Basement excavation in Warren Mews is causing misery for residents and businesses

Building rubble in street.

Rubble from basement excavation in Warren Mews piles up in Warren Street.

By News Reporters It's a tiny cobbled mews off Warren Street but it is jammed with construction vehicles carrying out the demolition of houses and excavation of basements. Residents and business people say the noise and disruption is causing misery, cobblestones have been damaged and plants and flowers have been crushed by vehicles and dumper trucks. 

In June 2012 Camden’s planners gave permission for two houses in Warren Mews to be altered including a basement excavation to create three 2-bedroom houses.

Camden’s planning committee were informed by an officer in a report that the proposal to increase the amount of residential floorspace, in the form of a new basement, on the site “is to be welcomed” and is “fully supported by recently adopted planning policies”, and that the “external alterations are moderate and would preserve the character and appearance of the mews and the Bloomsbury Conservation Area generally.” The committee was also told that because the basement excavation would be less than 3m deep it would not need special consideration.

Vehicles in cobbled mews.

Warren Mews jammed with vehicles.

But this has come as little comfort for the residents and businesses in and next to Warren Mews who have had to endure the noise from the demolition of the two buildings, and trafficking all the debris out through the tiny mews entrance and into the street to be taken away.

The people we spoke to also said they had had no notification about the building works, but in the planning officer’s report it stated that 28 notices had gone out to adjoining neighbours in and around Warren Mews.

Several community groups were aware of the application and opposed the plans to create the 2-bedroom maisonettes and made written representations to Camden’s planners because of concerns about loss of 4-bedroom properties.

Rebecca Hossack who lives next to Warren Mews told Fitzrovia News that many of the residents have plants in tubs in the mews and take a pride in their homes. The building works had damaged plants, and that the cobblestones were collapsing. “They are ruining this little mews and there has been no consideration for people living and working here.”

Other residents and business people echoed her concerns and confirmed that the cobblestones and plants had been damaged. The amount of vehicles coming in and out of the mews was causing noise nuisance and difficulties for people getting in and out of their homes and offices. 

John Craig OBE who runs First Night Records told us the noise from the building works was making things particularly difficult for him in the hot weather. He complained that he could not hear people on the telephone. “With the windows open it is impossible to hear and with them shut we fry!”

Traffic in the mews was also causing a nuisance. “We are constantly complaining about the high vehicles parked in front of our windows that block out the natural light.  Parking Wardens seem to have no effect in the Mews. We also have a garage in the Mews and we frequently have to wait for the Mews entrance to be cleared before we can enter.”

He said some of the builders were also being inconsiderate with their language. “Our female staff are constantly complaining about the foul language used by the workmen and on one occasion were told ‘What do you expect, this is a construction site!'”

Mr Craig said he has contacted Camden Council to get a council tax reduction.

The construction site at number 6 and 7 Warren Mews is not part of the Considerate Builders scheme. When Fitzrovia News visited the site we could not see any licence for scaffolding or notice of parking suspension. When the excavation earth was dumped in Warren Street within the zone of Camden’s pay-and-display on-street parking there was no notice of a parking suspension or any evidence of permission to use the street as a temporary dumping area. The street was however cleaned of debris by the builders after they had finished loading the earth and rubble onto a lorry.

Making matters worse was the presence of other building work taking place in the mews. The rear of a property at 108 Cleveland Street is having a basement excavated and a rear extension built. This site is smaller but is part of the Considerate Builders scheme and had a licence from Camden Council for a hoarding. There is also scaffolding around 5 Warren Mews to enable installation of Juliette balconies. All this building work was given permission by Camden Council.

Ms Hossack who owns two art galleries in Fitzrovia said that many of the recent residential developments in Fitzrovia were causing disruption and where speculators are buying property as investments but showing no interest in the community. She was concerned that Crossrail was changing the character of the neighbourhood. “We don’t want this intensification”, she said.

Camden Council’s Cabinet Member for Sustainability, Transport and Planning Cllr Phil Jones told Fitzrovia News: “The Council’s enforcement team are actively investigating complaints about the on-going building works in Warren Mews.

“They will be working closely with local residents and businesses as part of this investigation and take action where appropriate to ensure the construction impact is minimised.”

Editorial note. Paragraph two was amended on Sunday 22 September 2013 to make a correction. The paragraph originally stated that Camden had given permission for demolition. This was incorrect. The original paragraph said: In June 2012 Camden’s planners gave permission for two buildings in Warren Mews to be demolished and rebuilt as three buildings including a basement excavation to create three 2-bedroom units.

We have now been informed that the demolition has been done without conservation area consent and that Camden are taking legal advice.

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