Workhouse plans fail to deliver on housing, heritage and open space

Proposals by a hospital charity to redevelop the site of the former Strand Union Workhouse on Cleveland Street have been met with over 150 letters of objection sent to Camden Council which is due to make a decision on the plans later this year.

Front of workhouse building.

The former Middlesex Hospital Annex and Strand Union Workhouse building on Cleveland Street.

The site was last used as the Middlesex Hospital Annex in 2006 and it has since remained largely vacant with property guardians using the buildings as temporary accommodation.

It is now under the ownership of University College London Hospitals Charity which has submitted plans for a housing and commercial development.

The land is one of the last pieces in the jigsaw of older hospital sites in Fitzrovia which have been emptied, sold or redeveloped as part of UCLH‘s strategy to renew its vast medical estate.

It is also one of the few remaining opportunity sites identified for housing in the Fitzrovia Area Action Plan, and is the subject of an outstanding s106 agreement to provide at least 30 social rented homes plus another 1,425 square metres (at least 14 homes) of much needed social housing.

The latest proposal is to refurbish the Grade II listed workhouse building and part demolish and redevelop the rest of the site to provide 50 homes and 4,535sqm of commercial floor space mostly in a new tower block to be built at the rear.

Ten residential properties will be for sale on the open market, 36 will be social rented homes, and — without any hint of irony — four intermediate affordable homes for local NHS workers.

UCLH Charity state in the planning application that “staff who leave key posts as nurses, healthcare assistants, doctors and scientists consistently cite housing costs as one of the three most significant factors in encouraging their leaving”.

This incredible statement comes from the very hospital charity which has in recent years sold off much of its rented staff accommodation and left its own workers to face eviction after their homes were bought by property developers and turned into pimped-up apartments.

Many of the objections submitted in response to the planning application raise concern about the lack of social housing on the site, a situation compounded by the fact that UCLH Charity want 40 percent of the site for office space.

The application falls well short of the amount of homes expected and Fitzrovia News understands that Camden Council is no longer going to demand the outstanding 1,425 square metres of social rented housing connected with a previously planned development at Grafton Way.

While the plans do open up an attractive pedestrian walkway from Charlotte Street to Cleveland Street the scheme fails to deliver much in the way of public open space to provide amenity for residents and local workers. The large amount of commercial premises planned — with possibly 400 employees — will exacerbate the lack of public open space in Fitzrovia.

UCLH Charity admit the public open space proposed falls short of what is required.

“In total 711 sqm of POS is provided. While this is below the provision expected by guidance, the spaces provided are of a high quality and standard of design,” says the planning statement.

Bizarrely a large number of people complained about a proposed underground car park to be built on what is believed to be a paupers’ graveyard to the rear of the main workhouse building. However, there is no car parking planned as one of the few merits of this scheme is that it will be a car-free development with no on-site or off-site parking allowed.

Fitzrovia News traced the source of the misinformation to a page on the workhouses.org.uk website run by Peter Higginbotham. When we contacted Higginbotham he immediately removed the incorrect information and blamed someone else for the error. “The bulk of the content on that web page actually comes from a concerned local person who I understood had studied the plans in considerable detail,” he said.

However, a great number of people wrote in to ask for an archaeological investigation of the historic graveyard on the site where human remains may still be present.

Most of the objections submitted call for all the Georgian and Victorian buildings on the site to be retained.

UCLH Charity feel confident they will get their plans approved after winning an appeal against Camden Council which had refused permission to redevelop another former hospital site for mostly offices.

However, Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association argues that the two sites need to be looked at in context and that UCLH Charity’s proposals fail to meet the criteria laid down in planning policy. It is recommending to Camden Council that it refuses the application because it fails to deliver on housing, public open space, appropriate design, and respect for heritage assets.

Camden’s planning officers will now assess the application before writing a report and recommendations ahead of a decision to be taken by the planning committee, most likely, later this year.

Middlesex Hospital Annex, 44 Cleveland Street, London W1T 4JT. Planning application:  2017/0414/P; and listed building consent:  2017/0415/L.

Editorial note: this article was edited at 17:47, 3 March to correctly state the number of market homes as ten not twelve as previously stated.

%d bloggers like this: