Last chance to object to the Belgrove House Monstrosity. Official consultation closes on the 9th October 2020.
After months of ‘consultation’ with ‘local stakeholders’, and a PR war with Save Bloomsbury, the development team behind the infamous Belgrove House Monstrosity have taken the hundreds of comments and pointers ‘on board’, and have come back with a design in no way different from that initially presented in May.
The application has been put in, and you have until the 9th October to express your opinion on the development.
A PR Battle
Since the Monstrosity being revealed in May this year, an unusual level of public interest has been shown in the proposals, with up to 500 people a day reading about them on this website alone.
Comments made on this website and by the BCAAC have been covered by the Camden New Journal, the Financial Times, the Architects Journal, and The Times among other prominent news outlets, acting as an effective counterbalance to the vacuous rhetoric surrounding public benefit consistently spewed out by the development team. And despite a number of paid promotional adverts and articles, and their own website, a search of ‘Belgrove House news’ on Google returns two Save Bloomsbury articles as top results.
And an SB tweet condemning the Monstrosity on Twitter was seen by 70,000 people, gained 8,500 engagements, 26 retweets and 66 likes. ‘Looks like the kids have got hold of the pencil tin again’ said David, while Jacqueline Prooth said: ‘Too big, tall, out of character and very boring. Looks like a cheap construction and a 4 year old could do better’. Chris Boot tweeted: ‘The phrase “vile monstrosity” springs to mind’.
Over the months, a number of inspired emails have also been coming through the SB and BCAAC inboxes expressing in very clear terms the selfishness of this development, and the grave threat it poses to the historic environment.
And our FOI request revealed how Camden’s planners had been battling the development team on heritage matters, describing the developer’s approach as ‘high risk’. The team had been asked to ‘come back with a scaled-down proposal’ and to ‘explain exactly how the surrounding townscape has influenced the design.’ The response also revealed a brief moment of panic when Camden and the developers realised their assessment of the historic origins of the site were entirely incorrect, revealed by BCAAC research and posted on this website.
The fundamental issue is that the planning system as it stands does not give much weight to public opposition, even when it is as ferocious and widespread as that shown towards Belgrove House. Harm done to the historic environment can be ‘outweighed’ by other ‘considerations’, meaning Belgrove House still stands a chance of being rightfully approved. The team behind the Monstrosity know this well, which is why they have fully ignored public opposition and undermined the importance of the historic environment.
The card which ‘trumps’ all other considerations is called public benefit, which is why the team have spent all their resource trying to play up the public benefit behind Belgrove House. Cue the wafflings about ‘whole life carbon approach‘, ‘life-saving vaccines’, ‘1000 new jobs’, and all the rest of it. This is the sort of stuff that can justify a development as absurdly inappropriate as Belgrove House. The consultation website even openly stated the developers would pay a substantial sum to Camden if approved, through Section 106.
This is also why the team are building affordable housing on Gray’s Inn Road. There is nothing Camden love more than affordable housing provision – it is after all what the ruling Labour party used as a platform for election, and no doubt will use for reelection.
But it is no secret that Camden rely heavily upon income generated through Section 106, payments made in return for granting a planning application. And increasingly it seems, the income offered through Section 106 outweighs every single other material consideration.
And approval for Belgrove House would truly be the last nail in the coffin for conservationists and local engagement in planning matters in the Bloomsbury and King’s Cross areas. Belgrove House has become something on an icon of exactly how not to go about development in this area. It is quite simply a massive ten-storey middle finger sticking up at St Pancras, King’s Cross, Argyle Square, and the local residents and businesses in the area – and the development team are proud of it. If Camden give the go ahead with this development, it will all but prove that heritage and residential amenity are entirely irrelevant in the face of large scale development, and that any sort of development can be permitted given enough money and PR behind it.
But the views of the public are indeed afforded weight in the planning process, which is why you need to make your own views known about this development as soon as possible.