The demolition of much of the historic quadrangle of the former Royal Free Hospital on Gray’s Inn Road has today been approved by Camden Council, in conjunction with the GLA. Despite vociferous opposition from ourselves and Historic England, along with letters sent directly to the Mayor and the Secretary of State, neither Camden nor the […]
The demolition of much of the historic quadrangle of the former Royal Free Hospital on Gray’s Inn Road has today been approved by Camden Council, in conjunction with the GLA.
Despite vociferous opposition from ourselves and Historic England, along with letters sent directly to the Mayor and the Secretary of State, neither Camden nor the GLA had any ‘heritage concerns’ to raise about the proposal.
This is despite the application entirely demolishing three of four sides of the historic quadrangle, which Historic England judged to make a ‘strong positive contribution’ to the ‘institutional and civic character of the Bloomsbury Conservation Area’. In its place we will see a building of entirely inappropriate scale and design.
It is a dark day for the conservation of heritage in Bloomsbury and Camden. If a building of this importance cannot be preserved, then what can?
Perhaps even more unfortunate is that the approval of this application was inevitable from the beginning. ‘Heritage concerns’ are too often simply a minor irritation to developers and planners alike when it comes to getting large applications such as this one approved. Despite the obvious historic value of the building, as it had not been listed and due to an error on Camden’s part which saw part of the quadrangle left off the ‘local list’, it allowed the applicant to claim that the historic quadrangle had little to no historic value at all – on a par with a semi-detached in Birmingham, in other words. Thanks to this the applicant only had to wave their hands about the ‘public benefit’ that would be brought by a research centre and Camden all too eagerly played along.
The other driving force behind approval of this application is the payment that Camden and the GLA will receive in Section 106. Section 106 works in a similar manner to a ‘tax’ on the size of a building. The building which has been approved is of an inappropriately large size which will ensure that both Camden and the GLA receive a very sizeable payment.
It is confirmed that Camden will receive around £3M in Section 106.
The damage that this application will do to heritage cannot be overstated. Beyond the immediate damage caused by demolition of the quadrangle and the negative effect the new building will have on the area, the precedent set by this demolition and the scale and size of the new building will have wider implications for the area. Future applicants will find it easier to demolish and build upon sites of historic importance and will no doubt push for even greater size and height.
Historic England have already indicated that the boundary of the Bloomsbury Conservation Area will have to be revised to ‘cut out’ the new building from the area. It is beyond anyone’s guess how Camden can argue that they are ‘preserving and enhancing’ the Bloomsbury Conservation Area when their actions will possibly cause the conservation area to shrink in size for the first time since its designation in 1968.
We Meet with Camden
On 5th February our committee met with Camden’s Head of Development Management, Bethany Cullen, and Enforcement Manager, Elizabeth Beaumont, to discuss the Bloomsbury Conservation Areas. Overall, the meeting was positive and it seems that we will be working together in the future to combat some of the problems afflicting the conservation areas. We learned some […]
On 5th February our committee met with Camden’s Head of Development Management, Bethany Cullen, and Enforcement Manager, Elizabeth Beaumont, to discuss the Bloomsbury Conservation Areas.
Overall, the meeting was positive and it seems that we will be working together in the future to combat some of the problems afflicting the conservation areas. We learned some interesting news which no doubt will change the landscape of conservation in Camden, but we cannot yet release the details of this to the public. We can release details of the following:
Fighting Telephone Box Blight
The neglect of telephone boxes and their inappropriate use as commercial premises has been negatively impacting on all of our conservation areas, but particularly the Bloomsbury Conservation Area. We have heard that Camden are working to solve these problems.
We heard that Camden are working to ensure that unnecessary and non-heritage telephone boxes are removed from the streets. Unfortunately Camden have limited powers to ensure their removal but are working with providers to remove them where necessary.
It is well known that many heritage (red) Telephone Boxes are being used as commercial premises, which we believe to be entirely inappropriate. We heard that providers sold some of their boxes to new owners who believed that they could set up shops in them. Whilst this has in some cases been granted planning permission, the subsequent spilling out of the activities in these boxes onto the pavement is not permitted and Camden’s enforcement team has been working with Highways to stop this happening. We are pleased to hear that we have a common interest in this issue at it was previously believed by the public that this usage of the highway had been permitted by Camden.
We will be taking up an offer to start going on ‘enforcement walks’ through the conservation areas to pick up on enforcement issues with Camden’s enforcement. This will certainly help us to get on top of enforcement issues, and also more easily clarify whether particular issues are subject to enforcement or not.
The process of determining small applications works well throughout our conservation areas, with our consultation responses being respected and positive discussion between ourselves and officers. However we do feel as though we significantly disagree on the merit of large developments which have been approved over the past few years. It is clear to us that there is a large difference of opinion between ourselves and Camden regarding the importance of heritage when it comes to these large developments, and it is of importance that we find a way to understand what is causing this difference of opinion and how we might bridge this gap.
When we raised the issue of the possibility of large Section 106 payments being to blame for the blight of overdevelopment, we were told that the size of Section 106 payments do not come into consideration in determining applications.
