Derwent London‘s latest sortie into Fitzrovia means demolishing yet another large building, and constructing a shiny new, nine-storey commercial block, with little in the way of housing and public open space — contrary to Camden Council’s planning policy.

New office and retail space is planned at the Network Building, 95-100 Tottenham Court Road. Image: Derwent London

The existing building is known as the Network Building and is a 1950s four- and six-storey office block with retail units at ground level, and located on the southern half of a site bounded by Tottenham Court Road, Howland Street, Whitfield Street, and Maple Street.

Derwent’s project managers cannot make up their minds what commercial use they want, so have submitted additional applications giving details of a mostly office development, and another application giving details for a mostly life science, lab scheme. Both schemes will include retail or restaurants on the Tottenham Court Road and Howland Street elevation.

In a lengthy statement to accompany the outline application, Derwent’s planning consultants DP9 attempt to justify the case for demolition over refurbishment, building a purely commercial scheme, substantially increasing the height and floorspace, removing seven homes from a neighbouring site in Whitfield Street, and ripping out the public highway that runs between Maple Street and Howland Street.

DP9 do admit that Camden’s policy for the site requires that any new development retains business uses, provides public open space, whilst also retaining the Cypress Place mews which runs through the centre of the site, and that it “retains and adds to existing permanent self-contained housing”.

Yet the proposed development falls well short of the amount of housing Camden requires, whereby additional non-residential floorspace is matched with the same amount of additional housing floorspace, including affordable housing.

DP9 argue that there is a good case in policy for constructing a purely commercial building on the site due to its central location. They state that architects Piercy and Co provided a housing study to show where residential floorspace could theoretically be incorporated. However, the study found that it was beyond their wit to design a scheme that either retains the existing housing, or provides quality additional housing on the site.

The study concluded that providing homes would decrease the level of commercial floorspace provided and “would compromise the office or life science floorplate”.

Instead Derwent propose to deliver housing nearby at Tottenham Mews, on a former hospital site.

Residential floorspace calculations in square metres (sqm). Source: Planning Statement prepared by DP9.

“Across both the Network building and Tottenham Mews, the uplift in floorspace (residential and non-residential) is 10,718 square metres,” state DP9.

This would mean 5,359 sqm of housing is required, of which 2,679 sqm should be a mix of social rented and intermediate affordable housing. Finally, the 844 sqm of existing market residential housing which would be removed from Whitfield Street must also be included in the total target for housing to be sold on the open market.

“Taking into account, the existing residential, there is a requirement to provide 6,203 sqm overall,” state DP9.

Which means about 62 homes, including up to 27 affordable homes would be required. However, no market housing is being offered, and only 23 affordable homes would be available.

“The shortfall in provision of market housing is, when considered against the delivery of a wholly affordable scheme at Tottenham Mews, considered to be aligned with the Council’s housing objectives which prioritise affordable housing over market housing,” say DP9.

And the shortfall in affordable housing is justified by a viability assessment, they say.

Illustration of proposed view looking east along Howland Street towards Tottenham Court Road, showing proposed wider pavement, planting and seating. Image: Derwent London.

Planning policy also requires an appropriate amount of public open space for both new employees and new residents. Yet very little, if any, public open space would be provided from this major development.

“During pre-application discussions, [planning officers] outlined that they would be supportive of the closure of Cypress Place as a public right of way and the loss of the area of public realm can be supported in principle where a suitable contribution to improving public open space is provided as part of any scheme,” state DP9

However, at a Camden Council design review panel in September members expressed concern about the loss of Cypress Place.

“Stopping up of Cypress Place represents a loss of public realm and permeability that can only be justified through the provision of sufficient areas of high quality public space in its place,” state the meeting notes.

Policy A2 of Camden’s local plan states that 0.74 square metres of public open space is to be provided per occupant.

DP9 state that the development would provide approximately 595 additional jobs compared to the existing building; which means 440 square metres of public open space should be created, plus additional space to make up for the loss of public realm from the stopping up of Cypress Place.

But little if any real public open space that would comply with policy is being offered. Instead the application proposes removing the existing plinth that contains the underground car park vents, and several parking spaces (owned by Camden Council not Derwent) in front of the building to widen the pavement in Whitfield Street; add some seating, plant some trees, and create some rain gardens.

Illustration of proposed view looking north along Whitfield Street, showing trees, rain gardens and seating. Image: Derwent London.

