Planning & Development

 

BRAG supports residents 

 

BRAG has been asked by a number of residents to support their objections to inappropriate planning development in sites south of the Euston Road – in Kings Cross, Holborn, Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia. Of those that have already been debated by Camden’s Planning Committee, one application was refused permission, and one was granted. In this instance (rear of Britannia Street) BRAG’s involvement has been key to ensuring the developer must set up a community working group, so that residents will be able to have dialogue and input during the construction phase. Several other applications are awaiting decision.

Templar House, High Holborn

Templar House, High Holborn (today)  

Height of proposed new building viewed from Red Lion Square 

Proposed mass overlooking residents in Eagle Street

On Thursday 22 March the Planning Committee had to make a decision on an application to demolish and refurbish Templar House, a fine, beautifully detailed 1950s neo-classical office block, that defines the essential character of High Holborn.

 

BRAG was pleased to support the deputation being made by the Red Lion Tenants & Residents Association, speaking for the Red Lion Estate and its neighbours directly to the north of the development site. The Estate includes many social housing units accommodating families with children and many vulnerable residents including the elderly, the disabled and those with mental health issues.

 

Local residents were strongly opposed to this proposed development which would result in local people living in the shadow of a 15 storey structure, more than doubling the height of the existing building that overlooks Eagle Street today. Although a late submission, BRAG’s objection was read out to the Planning Committee during the meeting.

 

The applicant proposed to replace the existing office building with a development of two parts  -  a new commercial building on High Holborn 12 storeys high (reduced from 14 no. originally) and a residential building accessed from Eagle Street, a narrow street to the rear, comprising 52 residential units, 4 of which would be allocated for social housing.

 

It was suggested by planning officers that any loss of light to neighbouring residential properties, in the Red Lion Estate and in neighbouring streets, was outweighed by the merits of the additional commercial and residential space.  Local residents contended that the mass, density and height of this proposed development were just too great to be acceptable, as noted by the GLA and other bodies.

 

Local residents also disputed the developer’s claim that the proposed building would not be unduly prominent as demonstrated by views taken from Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Gray’s Inn and Red Lion Square. But there was a suspicion that these images had been manipulated to minimise the impact on the surrounding area.   

 

The webcast of committee meetings can be useful and informative. Although officers recommended approval, Councillor Danny Beales asked a very simple question: “The Conservation Area Committee don’t particularly like it. The Design Review Panel, our independent design experts, don’t like it - think it’s too high. All of those experts locally and nationally seem to have some issues with it. Yet we decided we don’t. Why?”

 

Why indeed? Neither Heritage England nor the GLA were in support.

 

Councillor Flick Rea spoke eloquently when she said, “This is part of a residential area. I can’t believe we’re settling for a rather handsome, if too tall, building for 4 affordable flats and a quarter of a million pounds to stop us complaining about pollution.” 

 

It was good to see that the majority of the Planning Committee recognised the so-called “public benefits” did not outweigh harm to the character of the area, the destruction of an historic façade and a huge negative impact on residential amenity. Following the vote as to whether the officers’ recommendation should be approved or not, Councillor Heather Johnson, the Chair, said “I think that is clearly lost”. Lost for whom? For those who would profit from the redevelopment, of course. But it was certainly welcomed by the residents who live nearby.

 

Despite being recommended by Camden Planning Officers, the Councillors on the Planning Committee backed local residents in refusing approval. But this is unlikely to be the end of the battle to ensure redevelopment of Templar House does not cast an enduring blight on the neighbourhood.

Derby Lodge, Wicklow Street (rear of Britannia Street)

Location of office development to be built in courtyard of Derby Lodge  

Derby Lodge  viewed from Wicklow Street

Design of office block to be built in residential courtyard - granted planning permission 

In the summer of 2017 BRAG supported the deputation made by Derby Lodge TRA and other neighbours who objected to the application by a hedge-fund developer to construct an office block, (including a basement of 268 sqm) in the courtyard of a Grade II listed high density residential building at the Rear of 1-3 Britannia Street, that wraps round the space.