Ban Dockless Bicycles from Bloomsbury
We have learned that Camden are working with London Councils to draft a bylaw to control dockless bicycles, with the possibility of exclusion from certain areas. We have asked for dockless bicycles to be banned from the Bloomsbury Conservation Areas. These bicycles have a detrimental effect upon the special character and appearance of our conservation […]
We have learned that Camden are working with London Councils to draft a bylaw to control dockless bicycles, with the possibility of exclusion from certain areas.
We have asked for dockless bicycles to be banned from the Bloomsbury Conservation Areas.
These bicycles have a detrimental effect upon the special character and appearance of our conservation areas. There is very little public benefit arising from their presence in Central London, and significant public nuisance caused. Why exactly these bicycles are being supported at all considering the disaster in China is beyond us, although it has been speculated that it is partially political opposition to London’s own hire cycles still known as ‘Boris Bikes’.
We have also heard that these bicycles are facilitating crime in our conservation areas.
Whether or not we will see a full ban on these bicycles in Central London is unknown. It is perhaps more likely that ‘Can’t do Camden’ will simply allow these bicycles to persist for fear of increased costs in enforcement. We know from experience that the Highways Department fails to even get their own abandoned highways equipment removed within two years, so for them to carry the burden of enforcing a ban appears to be near-on impossible.
Regarding dockless bicycles in the Bloomsbury Conservation Areas.
We write concerning the usage of dockless bicycles in the Bloomsbury Conservation Areas. This is a set of seven conservation areas which we now cover as a CAAC, which comprises all of Camden south of Euston Road, except Hatton Garden. Although our purpose is primarily to comment on applications in our conservation areas, we take a wider interest in the preservation and enhancement of their special appearance and character.
We understand that Camden is currently working in partnership with London Councils to draft a bylaw to control these dockless bicycles, with the possibility of exclusion from certain areas.
These bicycles were an initiative to solve the problem of the so-called ‘last mile’. One reason conjectured why London’s hire cycles are not as popular as they might be is that in many areas of London, there may be a mile or more between a person’s home and the nearest dock. Dockless bicycles were meant to remove that impediment by removing the need for a dock, therefore removing the ‘last mile’, and encouraging cycling.
While this may indeed be useful in Greater London, in Central London there is no such need. The density of London’s cycle docks is high enough so that one is never more than a five minute walk from one. Whilst we accept that it may be useful to come across a bicycle at random occasionally for hire, the public benefit of this in Central London is admittedly slim.
The public nuisance caused by these cycles in our conservation areas far outweighs their benefit, in our opinion. The street environment of our conservation areas is of particular concern to us, in most cases detracting from their special character due to neglect and inappropriate alterations over the past few decades. The presence of these bicycles is inappropriate and further detracts from their special appearance, causing further clutter to an already cluttered environment in the best scenario. At worst they pile up in numbers and cause difficulty in navigating the streets, posing a significant health and safety risk, placing disabled individuals at a disadvantage. This is particularly pertinent to the many extremely busy areas of Central London.
We would hope that you could consider imposing a blanket ban on dockless bicycles within Central London. Whilst we accept that occasionally an individual may ride these cycles into the central area, we feel the providers should not be permitted to deploy their cycles in Central London, and should be required to remove bicycles left in Central London more or less immediately.
We would like to remind the Council that it has a duty to pay special attention to the desirability of preserving and enhancing the special appearance of their conservation areas.
Yours Sincerely Owen Ward
We Condemn the Overruling of Elected Councillors
The decision by the Director for Regeneration and Planning to overrule elected councillors simply confirms what we have all suspected for a long time – Camden is undemocratic, and councillors have little control over civil servants supposedly working to carry out their policies. The director, Mr David Joyce, overruled the Members Briefing Panel recommendation to […]
The decision by the Director for Regeneration and Planning to overrule elected councillors simply confirms what we have all suspected for a long time – Camden is undemocratic, and councillors have little control over civil servants supposedly working to carry out their policies.
The director, Mr David Joyce, overruled the Members Briefing Panel recommendation to put alterations to a planning application before the planning committee. The resulting backlash highlighted just how little influence councillors have over their civil servants, when councillors were led to write to the Camden New Journal to express their concerns.
What has Happened?
The Members Briefing Panel is a group of three councillors, from three different political parties, all senior in planning matters. About 90% of applications are not heard by the planning committee, but decided by a senior civil servant, an unelected member of Camden’s staff experienced in planning matters, but supposedly subservient to the councillors. This process is called determination by ‘delegated powers’, as the power to make decisions is delegated from elected councillors to the planning department. However if an application receives significant opposition, it is referred to the Members Briefing Panel, and they decide whether it should indeed be decided by delegated powers, or scrutinised by the full planning committee.
The Director for Regeneration and Planning, David Joyce, overruled the Members Briefing Panel recently after they passed an application to the full planning committee. He intervened to overrule the decision of elected councillors to refer an application to a panel of elected councillors, so that he or his staff could decide it themselves.
