A site which was identified for housing can be used for mostly offices, ruled a government inspector who has given planning permission to redevelop a former hospital building in Fitzrovia. The inspector made the decision after taking into consideration a policy published by former mayor Boris Johnson during the twilight of his tenancy at City Hall.
Arthur Stanley House in Tottenham Street could have been a model of sustainable development with a mix of market, shared-ownership and social housing with some commercial premises on the lower floors, and public open space, on a site within walking or cycling distance of every part of central London and every mainline rail terminus.
Instead of providing around 50 homes, planning permission has now been given for an office-led development and which provides only 10 private apartments, two social rented homes, and a patch of open space that amounts to the size of a few welcome mats.
Planning inspector Jennifer Vyse overturned the decision by Camden Council’s planning committee in 2015 to refuse permission after it agreed with the case put by local community groups, the Charlotte Street Association and Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association, that the site should be mostly housing as stated in the Fitzrovia Area Action Plan.
The inspector in making her decision stated: “In providing only some 26% of the total floorspace as residential, it might, on first reading, appear that the appeal scheme does not accord with the key land use principles for the site as set out on page 117 of the Area Action Plan. On balance, however, I am persuaded that there is no conflict with the development plan when it is read as a whole.”
She explained that “whilst housing is regarded as the priority land use in Camden”, the priority given to housing “will not override, but will be considered alongside matters including the need, among other things, to promote Central London as a national and international focus of business”.
This inspector also noted the very recent supplementary planning guidance published by the then Mayor of London Boris Johnson in March 2016.
This document for the Central Activities Zone (CAZ) “confirms that the Central London office market has distinct needs which should be sustained to ensure that there is sufficient capacity to meet identified demands. It advises that the requirement to accommodate residential development within the CAZ should be managed sensitively to ensure that new development does not strategically constrain the overall provision of office floorspace”, she wrote.
Aware of the contentious nature of the decision the inspector concluded:
“I recognise this decision will be disappointing for those opposing the scheme. I am particularly mindful, in this regard, of the role that local people have to play in shaping their surroundings. However, the views of local residents and their associations, very important though they are, must be balanced against other considerations. In coming to my conclusions on the issues that have been raised, I have taken full and careful account of all the representations that have been made, which I have balanced against the provisions of the development plan and the National Planning Policy Framework, as well as relevant case law. For the reasons set out above however, the evidence in this case leads me to conclude, on balance, that the appeal should be allowed.”
The appeal was made by Peter Boroughs of University College London Hospitals (UCLH) Charity. However, UCLH Charity sold all its interests in the site in November 2015 to two shell companies registered offshore.
Decision, 13 October 2016: Arthur Stanley House, Tottenham Street, Camden, London W1T 4RN.