DP9 don’t even put a figure on the amount of public open space proposed — probably an honest admission that there isn’t any. In the design and access statement provided by architects Piercy and Co they state that around 341 square metres of extra pavement space would be created.

But Camden’s policy states that “public open space dominated by hard landscaping” would not be supported.

DP9 state that private amenity space is provided for employees on terraces on the upper floors.

At Tottenham Mews Camden’s policy also requires that public open space is required for the extra residents — nine square metres per occupier. Which works out at around 360 square metres of open space.

“Due to the nature of the site, there are limited options to develop landscaping and open spaces within the planning boundary of the site,” is DP9’s way of saying that there won’t be any.

Policy also states that private amenity space should also be provided for new housing. Yet only some of the intermediate affordable homes get any, most of the homes just get Juliet balconies.

Despite the obvious shortcomings when compared with policy, DP9 argue on behalf of Derwent that “the proposed development accords in all material respects with the relevant policies and delivers significant benefits”.

Derwent, their architects and planning consultants have been in pre-planning dialogue with Camden for more than two years. They also had the benefit of community involvement.

Will Camden’s planning officers assess this development against its planning policy to deliver employment, housing and public open space? And will members of Camden’s planning committee make sure they do? Or will Derwent get to build just what they think they can get away with?

A public consultation on the four planning applications (below) is open until 3 January 2021.

Editorial note: this article was amended at 10.15am on 16 December to make some minor corrections and to show how the housing is calculated.

Network Building (95-100 Tottenham Court Road & 76-80 Whitfield Street) and 88 Whitfield Street London W1T 4TP
Outline application for demolition of office building (95-100 TCR & 76-80 Whitfield St) and 7 flats (88 Whitfield Street) and construction of a new building to provide for a maximum of 17275 sqm (GIA) of ‘commercial business and service’ floorspace (use Class E) along with details of access, scale and landscaping and other works incidental to the application. Details of layout and appearance are reserved. CONSULTATION NOTE: Application is linked to redevelopment of 14-19 Tottenham Mews (ref 2020/5633/P) and Reserved Matters details for office building (ref 2020/5631/P) and Reserved Matters details for lab-enabled building (ref 2020/5638/P). Application number: 2020/5624/P
Application type: Outline Planning Permission View Application
Network Building (95-100 Tottenham Court Road & 76-80 Whitfield Street) and 88 Whitfield Street London W1T 4TP
Reserved Matters details of layout and appearance for an office building comprising one basement level, ground floor and eight upper floors and associated cycle parking, servicing and all necessary enabling works, associated with planning application reference 2020/5624/P [for the demolition of office building (95-100 TCR & 76-80 Whitfield St) and 7 flats (88 Whitfield Street) and construction of a new building to provide for a maximum of 17275 sqm (GIA) of ‘commercial business and service’ floorspace (use Class E) along with details of access, scale and landscaping and other works incidental to the application’]. CONSULTATION NOTE : Application is linked to an application for outline planning permission (ref 2020/5624/P) which is currently under assessment. Application number: 2020/5631/P
Application type: Approval of Reserved MattersView Application
Network Building (95-100 Tottenham Court Road & 76-80 Whitfield Street) and 88 Whitfield Street London W1T 4TP
Reserved Matters details of layout and appearance for a building with lab-enabled use comprising one basement level, ground floor and seven upper floors, associated with planning application reference 2020/5624/P [for the demolition of office building (95-100 TCR & 76-80 Whitfield St) and 7 flats (88 Whitfield Street) and construction of a new building to provide for a maximum of 17275 sqm (GIA) of ‘commercial business and service’ floorspace (use Class E) along with details of access, scale and landscaping and other works incidental to the application’]. CONSULTATION NOTE : Application is linked to an application for outline planning permission (ref 2020/5624/P) which is currently under assessment. Application number: 2020/5638/P
Application type: Approval of Reserved Matters View Application
14-19 Tottenham Mews London W1T 4AA
Erection of a six storey building (and basement) to provide office (use Class E) at part ground and basement levels and self-contained flats (use class C3) at ground and floors one to five; with associated landscaping, cycling parking and enabling works. CONSULTATION NOTE: Application is linked to redevelopment of Network building and flats (ref 2020/5624/P). Application number: 2020/5633/P
Application type: Full Planning Permission View Application

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