Vacant shop unit on Cleveland Street, Fitzrovia.
The vacant launderette shop unit at 86a-88 Cleveland Street could become yet another cafe. Photo: Fitzrovia News.

A vacant self-service laundry on Cleveland Street could be lost permanently as a community facility if Camden Council gives planning consent for it to be used as a cafe.

The launderette at 86a-88 Cleveland Street closed in February 2022 leaving those wanting to do their washing with no other option but to take a long walk out of the neighbourhood as there is no other facility nearby.

Now a planning application seeks permission to change it into a coffee shop — something Fitzrovia is not short of.

In policy terms launderettes are a “sui generis” use. In other words, they do not fall within a particular use class order. And planning permission is required to use the premises for something else.

View from the street of closed launderette with disused washing machines visible through the windows.
The Cleveland Street “laundrette” shortly after it closed in February 2022. Photo: Fitzrovia News.

An application submitted last week by Kafi Ltd seeks permission to change the 97 square metre shop unit to “Class E”, which encompasses a number of uses including shops, banks, restaurants and cafes.

The applicant has an existing coffee shop on the southern part of Cleveland Street and wants to expand their business.

Camden’s planning policy is supposed to protect community uses such as launderettes, even if the premises is vacant so that another operator could come forward to provide a replacement business at the site.

“There is a small but important supply of launderettes in the Borough which help local communities to meet their day-to-day needs,” states Camden’s planning guidance for community uses.

“These valued facilities can provide an essential service for residents without access to a washing machine at home, including people living in temporary forms of accommodation. They can also be a useful resource for larger households and residents who share facilities, where the demand for washing facilities is greater.”

Camden’s policy also states that launderettes have a role in “supporting social interaction” and make “an important contribution to the character, function, vitality and viability” of shopping streets — referred to as “neighbourhood centres” in planning policy — such as Cleveland Street in Fitzrovia.

Cleveland Street between Maple Street and Warren Street has a parade of shop units providing a variety of services dotted along it, and also a number of cafes and restaurants.

“Where the loss of a launderette is proposed, the Council wishes to ensure that the impact on local residents is assessed, in particular the effect of the reduction in launderette facilities on the community,” states Camden’s guidance.

Fitzrovia has a resident population of around 8,000 in a mix of mostly self-contained, rented homes and a significant number of people do not have access to a washing machine. Before it closed the launderette at Cleveland Street had a steady flow of customers every day of the week.

National planning policy also states that planning decisions should guard against the unnecessary loss of valued facilities and services, especially where there are different population groups in the locality such as students and people sharing houses and flats and where there are transient populations.

Whether Camden’s planners will take any notice of any of that is anyone’s guess.

A public consultation on the planning application is open until 19 November 2023.

2023/3079/P86a-88 Cleveland Street London Camden W1T 6NJChange of use from launderette (Sui Generis) to coffee shop (Class E).REGISTERED20-10-2023
Planning application.

The rateable value of the premises is £42,250 (1 April 2023 to present) according to the valuation office. This is lower than the previous valuation of £46,000 (1 April 2017 to 31 March 2023).

The premises is being marketed by commercial property agents Jenkins Law for £48,000 per year.

The launderette has existed on the site since at least as early as 1980 as a photo in the London Picture Archive shows.

This page was updated on 8 November 2023 to correct the closing date of the public consultation and to add information about the value of the premises; and again on 9 November to include an archive photo from 1980.