Royal National Throat, Nose, and Ear Hospital (RNTEH) set for comprehensive redevelopment. Read about the scheme and the long history of this area.
A large expanse of land between Gray’s Inn Road, Swinton Street, and Wicklow Street is set for comprehensive redevelopment, with a planning application having been put in earlier this year.
The development will see almost the total demolition of all buildings on site, excepting the historic facade of the former ENT Hospital facing onto Gray’s Inn Road.
The site will be mixed use, including a hotel, restaurant, gym, offices, and housing, 35% of which is expected to be affordable.
The developer’s website is as usual, infuriatingly sparse on the details that people really care about. In particular, what is this development actually going to look like? And to what extent is historic fabric going to be damaged or lost?
You can see the developer’s website here.
The Bloomsbury Conservation Advisory Objects
The development falls within the Bloomsbury Conservation Area and borders the King’s Cross Conservation Area, much like the Belgrove House development. In fact it is the same architect behind each proposal, AHMM.
As always, the key question for such developments is whether the scale is appropriate for the surrounding environment. Developers are always keen to push the boundaries, and with the enormous Eastman Dental Hospital redevelopment being approved earlier this year, a precedent has been set for tall-ish buildings in this area.
However the EDH decision brought with it substantial public benefit with a research centre, whereas this application is for a fairly standard mixed use development. Expect fewer concessions to be made on things like height and design from Camden.
As is usual with such ‘consultation’ websites, there are very few views which put the proposals in perspective with the surrounding development, and no indication at all in the total increase in height.
But despite AHMM’s inglorious record for ugly development in the Bloomsbury CA, from what can be gleaned of the artistic impressions the development doesn’t look too bad in terms of appearance – generally.
The development’s appearance is apparently rooted in the ‘vernacular’ of the area, with appropriate relationship to street, materials, solid-to-void ratio, and massing. But perhaps the visualisations are misleading as looking closer to a bad Instagram filter.
But the proposed hotel would be a significant blot upon the historic landscape, evidently pushing the boundaries in terms of height, and appearance.
Evidently the developer will be making the argument that given the public benefit of bringing the site back into use and providing affordable housing, this tall building should be permitted. No doubt viability arguments have already been presented, along the lines of such a tall building is required to make the scheme profitable.
The Bloomsbury Conservation Advisory is likely to take a dim view of such arguments. The tower will be visible from the nearby Gough-Calthorpe and Swinton estates within the Bloomsbury CA, one of the most excellently preserved examples of late Georgian early Victorian residential development in central London.
The Gough-Calthorpe Estate is especially significant given historic links to other developments by the same aristocratic family throughout the country, including in Edgbaston, Birmingham.
Permission granted for a tall building on this site would certainly set a precedent for tall buildings all along Gray’s Inn Road, transforming this area from one of low density, and generally residential use into a mis-match of small historic development and tall modern development.
Camden are currently considering the advisory’s objections, taking into account the long read article published on The End of King’s Cross.
You can email any comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the Bloomsbury Conservation Advisory at email@example.com.