Success Story: Ormonde Mansions

Collective action to protect residents of Ormonde Mansions shows how working together can benefit the residents of Bloomsbury.

We were recently contacted by residents of Ormonde Mansions who had been hit with a planning application in their ‘back garden’. Through the swift collective action of BRAG and the BCAAC we helped to prevent years of construction and loss of light in a shared lightwell.

Ormonde Mansions is a Victorian mansion block on Southampton Row. It shares an historic lightwell with surrounding properties, one of which is a hotel run by Hilton.

These residents had experienced years of disruption as the hotel had carried out works within the shared lightwell. As is so often the case, we were told that contractors worked outside usual hours but Camden had taken no enforcement action. After completing the work, the hotel had decided to put in an application to build higher within the lightwell.

As is also so often the case, we were told that residents were not directly notified of this application but found out by chance. This was despite the construction work being proposed a couple of feet from the windows of some residents.

Our Response

After being contacted we examined the planning application to discover exactly what was being proposed.

We also visited properties and talked to residents to get a better idea of the situation.

There were two aspects to their concerns. One was the detrimental effect that the construction would have on residents through disruption and eventual loss of light, and one was the detrimental effect the proposals would have on the historic environment.

Residents even expressed that faced with more construction, it had reached the point where they were considering simply selling up and moving away permanently.

The lightwell was of architectural and historic interest, with interesting features and white glazed ceramic to help reflect light into properties.

Within a few weeks BRAG had formulated a response raising concerns about residents whilst the BCAAC submitted a response based on heritage concerns.

The BCAAC used their knowledge about national planning policy and argued on those grounds that the application could not be accepted due to a technical oversight where the applicant had failed to properly assess the historic environment and explain how it would be preserved and enhanced.

The Application is Refused

Within a week of the consultation response deadline the application was rejected.

It is highly unusual for an application of this type to be rejected within such short timescales.

The refusal notice simply simply summarised the viewpoints of the responses from BRAG and the BCAAC, that residential amenity would be negatively affected and the historic environment would also be diminished.

This is an encouraging success of collective action in response to resident concerns. We effectively used our influence, knowledge, and experience to represent a small group of residents and effectively saved them from years of construction work and loss of light within a matter of weeks.


Bloomsbury Residents’ Action Group

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Bloomsbury Conservation Areas Advisory Committee

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