Belgrove House has now been minded for approval in a fiery meeting which saw outbursts against the ‘disgraceful’ and ‘arrogant’ design of the development. Camden will now rush to get approval from the GLA as the Secretary of State considers whether to call this in.
Planners were slammed by opposition leaders Oliver Cooper and Flick Rea for both obfuscating important independent advice and completely failing to control the design of Belgrove House, allowing the developers to make the design ‘worse and worse’. But angry questioning from almost every councillor on the committee was met with a world-class display of Kafkaesque prevarication and obstruction from Camden’s officers, who managed to spout thousands of words during the meeting without actually communicating any information whatsoever.
Sustained questions about whether the diabolical design of Belgrove House was really necessary to achieve the public benefit of a potential research use were met with assurances that the design was ‘confident’, ‘bold’ and ‘robust’, while design officers at times seemed to be reading from a script of catch phrases and buzzwords scribbled down by the architect Simon Allford.
Merck were wheeled out to give assurances they would take up occupancy, but it was clear that this is not a formal arrangement and there is no guarantee they will take up their tenancy. For the first time ever, planners and developer completely gave up calling this a research centre, and resorted to calling it an office block.
Chair of the planning committee Heather Johnson gave preferential treatment to her fellow Labour councillors while repeatedly shutting down Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors in their comments and questioning.
It culminated in an angry outburst from Cllr Oliver Cooper who condemned the shambolic design of Belgrove House and the complete disregard shown by officers and councillors towards Bloomsbury’s important heritage. ‘There’s a reason why Goldfinger was a supervillain in James Bond… because only a villain like Goldfinger would design a building as ugly as this.’
Eventually he was cut off by Cllr Adam Harrison, who after a solid hour of not even looking at the screen was no doubt irritated by the interruption of his enjoyment of Netflix, Twitter, and TikTok on his other laptop. Just as the whole meeting had played out, Camden’s officer successfully fed councillors a bucketload of empty and irrelevant words that could easily have been pulled from a special translation of Kafka’s The Castle.
But despite the fiery nature of the meeting and very prolonged questioning from councillors and deputations from the BCAAC, the majority of councillors voted for approval. Local ward councillor Georgie Robertson voted against, along with Oliver Cooper, while Flick Rea abstained. We were hurt by the absence of Cllrs Sue Vincent and Andrew Parkinson who could have voted against and voiced further opposition.
We are now appealing to the Secretary of State along with national heritage societies. Cllr Cooper has made a commitment to apply for World Heritage Site status for King’s Cross and St Pancras, which we will thoroughly support once the application is made.