Fitzrovia’s heritage and special quality are under threat

By Planning Correspondent

Georgian building.

1-3 Goodge Street is the oldest building in the street. Although not listed it is an important part of Fitzrovia's heritage as it contains many of its original internal features.

There are currently development proposals which apart from other negative features involve the demolition of two Georgian buildings retaining only the facades: 74 Charlotte Street and 1-3 Goodge Street. Both are capable of refurbishment for continued use. 1-3 Goodge Street is the oldest building in the street (circa 1763) has a rare plan form and internally retains many original features. Underlying these proposals is the idea, apparently shared by the planners, that in buildings which are not listed only the facades matter. This is fundamentally mistaken. Buildings are three-dimensional entities where the facade reflects the plan and the internal spaces all which constitutes their heritage value.

Retained facades in front of redeveloped buildings where party walls and staircases have been removed lose all historic meaning. The facade no longer reflects the internal layouts or the spacial character. Developments often extend across several buildings behind facades of different ages and styles. They effectively become stage sets, including even dummy front doors as is the case with 1-3 Goodge Street.

It is profoundly mistaken to suggest that unlisted buildings require less protection. What we think of as the character of Fitzrovia and its special quality is made up largely by such buildings.

In the four streets at the centre of the Charlotte Street Conservation Area — Goodge, Charlotte, Tottenham, and Windmill Streets — there here are only 12 listed buildings, but 104 identified as making a positive contribution to the conservation area. This designation gives them the status of heritage assets.

Government guidance says that where development will lead to substantial harm or total loss to a heritage asset, the planning authority should refuse consent unless their loss or harm is necessary to achieve substantial public benefit that outweighs the harm or loss. It identifies such circumstances as basically when a heritage asset prevents reasonable development of the site or the asset has no viable use in the medium term. None of these apply to 74 Charlotte Street or 1-3 Goodge Street.

For 1-3 Goodge Street Camden’s planning officers have previously recommended demolition with retained facade; the purported benefits were filling the gap at 5-7 Goodge Street. But this can be achieved by an independent self-contained building on this site and could have been done at any time since 1944; and the provision of nine residential units which could equally be achieved by sensitive infilled refurbishment. In other words, there is no substantial public benefit gained by the demolition of this 1763 house.

It is noteworthy that the leading expert on Georgian Buildings Dan Cruikshank has expressed an interest in 1-3 Goodge Street and a willingness to give a view on the quality and feasibility of refurbishment. Despite the efforts of Bloomsbury ward councillor Adam Harrison to gain access, the owners have refused on the grounds that the building is unsafe; and surprisingly Camden planners have declined to use their authority to secure such access.

Be warned looking at the broader picture is the assumption that Fitzrovia’s positive contributors — its heritage assets — can be demolished and with the retention of meaningless facades accepted. We can look forward to Fitzrovia becoming a sort of Disneyland.

The Charlotte Street Association is asking people to oppose this planning application http://bit.ly/2012-2220-P and email Camden’s planners telling them to reject the demolition plans. The deadline for comments is Wednesday 30 May 2012.

Email: planning@camden.gov.uk quoting planning application: 2012/2220/P 62-63 Tottenham Court Road and 1-7 Goodge Street London W1T

The planning applications concerned are below.

74 Charlotte Street London W1T 4QH: Demolition of building behind retained four storey front façade and redevelopment for a 5 storey building that includes a new mansard roof level with rear terrace, a rear terrace at second floor level, plus excavation to form a basement level with front lightwell, to accommodate restaurant (Class A3) at basement and ground floors and 5 x residential flats on upper floors to be communally accessed from Charlotte Mews. Registered 04-05-2012
Planning details 2012/2133/P Conservation details 2012/2187/C

62-63 Tottenham Court Road and 1-7 Goodge Street London W1T: Erection of five storey building plus basement at 5-7 Goodge Street and rebuilding to five storeys plus basement at 62-63 Tottenham Court Road and 1-3 Goodge Street (including mansard roof), following part/complete demolition of existing buildings, all in association with the provision of retail space (Class A1/A12) at ground floor level and 9 residential units (2 x 1 bedroom, 3 x 2 bedroom and 4 x 3 bedroom self contained flats) to upper floors (Class C3) – SCHEME A. Registered 02-05-2012
Planning details 2012/2213/P Conservation details 2012/2214/C

62-63 Tottenham Court Road and 1-7 Goodge Street London W1T: Erection of five storey building plus basement at 5-7 Goodge Street and rebuilding to five storeys plus basement at 62-63 Tottenham Court Road and 1-3 Goodge Street (including mansard roof), following part/complete demolition of existing buildings, all in association with the provision of retail space (Class A1/A12) at ground floor level and 9 residential units (2 x 1 bedroom, 3 x 2 bedroom and 4 x 3 bedroom self contained flats) to upper floors (Class C3) – SCHEME B. Registered 01-05-2012
Planning details 2012/2220/P Conservation details 2012/2221/C

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