Why Mr Joyce has intervened in this way is unclear, although many have speculated. Not only does it mean that elected councillors are unable to decide the application, the outstanding concerns highlighted during consultation will not be addressed in public. It is entirely possible that he has intervened so that he can make the decision himself. This would suggest that he expected councillors to vote against his intention.
Why does this Matter?
Although Camden is often described as undemocratic, this is the first well-publicised incident where the will of councillors has been overruled. The principle of democracy is that if we disagree with the decisions that politicians are making, we vote for different politicians at the next election. This is commonly regarded as an expression of the will of the ‘sovereign’, or in simpler terms, that the people of an area are the ones who hold the real power. The problem with Mr Joyce’s decision is that being unelected, it is not possible to vote him out. In principle, he can begin to start deciding on all planning decisions that he disagrees with, completely subverting the democratic system which we take for granted.
Making an analogy to the national stage, it is as though Boris Johnson had been overruled by Dominic Cummings.
A worrying precedent has been set. Whilst councillors are subject to declaring their interests so that there should be no conflicts of interest, directors such as Mr Joyce are hidden behind a curtain of unaccountability. We cannot check whether Mr Joyce has any interest in the planning application, despite his actions suggesting that he does. We can only speculate and hope that it doesn’t happen again when it matters to us.
Our Website is Being Updated
Our website is currently being updated to include more educational material on the conservation area, the committee, the planning system, and why it all matters. Formatting is being updated and altered so that you may notice some oddities in the website over the coming weeks. When the works are complete, we hope to be able […]
Our website is currently being updated to include more educational material on the conservation area, the committee, the planning system, and why it all matters.
Formatting is being updated and altered so that you may notice some oddities in the website over the coming weeks.
When the works are complete, we hope to be able to release more frequent updates to keep everyone informed on our activities and developments occurring in Bloomsbury and beyond.
UCLH Eastman Dental Hospital Application Approved by Camden
The UCL proposals for the development of the site for the Eastman Dental Hospital and the former Royal Free Hospital have been recommended for approval by Camden, in the latest of a series of shocking planning decisions in line with their Community Investment Program. The tragedy of the approval is that it almost seals the fate […]
The UCL proposals for the development of the site for the Eastman Dental Hospital and the former Royal Free Hospital have been recommended for approval by Camden, in the latest of a series of shocking planning decisions in line with their Community Investment Program. The tragedy of the approval is that it almost seals the fate of the historic mid-Victorian courtyard of the former Royal Free Hospital which would be demolished and built over.
The BCAAC gave a deputation hoping to persuade councillors to press the applicants to resubmit a scheme without the demolition, an option identified by the applicant during scheme development and preferred by Historic England who also objected, alongside BCAAC, to the current proposals. Historic England stated in their response: ‘The proposed development would erode the authenticity of the hospital complex by demolishing all elements behind, and erecting a large and visually prominent building that disregards the historic courtyard arrangement and scale of its buildings.‘
Rather predictably the BCAAC deputation didn’t get much of a look-in as minds were already made up and the public benefit was seen to outweigh any amount of harm, even if that harm had been rather disingenuously underplayed. Historic England had significantly assigned the level of harm to the conservation areas to be ‘substantial’ and ‘significant’, which would require the local authority to refuse consent unless it could be demonstrated that the demolition was absolutely necessary to achieve substantial public benefit. This was a point glossed over by the department and committee, which are both ever more ignorant of heritage matters.
This is even more significant as the destruction of the courtyard is not strictly necessary and UCLH could have developed a different option which involved preserving the courtyard instead. There were some questions about this from the councillors but of course the scheme is very complex and they were not in any position to query the absolute need for the demolition (this dubious ‘necessity’ having already been swallowed by their officers). Councillor Flick Rae was quite correct in slamming the applicant for insufficient and unheeding consultation.
It is more likely that it was considered cheaper and easier to demolish the courtyard and, furthermore, that the applicants didn’t want to keep it as the image it projected wasn’t sufficiently new, shiny and ‘state of the art’ which is what they aspire to. That being said the building they’ve got is stunningly pedestrian and looks like an office block in Croydon.
It is also a great pity that the Victorians failed to object. It is an example of how we might have been much more effective if we had all worked together rather than keeping to our own individual bubbles.
The proposed changes, increasing volume by such a large amount, will now be referred to the Mayor of London for consideration of whether the application accords with the London Plan. We are working on a letter to send to the Mayor to highlight multiple policies which the applicants have not paid regard to, and upon which the Mayor in the past has directed the local authority to refuse the application. This ‘Stage 2’ referral will begin in January 2020.
Click hereto see the objection and deputation given to the planning committee.
Outrageous Plan Discovered to Build on Euston Square
Comments on Landowners’ Preferred Euston Stations Masterplan dated December 2017 The BCAAC has gained access to redacted copies of a Masterplan developed by Wilkinson Eyre in tandem with the plan to rebuild and extend the western side of Euston Station to accommodate HS2 trains. It is also intended eventually to rebuild the eastern side of […]
Comments on Landowners’ Preferred Euston Stations Masterplan dated December 2017
The BCAAC has gained access to redacted copies of a Masterplan developed by Wilkinson Eyre in tandem with the plan to rebuild and extend the western side of Euston Station to accommodate HS2 trains. It is also intended eventually to rebuild the eastern side of Euston Station.
