A hospital charity has lodged an appeal to the planning inspectorate after Camden council rejected its plans to cut the number of social homes on the Middlesex Hospital annex and former workhouse site in Fitzrovia.
In December 2021 Camden council’s planning committee rejected UCLH Charity’s request to cut the number of social homes for rent at the Cleveland Street site from 36 to 13, with four intermediate rented homes, and increase the number for sale on the open market from 13 to 40.
The charity raises funds to support patients, staff and ground-breaking research at University College Hospitals London.
Without these changes it said the plan was no longer viable because of the challenges and costs development.
The council “strongly opposed” this.
The charity said there was a “limit to the loss” it could sustain and could no longer run to 40 affordable homes.
The charity’s development director Peter Burroughs told the December planning committee that the scheme “has become substantially unviable” even with no affordable housing provided. He said the charity was prepared to build 17 affordable homes and “carry that loss” and if circumstances change it could increase the number.
The scheme was initially given planning permission in 2019 to build 53 homes — including 36 at social rent rent, four at intermediate rent, and 13 to sell at market rate.
It keeps the 18th century Strand Union Workhouse building and creates a new block to rear with homes, healthcare facilities, and public open space on the site of the now demolished 19th century hospital wings.
The public inquiry is the latest stage in the planning saga over the site.
In 2004 there was a section 106 agreement that a “backstop” minimum of 30 affordable homes had to be built on the site by 2010 or Camden council could serve legal papers asking the NHS to transfer the land to it for £1. This would allow the council to develop it for affordable housing itself.
Camden council claims this legal clause still stands but the charity said the agreement has lapsed.
In 2017 permission was given for a scheme including 30 social homes, which was later amended.
At last December’s meeting planning committee member Danny Beales said the charity was deprioritising social housing”. The application to cut the amount of affordable homes was unanimously rejected by Camden’s planning committee.
They were recommended to refuse the scheme by planning officers because of the “proposed reduction in affordable housing, combined with the changes to the dwelling mix” and concerns that it would “fail to maximise the supply of affordable housing in the borough and would fail to minimise social polarisation and promote the creation of mixed, inclusive sustainable communities.”
A report for the December committee meeting said: “Given that the 2017 scheme was skewed heavily in favour of social-affordable rented units, and these have the greatest demand, the council would not wish to see this ratio reduced.”
But Burroughs told the December meeting that if the council would not agree to allow it to reduce the social housing they would take legal action as well as appeal the decision.
The committee’s legal advisor Aidan Brooke had said it would be “very sad” if it took legal action against the council and it would “be unprecedented for a charity to take that incredibly bullish position” to challenge the section 106 agreement.
The planning inquiry will be heard on October 18 and evidence has to be submitted to the inspector by mid September.
Update, 21 August 2022: documents lodged with Camden Council reveal that UCLH Charity has applied to the High Court to challenge the 2004 s106 agreement.
“It is the Charity’s position that the 2004 Agreement lapsed in July 2009 and therefore is no longer enforceable. As such, there is no obligation to provide the Legacy Units on the Appeal Site. This has been an ongoing matter of dispute between the parties which has resulted in the Charity issuing a claim against LB Camden in the High Court (“High Court Litigation”) to seek a declaration (amongst other matters) to confirm that the 2004 Agreement ceased to have effect as of 29 July 2009,” states the statement of case for the appeal prepared by Temple Group Ltd on behalf of UCLH Charity.