 

Officers recommended approval and despite a deputation from local residents, members of the planning committee granted planning permission. The absurdity of building an office building in a residential courtyard was brought to the attention of the wider public through a letter in the Evening Standard and CNJ by Stephen Daldry, CBE.

 

BRAG committee members went to see Keir Starmer MP to express their dismay at the decision, and to insist that the developer sets up a community liaison group to ensure input by local residents during the construction process. A letter dated 14 August 2017, from David Joyce, director of regeneration and planning, confirmed that officers had instructed the legal department to include a clause for a community working group as part of the section 106 legal agreement, attached to the planning permission.

 

It was with considerable disquiet that local residents of Derby Lodge were visited by surveyors in January 2018, with the information that construction would be starting shortly.  BRAG’s intervention (and persistence) resulted in confirmation from senior officers that the Section 106 agreement had not yet been signed by the developer and that it was indeed his responsibility to set up a community working group before any work to construct an office building in the courtyard could commence.

Cyclone House, 27-29 Whitfield Street, Fitzrovia

 Crabtree Fields and Colville Place   

Cyclone House (on corner) adjacent to Grade II listed house 

Design of proposed additional height & bulk of Cyclone House (facade amended to remove render & replace with colour wash)

This is a highly confusing planning application, with different numbers and slight alterations, all of which relate to an office block called Cyclone House in Whitfield Street. BRAG was asked for support by the resident who lives next door to this proposed development, which is too high, too bulky and impacts on both residential amenity and the Fitzrovia Conservation Area.  It will affect, in particular, the Grade II listed building that lies next door in Colville Place.  Along with many other neighbouring residents, BRAG has submitted several objections. The fact there is endless “re-consultation” on the application seems to imply that the developer and planning officer hope that eventually objectors will simply “give up” and “go away”.

 

Despite the fact we are commenting on a corner block that abuts Whitfield Street, it is the modest scale and character of Colville Street and Crabtree Fields which provide the key setting and surroundings in which the building will be experienced.  Colville Place retains its charm due to the scale of the terraced dwellings. Crabtree Fields is an oasis of green space in a neighbourhood which is seeing a massive increase in density and over-development. Why wreck it?

 

There is no justification for greater massing and height in this location, and the latest application, with its proposed colourwash, is simply an adjustment which in no way changes local people’s opinion that this proposal is inappropriate and causes harm to residential amenity and the character of the conservation area. One would be tempted to use the phrase – it’s like putting “lipstick on a pig”, defined by Wikipedia as: ”a rhetorical expression, used to convey the message that making superficial or cosmetic changes is a futile attempt to disguise the true nature of a product…”

100-102 Judd Street (Half Cup Cafe)

Half Cup Cafe, ground floor of Jessel House

In April 2018 BRAG supported the Jessel House Residents Association in their objection to a planning application for change of use from class A1 (retail/cafe) to class A3 (restaurant) by a business that has been cooking unlawfully for many years without suitable ventilation.

 

The application site was originally designed as two separate retail units on the ground floor of a large mansion block called Jessel House. The Jessel House Residents’ Association represents the 80 residential properties of a 1914 red brick building which is identified as a Positive Contributor within the Bloomsbury Conservation Area.

 

A review of planning applications revealed that the formation of an opening between 100 and 102 Judd Street was in fact carried out without planning permission.

 

In early 2012, neighbour complaints relating to primary cooking and associated odours resulted in enforcement action. The provision of cooked food for consumption on the premises was considered unlawful. This led to an application in 2013 for a change of use from A1 to A3 which was refused due to harm to residential amenity. Odours from primary cooking permeated the residential flats above the premises, as well as the open stairs and passageways and continue to do so.

 

In our view, despite the use of the premises’ use as a café, and illegal use as a restaurant, this is an inappropriate location for any cooking whatsoever. The reason it was designated a shop, ie. A1, was for the obvious reason that there are 6 storeys of residential flats immediately above, with open stairs and walkways. It is hoped that the combination of objections to the proposal by BRAG, Jessel House RA, BCAAC and local councillors will result in a positive outcome for Jessel House residents.