Euston Square Gardens
The Masterplan shows the clear intention to construct very large buildings actually on top of the gardens of Euston Square, where there are now trees and grass.
This would be a travesty and a tragically short-sighted act.
For travellers arriving at Euston, the square is a wonderful introduction to Bloomsbury and beyond, announcing an area characterised by green and treed squares. Although its gardens now only survive on the north side of Euston Road, Euston Square is rightly designated as part of the Bloomsbury Conservation Area. It is bordered on the east, south and west by buildings of moderate height, most of which are listed. Its open and green aspect forms a welcome break in the almost- continuous wall of buildings bordering Euston Road elsewhere. While the railway termini at St. Pancras and Kings Cross have wonderful listed station buildings, only Euston station is fronted by a historic square open to all to walk through or simply to relax in.
The amenity of the square would be drastically reduced by the introduction of the proposed tall buildings onto it. Even if it were possible to make up for lost areas by creating additional open space directly to the north (something we doubt), the overlooking, shade and wind caused by the tall buildings around would render this reconfigured square a very much less attractive space to be in. The loss of amenity would be in addition to the complete destruction of St James’s Gardens, a landmark act of vandalism that has already taken place, leaving the immediate surroundings of the station greatly diminished in terms of green open space.
The London Squares Act of 1931 protects Euston Square gardens and many others on the basis of the amenity they provide to city-dwellers – open space, sunshine and better quality air due to the presence of large trees. The offer indicated in the Masterplan to rebuild the Euston Arch would not come close to compensating for the loss of so much of Euston Square gardens, on top of the obliteration of St James’s Gardens.
The legal protection given by conservation area designation
The test for any development within any conservation area is whether it ‘preserves or enhances’. This proposal is highly damaging to the Bloomsbury Conservation Area for the following reasons:
The setting of the listed buildings around the square would be damaged beyond recognition. Instead of facing a square with trees and grass, many of them would be facing directly onto massive and tall new buildings.
The historic boundary of the square, dating from c.1820, would disappear completely.
The greatly over-scaled height and bulk of the proposed buildings would be completely out of character with the Conservation Area. They would impact massively not only on their immediate surroundings but would also tower over the central and southern parts of the Conservation Area, typified by low-rise terraces built as housing.
To allow any building on a Bloomsbury square – let alone buildings of such height and mass – is to lose forever a valuable and unique public asset. To do so for the sake of the short-term funding for HS2, a project of dubious country-wide benefit and virtually none at all to the immediate area, in any case is incomprehensible. It would be seen by future generations as unspeakably stupid, barbaric and ignorant of any sense of civic values.
Anthony Jennings for C20 “A walk in Bloomsbury”
Royal Ear Hospital Entrance Demolition Plans
APPALLING – THE DEMOLITION OF THIS FINE FACADE HAS JUST BEEN APPROVED WITH ONLY ONE COUNCILLOR VOTING AGAINST IT. THE OFFICERS AND PLANNING COMMITTEE SEEM OBLIVIOUS TO THEIR DUTY TO PRESERVE AND CARE FOR OUR CONSERVATION AREA! DO THEY REALLY NOT VALUE THE CONSERVATION AREA OR ARE THE DEVELOPMENT PLANS OF BIG INSTITUTIONS ALWAYS MORE […]
APPALLING – THE DEMOLITION OF THIS FINE FACADE HAS JUST BEEN APPROVED WITH ONLY ONE COUNCILLOR VOTING AGAINST IT.
THE OFFICERS AND PLANNING COMMITTEE SEEM OBLIVIOUS TO THEIR DUTY TO PRESERVE AND CARE FOR OUR CONSERVATION AREA! DO THEY REALLY NOT VALUE THE CONSERVATION AREA OR ARE THE DEVELOPMENT PLANS OF BIG INSTITUTIONS ALWAYS MORE IMPORTANT?
In February we reported an apparently positive engagement with the design team for the new UCLH facility on the site of the Royal Ear Hospital. The team told us that they intended to preserve the very fine brick and carved stone entrance block at the north end of the site. `this came very close to being listed, is noted as a local contributor and is a wonderful piece of design and craftmanship. It is one of the survivors of the early ere of the use of the area for medical research and, as such, is of great historic interest (like the thankfully listed Cruciform building).
We were called back to be updated on the design last month and were very disappointed to learn that the entrance block was now to be demolished in order to ‘improve patient experience’ and to allow the new building to relate better to its neighbour to the North. This neighbour is an entirely inappropriate glass and steel monstrosity of huge scale which would be more at home in Dallas than in Bloomsbury. It seems clear that the real motive for the demolition is a ‘cleaner floor plate’ and thus a cheaper building. Once more it seems that Camden will be backing the scheme despite the unnecessary vandalism of this demolition.
The entrance facade of the Royal Ear Hospital
The building to the North of the Royal Ear Hospital to which the proposed new scheme will relate.
