‘Tower block does not have enough affordable homes’

Objectors claim developer's miscalculations means they do not meet policy requirements

Friday, 4th June 2021 — By Bronwen Weatherby

One Museum Street

Drawing of the proposed office block

DEVELOPERS have been accused of skimping on affordable housing in their plans to turn a former hotel into a high-rise block of offices.

Neighbours have objected to LabTech’s plans for One Museum Street, Holborn, where 21 storeys of “flexible office space” have been proposed.

Objections have ranged from the scale of the building in a historic area that is home to the British Museum to questions about whether central London needs more offices due to the way the pandemic has changed the nature of work.

It has also been argued that the “affordable” housing being offered is inadequate, and it was claimed this week that LabTech has miscalculated the amount of housing they would be required to build on the site to meet policies set out by the Town Hall and the Greater London Authority.

Jim Monahan, an architect who lives nearby and is among the objectors, has told the Town Hall that 11 residential maisonettes situated across two floors in the tower had not been accounted for in the working out.

He said this means there should be 48 new homes on the site when it’s finished, instead of the 29 in the plans – and therefore a higher number of affordable units should be created.

Camden said this week that “this issue has been raised directly with the developer”.

But Mr Monahan said: “Why the Camden planners have not picked this up after two years and 18 meetings with the developer is beyond me. It’s clear they hadn’t visited the building until we brought this to their attention. They just took LabTech’s word for it. It beggars belief.”

He added: “Camden goes on about housing being a priority but when they get an opportunity to show that is the case and stand up to big developers, they don’t. If they don’t make LabTech change anything in their plans it will be outrageous.”

Regeneration chief Councillor Danny Beales said: “Council tax records do indicate 11 domestic residential units on site and planning officers are also aware that historically there were 11 residential flats. Planning officers have visited the site to investigate, and the units appear currently to be being used as serviced apartments.”

He added: “The council has some of the most stringent policies around affordable housing in the country, and will always seek to maximise the delivery of much-needed affordable homes.”

LabTech has denied the claims and said: “We believe we have calculated the quantity of housing required in accordance with all relevant policies and that this will be confirmed by the planning process in due course.”

A community campaign against the development is gathering momentum and residents have been distributing pamphlets with the headline “Alert: Save Museum Street” around the neighbourhood.

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