Sandwiched between an extension to the British Library and the redevelopment of a site at Chalk Farm on the agenda at Monday’s planning committee at Camden’s Crowndale Centre is a seemingly minor application for 112a Great Russell Street.
In a rare departure from the usual material considerations that are expounded in a lengthy planning officers’ report, there is a refreshing outburst of honesty about the odd goings on deep underground off Tottenham Court Road for sleepy councillors to consider.
Planning permission was granted on appeal in November 2016 for Central London Investments Ltd, part of Criterion Capital, to convert a basement car park into a windowless hotel consisting of 166 rooms four and five storeys beneath the increasingly feculent streets of Fitzrovia’s lower east side.
However, construction has “not been carried out in accordance with the approved drawings” and the subterranean site has been laid out and fitted for “a greater number of guest rooms” — 207 instead of 166 — states the officers’ report.
To rectify matters, we are told, an application was submitted in July 2020 to modify the planning permission so that it correctly matches the number of hotel rooms actually built. Planning in reverse, if you like.
While planning officers were content to recommend approval for this daft arrangement, members of the planning committee were not impressed, and refused to grant permission.
Not content with being turned down — and removing the additional hotel rooms — Criterion wandered off to the Planning Inspectorate asking for Camden’s decision to be overturned.
The appeal is ongoing. However they have now submitted new plans to increase the number of hotel rooms from 166 to 187, by way of a compromise. And in return they will abandon the appeal.
If that sounds like horse-trading and an odd way of going about things, it is because it is.