Old GPO on New Oxford Street to be enlarged and re-clad
‘The proposal for a vastly pumped up scheme for the conversion of the old GPO sorting office on New Oxford Street has been approved by Camden Council. This was a grim decision as the proposal causes great harm to the conservation area – in particular the view down Museum Street from the British Museum (lined […]
‘The proposal for a vastly pumped up scheme for the conversion of the old GPO sorting office on New Oxford Street has been approved by Camden Council. This was a grim decision as the proposal causes great harm to the conservation area – in particular the view down Museum Street from the British Museum (lined with almost entirely listed buildings) and also by restricting the iconic view of the steeple of Hawksmoor’s grade one listed St. George’s Bloomsbury. Nor does the scheme provide the hoped for social program but instead will give yet more office space and some less-than-ideal affordable housing (even though the planning brief for the site called for an aspirational program with a local and community emphasis).
The BCAAC strongly opposed the proposal. Our statement of objection is below along with before and after views showing the devastating effect of this inappropriate scheme on local views. It is a missed opportunity and Bloomsbury deserved better. The recommendation of the scheme for approval by the Camden officers can only be seen as perverse.
Has anyone else noticed the spread of bannermania, disfiguring the faces of some of Bloomsbury’s finest buildings? There seems to be a misconceived need for institutions to shout ‘I’m here!’ by sporting an outsize banner, usually in some garish colour. I think it must be down to public relations departments feeling the need to justify […]
Has anyone else noticed the spread of bannermania, disfiguring the faces of some of Bloomsbury’s finest buildings? There seems to be a misconceived need for institutions to shout
by sporting an outsize banner, usually in some garish colour. I think it must be down to public relations departments feeling the need to justify themselves by doing something unavoidably visible.
If it was an effort to help those with impaired vision I could be more sympathetic. All that is achieved is an increasingly loud visual ‘background noise’ as each sign and banner tries to compete with its increasingly brash neighbour. Unchecked the result would be Hong Kong – itself rather wonderful but not as a vision of the future of Bloomsbury. The example of banners at the school of pharmacy, shown below, is particularly sad – completely ruining the appreciation of the entrance of this very fine and subtly detailed deco listed building.
I guess banners are fairly cheap (they certainly look it) so institutions are happy to put them up at risk (these surely cannot have got consent) and see how long they can get away with it.
Hult International Business School – John Street
The School Of Pharmacy – Brunswick Square
31 & 32 Argyle Square
This is relatively minor case but one that illustrates an important principle. An application for work to the hotel at 31-32 Argyle Square was recently approved by the council. The local residents association ‘The Friends of Argyle Square’ were anticipating that the two unsuitable glazed front doors would be replaced by a historically correct solid […]
This is relatively minor case but one that illustrates an important principle.
An application for work to the hotel at 31-32 Argyle Square was recently approved by the council. The local residents association ‘The Friends of Argyle Square’ were anticipating that the two unsuitable glazed front doors would be replaced by a historically correct solid doors following the pattern of the originals remaining in the remainder of the terrace. This was considered by them to be one of the ‘plusses’ in the balance of the application as a whole. It was shown on the application drawings and was confirmed verbally and in writing by the developers.
The work to the hotel has now been completed and – to everyone’s surprise – the existing doors have been merely repainted. It turns out that the council is powerless to enforce that they should be changed to conform with the application drawings since their replacement was not a ‘condition’ of the granting of permission. Instead, by showing them restored on the planning drawings, the owners merely sought permission to change the doors back to the original pattern ‘if they so wished’. Given the commercial advantage to a hotel of a glazed door, it is no surprise that the owners have not taken the opportunity to restore the original solid doors.
The lesson to be learnt here is that, in judging the overall balance of positives and negatives in an application, it must be clear that any perceived positive changes or restitution of original features are strictly conditioned as part of a permission if one is to be granted. Otherwise the system is likely to be taken advantage of and consultees duped into believing the proposals will deliver advantages which a developer is not actually obliged to undertake.
What the doors should have been (an example form elsewhere in the terrace)
The doors as they have been retained at No.31
Cartwright Gardens – Decision
At the planning committee meeting on August 15th the proposals for a huge student resident block on the East side of Cartwright Gardens, recommended by officers for approval, was granted planning permission in the teeth of local resident and business opposition, the opposition of the three local ward councillors (including Jonathan Simpson who spoke eloquently […]
At the planning committee meeting on August 15th the proposals for a huge student resident block on the East side of Cartwright Gardens, recommended by officers for approval, was granted planning permission in the teeth of local resident and business opposition, the opposition of the three local ward councillors (including Jonathan Simpson who spoke eloquently against the scheme) and our own objections.
Canterbury Hall, fine brick and stucco detailing, to be demolished
The development raises further the density of student residence in an area already suffering from excessive noise and bad behaviour from the existing student population. It will demolish the locally listed Canterbury Hall, a charming Deco brick and stucco building, but most importantly the new building’s height and monolithic bulk will completely dwarf the delicate Georgian architecture of the listed buildings of the crescent – a rare and complete survival of Georgian town planning.
Jarring scale jump between delicacy of Georgian buildings and proposed at twice the scale – note size of dormers
View south towards Marchmont Street – proposed in felt pen
The opportunity to demolish Hughes Parry tower block at the north of the site has been missed since, unlike the other buildings along the east side, it was not considered to be ‘beyond its sell-by date’ (itself an odd criterion to apply in a Conservation Area). Even the low buildings around the base of the tower, the usual trade-off for a tall building and no doubt a condition of the tower’s original approval, are to be demolished and the new nine-storey block will simply crash into the side of the existing tower.
It is another unfortunate example of the muscle of large institutions forcing through greedy and inappropriate schemes.
Proposal for 1 Bedford Avenue and 251-258 Tottenham Court Road
The Committee has objected to this current proposal for a new office and retail block on several counts- below is the summary of the objection: 1.The height of the proposed building is important as it sets a precedent for the whole of this part of Tottenham Court Road, affecting the area bounded by Bayley Street, […]
The Committee has objected to this current proposal for a new office and retail block on several counts- below is the summary of the objection:
1.The height of the proposed building is important as it sets a precedent for the whole of this part of Tottenham Court Road, affecting the area bounded by Bayley Street, Morwell Street and Bedford Street and Bedford Square and the rest of the conservation area to the east. It is blatantly not of ‘appropriate height and density…while respecting the surrounding context’, and does not ‘create a sensitive interface with the conservation area, under Opportunity Sites criteria.
2. Views from Bedford Square, a unique grade 1 listed square, are of paramount importance. The proposed building should therefore not be visible from the eastern end of Bedford Square.
3. The proposed development makes no attempt to compromise with the Bloomsbury Conservation Area, and should be scaled down in order to comply with the requirement that the conservation area should be conserved and enhanced. It ’causes harm to the character and appearance of the conservation area’.
4. If the development is permitted to be seen at all from Bedford Square, the Morwell Street elevation must be redesigned. The present light stone horizontal banding that would be visible behind Bedford Square (see Bedford Square A) is almost wilfully in conflict with the vertical emphasis of the Georgian facades, and for those reasons of design and colour would be far more obtrusive than the existing brick Morwell Street elevation.
5. The street frontage in Morwell Street needs to be activated with shop/office frontages along its length, not dead frontage and service areas. If not, a huge opportunity will be lost. It should not be regarded as a ‘service street’.
6. Reconstituted stone is totally inappropriate for a major development in Tottenham Court Road, with its past history and heritage of high quality buildings.
7. The remains of the ‘heritage’ Fitzroy Doll Byzantine Edwardian facades on Tottenham Court Road and Bedford Avenue should be conserved and built into the scheme, making it a landmark rather than just another featureless monolith. These are important to the history of the area, monuments to the war and the Bedford Estate’s foremost Edwardian architect.’
Developers make a mockery of Camdenʼs planning process
Developersʼ contempt for the planning system was on full display in the Town Hall at Thursdayʼs Development Control Committee meeting. One of the applications discussed was St Georgeʼs Court, a post-war neo-classical office block previously occupied by the Ministry of Defence. In order to create ʻmodern officesʼ to attract high rents and classy customers, the […]
Developersʼ contempt for the planning system was on full display in the Town Hall at Thursdayʼs Development Control Committee meeting. One of the applications discussed was St Georgeʼs Court, a post-war neo-classical office block previously occupied by the Ministry of Defence. In order to create ʻmodern officesʼ to attract high rents and classy customers, the applicantʼs agent defended the decision to make external alterations to the façade and ʻnoseʼ of the building. The intention was to bring ʻlightʼ into what the Applicant frequently referred to as ʻthe prisonʼ.
St Georgeʼs Court lies opposite Hawksmoorʼs Church of St Georgeʼs, Bloomsbury. Colonnades on second to fourth floor level of the Bloomsbury Way elevation responded sympathetically to the colonnades of the Grade I listed church. One of the key planning requirements within a Conservation Area is the need to preserve the setting in which a heritage building stands, as much as the building itself. The Bloomsbury CAAC opposed the design of the plans put forward by London & Regional Properties in view of its insensitivity to the heritage of the surrounding streetscape.
Members of the Development Control Committee and BCAAC were utterly shocked to find that the developers had already demolished the colonnades, before planning permission had been granted, thereby completely flouting the system put in place to present such acts of vandalism. The applicant put forward the argument that they had gone ahead with the demolition, in the foregone conclusion that planning permission would be granted.
Photo of Colonnade to St. Georges Court – demolished without permission
This behavior makes a complete mockery of the planning process. When an application is submitted, representatives of local residents, amenity groups and statutory bodies spend time and effort considering the impact of the development on the surrounding neighbourhood. Evidence for and against is presented to Council Members for considered debate. This is a democratic process in a democratic country. The fact a developer has wantonly vandalised an existing building prior to receiving planning permission is unacceptable. If bankers are being brought under control for manipulating the LIBOR system, then this should apply to developers too.
As planning permission for Georgeʼs Court has now been granted, it is unlikely the colonnades can be reinstated. But they should – as a matter of principle. Otherwise, it gives the green light for any developer to ignore the planning process and do what they wish to achieve their goals.
