As with the Selkirk House development, the local community's views were ignored.


Once construction is due to start, Camden urges consultation with the community in developing a viable Construction Management Plan. But by this time, there's a tendency for people to think, "what's the point? We were ignored before..."


However, we have been informed of the following drop-in sessions, so please put these dates in your diary, if interested in finding out more about the GOSH redevelopment. They are being held in the lecture theatre in Weston House, Great Ormond Street as follows:

•          Between 5pm and 7pm on 24 January 2024

•          Between 3pm and 6pm on 21 February 2024.


Information is available on the website:



Camden’s Statement of Community Involvement

Camden Council has published their draft Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) 2023 which is out for public consultation.
This sets out how the Council will involve and engage residents, businesses and local organisations when they prepare planning policies and consider planning applications.


Based on the recent experiences of applications such as Selkirk House, Belgrove House and Great Ormond Street Hospital, one wonders about Camden's attitude to Community Involvement – or whether such documents make any difference to decisions made by the Planning Department.


To find out more and share your views on the draft SCI please visit Have Your Say Today - Draft Statement Of Community Involvement - Commonplace. The deadline is 31 January 2024.


Here's a bit of information NOT relating to planning and development!

St George's Gardens, Bloomsbury (entrance Handle Street)

Statue of Euterpe in St George's Gardens

Some very enjoyable community carol singing took place on 17 December at St George’s Gardens (with mulled wine and mince pies to help with the cold). The Third Age Ukele band and a singer from Songhaven helped to keep everyone in tune! The successful event was organised by the Friends of St George’s Gardens and raised £440 for the Trussell Trust, a food bank charity.


There are often interesting events taking place in the Gardens and the former burial ground is a lovely place to visit any time of the year. For more information:


Pollock's Toy Museum

Toy theatre performance at Pollock's pop up shop in Leadenhall Market

Having left its former home in Fitzrovia a year ago, Pollock’s Toy Museum (a registered charity nearly 70 years old) popped up in Leadenhall Market before Christmas. Pollock’s specialism is Victorian toy theatre, and a performance of Dick Whittington and his Cat took place there on December 17th.


The museum collection is now in storage at a shop unit in the Whitgift Centre in Croydon, CR0 1UQ (no.49, near Waterstone’s Bookshop, travel to East Croydon or West Croydon, with a short walk). The Grand Opening (with toy theatre shows) will take place on 20th January 2024 and the space will be open after that as announced, for workshops and activities, plus a display from the collection.


The display and shop at Leadenhall Market at 33 Leadenhall Market, EC3V 1LR (opposite the back of Lloyds of London) will be open on Fridays during January from 11am to 4pm, with further opening hours in February to be announced.


For future events and information, see If you would be interested in volunteering at either venue please see the museum volunteering page for more information. 

I'm sure there are many more things going on locally which are interesting and newsworthy, but that's enough for now!


The BRAG Committee wishes everyone a healthy and peaceful 2024.


Please pass on the newsletter to others who might be interested, and if you're not on our mailing list - and would like to be - do get in touch.


With best wishes,


Debbie Radcliffe and Marianne Jacobs-Lim (co-chairs)

Bloomsbury Residents' Action Group (BRAG)

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