After years of insisting that democratic institutions not have processes be hijacked by the contrivances of company lawyers, Camden Council, at last, started to fully acknowledge that long-term resident and small business interests must not be drowned out nor become wholly subsidiary to this corporate juggernaut – resident life will otherwise become increasingly pressurised and small business commercial rents could rocket. This is NOT Fitzrovia (and certainly not Noho) PLC.
In the specific case of the Saatchi block, Derwent London claim to have distributed thousands of leaflets inviting locals to a public consultation and community input during the formation of their ideas and plans. If they had distributed the leaflet numbers they claim that would have amounted to a blanket invitation to the whole of Fitzrovia. Patently, that was not the case.
Having had their redevelopment application rejected by Camden Council because it did not meet Camden policy requirements referencing a careful balancing of interests, London Mayor Boris Johnson took it upon himself to review the application stating that there was “no opposition” to the redevelopment from the residents Derwent claimed to have invited to their consultation but, somehow, were not. It seems the Mayor decided that poor Derwent – or the Mayor’s own electoral interests as identified with Crossrail’s success to which Derwent are now financially contributing – were in need of his compassionate intervention.
We met with Derwent directors Nick Groves and Oliver Shepherd three years ago and were given assurance that Derwent, while being an institution in existence for the accruement of profit, took its neighbourly responsibilities seriously; something repeated by Simon Silver in an interview with Fitzrovia News: “we will communicate with and listen to local people”. Now we learn, with the PR less opaque, that that social responsibility adds up to what we didn’t know was needed: a stonking monster of a design, lucky us, encouraging more progressively oversized construction, repealing dated 1960’s corp’ fashion for another which will date as quickly in keeping with the latest frontage branding that Derwent have replicated at several of their sites (with some devastating effect), the perpetual submersion of an historic mews, the eating into and gutting of human scale Charlotte St Conservation Area buildings and the inside-out transference of the inner courtyard outside corporate space to the edge of the site, insufficient by proportion for the plot to current amenity levels let alone for the increase of the site’s floor space usage and the Crossrail influx.
Competition is part of life, business is part of community life, economic activity is welcome and needed in what is not a solely commercial district; but why is that an excuse for big business and vested interest to take absolute precedence over the incremental effects upon ordinary long-term residents?
Mr P Baver
Mrs S Pandit
Mr C Stephens
Howard House & Cleveland St (north) Neighbourhood Watch