The Advisory Committeeʼs initial comment is included in the report at Para 4.2 (Page 311). St Georgeʼs Court is a familiar landmark and the architectural treatment is contextual with the area and most notably with St Georgeʼs Church Bloomsbury, which it faces across Bloomsbury Way.
The crude re-ordering of the existing double height stone clad base stories would unbalance the carefully proportioned existing design, which has a traditional tripartite arrangement of BASE MIDDLE TOP. This feature alone enables it to respond to the surrounding traditional townscape.
The existing satisfactory scale relationships between the fenestration of the plinth base and the much smaller windows immediately above would be destroyed by the creation of crude double height openings, entirely inappropriate for this building and the area.
The removal of the stylish colonnades, which echo the portico on the Church, would be vandalism of the most thoughtless kind. These have a useful role in partially screening the recent large and uncharacteristic areas of standard glass walls. The proposal to extend, what is already a bulky building, in a matching design would also unbalance and disfigure the buildingʼs appearance.
Accordingly, BCAAC strongly urges the council to reject these alterations and extensions as
1. being seriously harmful to the architectural integrity of the existing building, which makes a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the conservation area.
2. they would neither preserve or enhance the building, the conservation area or preserve the setting of the church, which is one of the most distinguished historic buildings in Camden.
BCAAC June 12
Comments on the Euston Area Plan
Draft Plan Boundary We note that the boundary includes not only Euston Square, but a block immediately south of the Euston Road. We trust that this is recognition of the fact that the proposal will potentially impact on the Bloomsbury Conservation Area. However, where boundaries are drawn can have long‐term and unforeseen consequences. The BCAAC would be concerned if […]
Draft Plan Boundary
We note that the boundary includes not only Euston Square, but a block immediately south of the Euston Road. We trust that this is recognition of the fact that the proposal will potentially impact on the Bloomsbury Conservation Area. However, where boundaries are drawn can have long‐term and unforeseen consequences. The BCAAC would be concerned if this meant that the buildings included could be subject to a future land‐grab and demolitions, akin to what Crossrail have achieved around Tottenham Court Station area, via a parliamentary procedure, giving the developers and other parties immunity from normal planning controls and the minimum democratic control. It would be helpful to have a sight of the reasoned justification for the boundary of the proposed area.
Euston Area Plan boundary
Historic Area Assessment
The fact that Allies and Morrison have been commissioned to produce the Historic Area Assessment, sadly does not inspire any confidence. In the past the BCAAC has successfully opposed unsuitable applications within the Conservation Area submitted by this practice. We are concerned that the final report will only be an analysis of the historic area and contain suggested recommendations for the management, rather than the protection of the historic environment, in the context of intense pressure for future changes in the area.
The area of Bloomsbury forms an urban landscape with an international reputation and is worthy of World Heritage Site status. If the character, appearance and setting of the area and the historic buildings of national importance it contains are under real threat from harmful new development this could well trigger such an application to UNESCO.
Buildings in the immediate vicinity
The proposed plan is immediately adjacent to four important listed buildings whose setting could be damaged by a proposal that is overly high, bulky or dominating. These are:
The Friend’s Meeting House
The fire brigade station
The station lodges
St. Pancras Church
Particularly in the case of any development adjacent to these buildings consideration should be given to scale and articulation and to the use of sympathetic materials. Please note that we would NOT consider a metal and glass façade treatment to be sympathetic.
The proposed plan area is crisscrossed with numerous protected viewing corridors from the north. However, the BCAAC is determined that full consideration should also be given to the potentially harmful impact of any high buildings on views northward from within the Conservation Area itself.
The presence of the relatively high Grant Thornton Tower, itself an inappropriate building which is harmful to the Conservation Area, should not be used as an excuse for further development which is of inappropriate scale and height. Careful consideration should be given to the following northern local views which are likely to be affected by the development
Up Gordon Street
From Gordon Square
Up Taviton Street
Up Endsleigh Street
Western side of Fitzroy Square, eastwards.
It is stated that the plan provides an opportunity to rethink and vastly improve the urban environment and help to mitigate the potential blight issues the area is faced with.
Presumably in connection with this we are also asked to consider whether there are buildings which we think need improvement (removal, renovation, new use)? This omits the important issue of the retention of existing structures. The massive new development around Kings Cross Central has been designed to imaginatively retain, incorporate and improve existing station buildings and other related structures.
The existing Euston Square is a poorly used and difficult to access amenity. In the creation of any new open spaces consideration should be given to high quality design and screening from the Euston Road. The forecourt of the adjacent British Library is an exemplar.
Development to the north of the terminus
Mention is made of development ‘above’ the station. We hope this will be used as an opportunity to animate, with shops or housing, the station frontage along Eversholt and Cardington Streets which are currently just the blind sides of the station sheds. There should be an emphasis on trying to reconnect the areas either side of the station and tracks by as many pedestrian and cycle links as possible east/west. At the moment the first opportunity to cross the tracks is about half a mile north of the station. Such transverse links would also help break down the possibly monolithic character of the development which otherwise risks being completely out of scale with the fine grain of the surrounding street pattern.
