Another company will join the list of despised property developers in Fitzrovia after Camden Council approved controversial plans to convert small offices to luxury flats and add a roof extension across three buildings in the Charlotte Street conservation area.

Front of building with sash windows.
61-65 Charlotte Street. Development plans passed by Camden Council will add a roof extension and convert small offices to residential.

At a planning meeting at Camden Town Hall on Tuesday 21 July councillors passed an application by Merchant Land to redevelop 61-65 Charlotte Street to create six flats from existing small offices, a fourth floor roof extension, and other alterations.

Tony Tugnutt of the Bloomsbury Conservation Area Advisory Committee made a deputation to speak against the proposals saying the alterations to the roof of the buildings would be “totally unjustifiable and harmful to the conservation area” but welcomed the internal refurbishment of the buildings. He warned that by approving the alterations Camden would be “writing off” whole parts of conservation area. He asked the committee to reject the proposals.

In a written deputation Max Neufeld of the Charlotte Street Association took issue with the planning officer’s report which recommended approving the plans. Neufeld questioned why officers were recommending approval of the conversion of office units of less than 100 square metres in size to residential accommodation when this was previously refused on appeal.

“It is quite astonishing that the report makes no reference to the findings of the inspector in the 2013 appeal. His sole reason for dismissing the appeal related specifically to the loss of these particular premises for business use.

“There has been no change in the circumstances to warrant setting aside the Inspector’s unequivocal findings. It is quite clear from his decision letter that he recognised the particular characteristics and suitability of the identified premises for small firms. These small business units are not replaced in the current scheme; the proposed accommodation is of quite a different nature,” he wrote.

Speaking for the applicant, Katherine McCullough of Merchant Land praised Camden’s planning officers who had worked with her design team “to get a scheme that restores the independent retail units to the street frontage, establishes flexible SME office space, and new homes”. She explained that Merchant Land and its sister company Holbud would be moving into the building after redevelopment is complete.

McCullough said the current office accommodation is “a mess”, they would be “renovating these attractive buildings to give them a future”, and that their plans were supported by the occupants and The Fitzrovia Partnership Business Improvement District.

The approved plans will add to the numerous demolition and redevelopment projects currently in progress and scheduled in Charlotte Street. Many residents and business people regard the large number of construction projects under way in Fitzrovia as a nuisance and a threat to the area’s character. However, it is a phenomenon that has plagued many parts of central London.

Fitzrovia News will also be investigating the circumstances that led to Camden’s planners overturning the 2013 decision by a government planning inspector.

Camden Council, Development Control Committee, Tuesday, 21st July, 2015 7.00 pm.