It looks like a run-down part of the street to the passer-by. But don’t be fooled, it is nothing of the sort.
Three shops along Charlotte Street are empty because the landlord emptied them and wants to redevelop the site.
But the owners of the premises were so impatient that they couldn’t wait to get planning permission before asking the two shop owners and businesses in the offices to leave.
The result is a cafe that was doing a roaring trade has been shut without good reason, a long-established hairdressers has been moved out, and businesses above the shops has been asked to leave.
Charlotte Investment Holdings Ltd bought the three buildings last year and quickly decided to redevelop the site. They held an exhibition that showed plans for knocking all three shop units and the basements in to one huge restaurant cum-cafe-cum-food market called the Charlotte Street Market.
They were at pains to say how much they liked Charlotte Street and how they would invest in Fitzrovia.
Charlotte Street Market will bring local produce to local residents, students and workers in the area as well as creating employment and apprenticeship opportunities. There will be a butcher, delicatessen and artisan marketplace alongside spaces to gather and socialise in the café, restaurant and tasting room.
We are also supporting the open space initiative to ensure that the community is able to enjoy Fitzrovia’s outdoor spaces. A key feature of the regeneration is to enhance the space joining Charlotte Street and enrich the street scene.
But local people were suspicious of the glossy presentations and took exception to their proposals and the way they pushed out the popular Double J’s cafe and the hairdressers. And they objected to what they saw was the plans to create one huge restaurant to add to all the other restaurants already along the street.
The owners and their planning consultants went away and modified the plans, but it still looked like one big restaurant and no room for the small businesses that give Charlotte Street and Fitzrovia its special character.
So Camden Council’s development control committee threw out the proposal to create a restaurant, retail and residential development after hearing objections from residents and community groups.
The planning committee said the proposed development would have resulted in the loss of employment floorspace which remains suitable for use, it would fail to support economic activity particularly small and medium sized businesses and would result in the loss of employment opportunities within the Borough contrary to policy.
And the proposed creation of a large dining and restaurant facility, in excess of 100sqm, within this commercial frontage would result in an intensification of food and drink uses and would be detrimental to the character of the local area.
But all that came too late for Double J’s cafe, the hairdresser and the businesses above the shops.
The owners claimed they were regenerating the area. But the shops and businesses didn’t need regenerating and were doing a good trade. Instead, Charlotte Investment Holdings have ruined a perfectly good part of the street and turned it into a shell of its former self: empty, boarded up, and dead.
But just who are Charlotte Investment Holdings Ltd? A search of Companies House returns no results for any company with that name. So is this company who claimed to bring local products for the benefit of local people actually registered off shore somewhere?
An investigation by Fitzrovia News has found that Charlotte Investments Holdings Ltd is incorporated in the British Virgin Islands.
Confidentiality of corporate documents and information is one of the key attractions of incorporating a company in the British Virgin Islands. Unlike the UK’s Companies House, a company is not required to file its register of directors, register of members, register of charges or an annual return with the British Virgin Islands Registrar of Corporate Affairs.
No wonder local people were suspicious.