American private equity firm Westbrook Partners will unveil new plans for the redevelopment of former hospital building Arthur Stanley House at a public exhibition this week.
Westbrook say they have “improved redevelopment proposals” for a mixed-use scheme designed by architects Allford Hall Monaghan Morris and are inviting local residents and businesses to come and have a look.
However, while summary plans seen by Fitzrovia News show an improved visual design and space for a GP surgery, it is an office-led development with only nine homes and nothing in the way of affordable housing or public open space.
Previous plans for the site which were approved after an appeal hearing included 10 private flats and two social rented homes.
The site in Tottenham Street, Fitzrovia was last used for out patients in 2005 and its ownership was split among at least two parties. Since then it has passed from one owner to another in London’s fluid property market.
UCLH NHS Trust sold its share in the vacant site to its development partner, and naughty sibling, UCLH Charity.
UCLH Charity fought a battle with local community groups and submitted a planning application to develop the site as mostly offices, instead of providing a housing-led scheme as described in a planning brief in the Fitzrovia Area Action Plan.
Camden Council refused the application and UCLH Charity then sold its interest to two anonymous shell companies based off-shore. UCLH Charity allowed these shell companies to use its right to appeal the refusal of planning permission, and in 2016 a government inspector ruled in their favour overturning Camden’s decision.
Now the owners behind these anonymous companies have revealed themselves as Westbrook Partners and Fitzrovia News understands that they have recently acquired the freehold of the whole site, too.
Westbrook are no strangers to property in London. In 2014 they obtained the freehold of Dolphin Square in Pimlico, once the largest block of flats in Europe. After first buying the headlease, Westbrook created 612 Jersey-based companies, and sold each company one or two flats on 25 year leases. Westbrook then won the right to gain the freehold of the entire site through collective leasehold enfranchisement from freeholder Friends Life after an appeal court ruled in their favour.
In the same year they bought the New Era Estate in Hackney and set about raising rents to levels which would have priced tenants out of their homes. But Westbrook’s ownership was short-lived and they were shamed into selling to an affordable housing provider after a high profile protest which was supported by the celebrity Russell Brand.
A report in the Guardian described the company’s behaviour in New York as using property like a cash machine.
Public exhibition of development plans for Arthur Stanley House: 3pm to 8pm 22 June 2017 at Fitzrovia Community Centre, 2 Foley Street, London W1W 6DL. Promotional document (pdf) ASH A5 Leaflet. Exhibition material (pdf) ASH Public Consultation Banners.