The Independent London Newspaper
3rd September 2014

Letters

PROPERTY: Controversial student digs approved - Plans for expensive halls of residence mean Bloomsbury gardens buildings face demolition

An artist’s illustration of how the student accommodation development could look at Cartwright Gardens in Bloomsbury

Published: 22 August, 2013
by DAN CARRIER

THE University of London has responded to fears from people living in Bloomsbury that they are creating a cash-cow halls of residence that will provide expensive accommodation for students and lead to anti-social behaviour.

At a Town Hall planning committee meeting last Thursday, the University of London were given permission to demolish buildings in Cartwright Gardens, off Euston Road, and replace them with new blocks.

The site currently has 1,013 bedrooms for students and the scheme will add an extra 300. It includes knocking down two existing buildings and refurbishing a third.

The University of London told the New Journal they were delighted to get permission and said the university had a longstanding link with the borough and needed the new buildings.

A spokesman said: “We are very pleased with the decision to approve our exciting plans. The current Garden Halls are old, tired and vastly oversubscribed by our students, who enjoy living as part of the community in the heart of Camden.

“The new halls will help ease pressure on the private rental sector and provide students with high-quality, affordable accommodation near their place of study.

“The university has been part of the fabric of Camden since 1836 and we’re committed to building on and strengthening our relationship with the local community. We look forward to continuing to develop our plans with Camden and the people who live and work there.”

More than 50 people wrote to object to the ­proposals and a further 43 signed a petition against the scheme. Many fear it will be out of keeping with what are some of the best preserved historic streets in London.

The Bloomsbury conservation area advisory committee took part in a long campaign to persuade the university to re-think the plans.

In a letter to the Town Hall, they said the development was “hugely over-greedy,” looked more like a “hotel and conference centre” and was inappropriate for a “quietly elegant area of Bloomsbury”.

They added that the street had listed buildings whose setting would be ruined by the “grossly insensitive scale of the proposal”.

Other community groups also sent in objections. The Marchmont Street Association said that while they accepted the need for better student accommodation, they were worried that people living in Sandwich Street would have sunlight blocked out.

Camden Mayor Jonathan Simpson, who is a ward councillor for King’s Cross, attended the meeting to voice his objections. Saying his views were echoed by his fellow Labour councillors for the ward – council leader Sarah Hayward and Abdul Hai – he told the committee: “I share the views of the people who live in the area – the intensification of this site to create the largest student development in Camden is totally inappropriate.”

Cllr Simpson said the university did not have a good track record in making sure their students were good neighbours. “The university has systematically failed to address anti-social behaviour by students,” he said. “They reduced the number of wardens on site.”

He said he had lived in the halls as a student: in 1992, he moved to London to study politics and philosophy at UCL. I lived in Cartwright Gardens 21 years ago,” said Cllr Simpson. “It was OK. I have been in there since and all it needs is a lick of paint, a good refurbishment and that’s it. They are only inter­ested in making Cart­wright Gardens something that competes with the private student develop­ments in the borough. There is no justification to knock it down when a refurbishment plan would be just as good.”

Cllr Simpson added that while the plans had been rubber-stamped, he and other councillors would be keeping a “careful watching brief” on the plans to ensure the building went ahead with no disruption and that students and the university were held to account for any rowdy behaviour.

The planning com­mittee voted unanimously to approve the project, which will now go to the Mayor of London’s office to be signed off.

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