The existing Euston station building can now properly be regarded as forming part of our c20th century architectural heritage. The BCAAC successfully lobbied for the listing of the CentrePoint tower, also by the same prominent architect, Richard Seifert, when it was under threat of radical external alterations proposed by Allies and Morrison in the 1980s. Therefore, serious consideration should now be given to the retention and refurbishment of the existing low station block and spacious main hall.
This is currently marred by numerous unfortunate accretions, which could easily be removed, thereby transforming the space and restoring the rigour and integrity of the architecture. It would then rightly form part of the historic group of station buildings along the Euston Road. It is assumed that the relatively modest height is partly dictated by the viewing corridors already referred to.
The precedents set by the restoration and imaginative refurbishment of both St. Pancras and Kings Cross stations show that it is important to retain aspects of the original architecture while providing modern amenities. The removal of the unsightly canopy in front of Kings Cross is a case in point. Certainly the sense of space and height and, most of all, natural light are all important qualities of the existing station hall and if it were to be replaced we would expect an equally light and spacious volume. Note too that the platforms at present benefit from natural light and this too should be a feature of any replacement.
The Euston Arch
There are serious proposals to recreate this notable structure and put right a shameful episode in our planning history. This is something the BCAAC strongly supports. That being the case, it will be essential to ensure that the Arch relates appropriately to any new structures, both in terms of scale and materials and will not be dominated by overly ambitious development of the site. While the restoration of the Arch is a worthwhile proposal it must not be be achieved as mitigation for permitting harmful development elsewhere within the Euston plan.
Town Hall site for tall building?
St Pancras Chambers and King’s Cross station are not just national treasures, they create a street scene which, given the proximity of Eurostar, is of international importance. The setting of these two Grade I Listed buildings must be protected. And it is under threat; ironically from the body that is primarily charged with its protection […]
St Pancras Chambers and King’s Cross station are not just national treasures, they create a street scene which, given the proximity of Eurostar, is of international importance. The setting of these two Grade I Listed buildings must be protected. And it is under threat; ironically from the body that is primarily charged with its protection – Camden Council.
History These station buildings were intended to tower majestically over London. They were built between 1850 and 1875 as ‘palaces’ that reflected the optimism and confidence of the Victorian period. In front of them lay Georgian terraced housing, perfectly proportioned but domestic in scale, in contrast to the large and deliberately grandiose buildings opposite. The station facades presented a proud public face to the world, celebrating the collaborative effort that brought goods and people from the north to the metropolis. These two stations are as impressive today as they were 160 years ago. They resonate power and prosperity in their own right. The character of these exemplary buildings would be greatly diminished by the construction of tower blocks in front of them. To make these grand 19th century buildings subservient to 21st century speculation would be a crude act of vandalism, denying their historical significance.
This bird’s eye view drawing perfectly illustrates the scale relationship between the station buildings and the urban grain south of the Euston Road. 1885.
Threat We are extremely concerned that the south side of Euston Road at King’s Cross will, over the next few years, receive planning permission for developments that are wholly inappropriate, given the context of the heritage station buildings opposite: St Pancras Chambers and King’s Cross Station. These buildings must not be forced to compete in a face-off across Euston Road with a virtual wall of tower blocks; a confrontation in which no one wins except the developers.
The Town Hall Annexe (the egg-box) has been under threat of redevelopment as a tower block for some time. Recently 1-11 Euston Road (immediately opposite King’s Cross Station) briefly came under threat. This row of houses needs protection in its own right but also forms an important part of the context to the heritage stations. This terrace is now, we believe, temporarily relatively safe. But we know that the owners of the Access building (Belgrove House) are in negotiations with Crossrail 2, clearly with the intention of building a tall tower on this site.
Protection needed This has all brought the threat to the heritage buildings’ context clearly into focus. We are now asking for some positive action from the Council to ensure that these Grade I Listed buildings are given the protection they deserve, not just the buildings themselves (which are being well looked after) but the context in which they are seen. This context is the entire street-scape from Camden Town Hall itself all along to the Lighthouse Building. No new building in this stretch of Euston Road should be planned without the benefit of a proper, holistic, assessment of this specific “Place”, to use a current council buzz-word.
Place Shaping Sadly the Council seem oblivious to the concept of this street-scene forming a nationally important “Place” which must be managed as a whole, not piecemeal. The Council have even recently created a “King’s Cross Place Shaping Plan” which utterly ignores the existence of this crucial area. If “Place Shaping” is a meaningful activity surely it must apply here, at this world-renowned location?
Legal obligation The Council are legally obliged to consult with interested parties about any development that will affect the setting of a heritage asset (ref. PP5, HE7.1). They must recognise that development within the setting of a heritage asset can cause substantial harm to the significance of that asset in which case the Council must refuse consent. (ref. PP5, HE9.1 and 9.2). All this rather technical verbiage means that the Council must listen to us when we say that tall buildings opposite the heritage stations will harm their setting and must not be allowed. For over 3 years we have been insisting that a tower block must not be built on the Annexe site; the Council have refused to listen to us.