Fears by local community groups that homes would end up as “serviced apartments” after the redevelopment of the Denmark Street area have been borne out, after multiple licensing applications submitted to Camden Council this month confirmed how the housing would be used.
Consolidated Developments Ltd have submitted ten applications in the hope of gaining licences for the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises and for the showing of pay-to-view films in 34 flats in St Giles, central London, in a scheme that appears to be the first of its kind.
The applications clearly state the homes are to be used as “serviced apartments” with a “mini-bar” in each. The blue notices posted on each building refer to the flats as “hotel rooms/apartments”.
There is no suggestion that Consolidated is doing anything illegal.
However, the flats are either existing permanent self-contained homes, or refurbished and new homes gained under planning permission from Camden in 2015 for a major redevelopment of the site, which is now nearly complete.
The project includes the brash entertainment complex called the Outernet and is part of a £150m scheme covering 25,000 square metres of development in a historic city block between Charing Cross Road and St Giles High Street. An area known fondly as Tin Pan Alley due to its connection with the music industry.
During the consultation on the planning application, community groups had the foresight to express concern that the housing would end up as “a form of serviced apartments”.
One of the licensing applications is to use six of the 22 homes in an existing block of flats at Charing Cross Road. The occupants of the 16 other flats are unlikely to welcome their short-stay neighbours.
Short-term letting of permanent homes is a practice popularised by individuals using AirBnB but also carried out by commercial landlords due to the relaxation of the planning laws governing housing in London.
Serviced apartments are normally classed in the same category as hotels in planning terms but their operation in permanent housing has become widespread and difficult to control in central London even before the relaxation of the law.
Both Camden and Westminster councils are concerned about the increasing use of permanent self-contained housing in this way, because a high turnover of visitors and short stay renters can cause a noise nuisance to permanent occupiers and undermine community cohesion. It also distorts the market exacerbating the affordability crisis in housing.
The problem facing councils and local community groups is that the law as it stands is not clear and enforcement is difficult.
Consolidated have told Fitzrovia News that the serviced apartments will be used to provide accommodation for visiting musicians and performers in the West End, and they will be managing them under the “umbrella” of a new live music venue, bar and restaurant in Flitcroft Street to be named Chateau Denmark. They will be rented out daily using the 90-day limit on short-term letting, as well as accommodating individuals staying longer on assured shorthold tenancies.
Laurence Kirschel and Richard Metcalfe, of Consolidated, said in an interview with Fitzrovia News that they are revitalising Tin Pan Alley, preserving its history, and creating a dynamic new centre for live music and shops selling musical instruments.
They say that the serviced apartments will be properly managed and the quality of life and safety of residents and apartment guests will be paramount.
This is the first attempt to seek permission for licenseable activities in permanent housing in this way in Camden (or Westminster) that Fitzrovia News is aware of, and it could see the start of an alarming trend where short-letting and the use of serviced apartments becomes even more profitable.
The collection of buildings where the licences are being sought are all within Camden’s Cumulative Impact Policy Area for Seven Dials — a location with a high density of places selling alcohol and where policy has a presumption to refuse new licences.
In persuading Camden to grant the licences lawyers for Consolidated state that the policy does not apply to them as they are running a “hotel and serviced apartments for use by [hotel] residents and their bona fide guests”.
The lawyers also cite a “provisional statement” granted by Camden Council for Hotel bedrooms at the redeveloped Denmark Place. The conditions imposed by Camden in this statement “are being applied, where suitable for this premises,” state the lawyers on the ten applications submitted.
Separately, Consolidated is applying for a licence to sell alcohol at the 14 bedroom hotel, and a Manchester-based organisation has also applied for an alcohol licence for the bar and restaurant in the hotel.
In total there are 12 applications for licensable activities submitted by solicitors Pollestone Allen who are acting for Consolidated and the other applicant.
A Camden Council spokesperson said: “The Council’s licensing service has received the applications which will be considered in line with the Camden Licensing policy and the provisions outlined within the Licensing Act 2003. The Council’s planning enforcement team has opened an investigation to look into whether the proposed use of the apartments represents a potential breach of planning control.”
Laurence Kirschel of Consolidated Developments Ltd expressed his displeasure at our reporting on the public consultation on the licensing applications. He responded to Fitzrovia News to say:
“What a shame you feel it necessary to misinterpret the positive intentions towards the local area that we have not only spoken about but, implemented in the only real effort to preserve and give British Music a home, that has taken place in the last decade.
“Our intentions and modus operandi have been clearly communicated to you and you have confirmed we are perfectly within the law, I therefore see no reason for such an article besides your own or any papers financial gain, what a shame.” he said.
Full details of the licensing applications listed below are available to view on Camden Council’s Public Licensing Register. The public consultation closes on 3 March 2021.
|Application reference||Premises name||Premises address|
|APP\PREMISES-NEW\104171||Apartments – Shaldon Mansions||132 Charing Cross Road WC2H 0LA|
|APP\PREMISES-NEW\104178||Apartments – 9 Denmark Street||9 Denmark Street WC2H 8LS|
|APP\PREMISES-NEW\104172||Apartments – 57 St Giles High Street||57 St Giles High Street WC2H 8LH|
|APP\PREMISES-NEW\104173||Apartments – 26 Denmark Street||26 Denmark Street WC2H 8NN|
|APP\PREMISES-NEW\104175||Apartments – 24-25 Denmark Street||24 Denmark Street WC2H 8NJ|
|APP\PREMISES-NEW\104176||Apartments – 21-23||21 Denmark Street WC2H 8NA|
|APP\PREMISES-NEW\104182||Apartments – 7 Denmark Street||7 Denmark Street WC2H 8LZ|
|APP\PREMISES-NEW\104183||Apartments 6 Denmark Street||6 Denmark Street WC2H 8LX|
|APP\PREMISES-NEW\104185||Apartments – 4 Denmark Street||4 Denmark Street WC2H 8LP|
|APP\PREMISES-NEW\104187||Apartments – 4 Flitcroft Street||4 Flitcroft Street WC2H 8DJ|
|APP\PREMISES-NEW\104167||The Hotel – Bedrooms||Denmark Place|
|APP\PREMISES-NEW\104186||The Hotel – 6th Floor Bar & Restaurant||Denmark Place|