This report was presented to Members at the AGM on 21st May 2019

Ten Committee meetings were held during the 12 months, with two extra meetings convened to discuss certain specific issues.

Officers were elected in the first meeting after the AGM, with Caroline Persaud taking the role of Secretary, Ian Broderick Vice Chair and Nicky Sinnett continued as Treasurer.

Traffic and transport issues: closure of Judd Street

Following the motion at the AGM to object to the Council’s traffic management proposals, it was agreed that a deputation would be made to the Leader who was making the decision on 25 June. Tom Reed presented MA’s views to the Council. There were deputations from many other local businesses and residents’ associations. Unfortunately, their well-structured arguments appeared not to have been properly considered and the decision was made to go ahead with the closure despite our appeals. After some debate, and an extra meeting to define the wording, a letter was sent by the Chair to ward councillors objecting to the closure of both Judd Street and Lansdowne Terrace.

Update on Tavistock Place

On 5th September 2018 Camden’s Cabinet members followed the advice of their Transport Officers and decided to make permanent the ETO (experimental traffic order) which had been in place since July 2015, enabling traffic flow to continue to flow in an eastbound direction along Tavistock Place. The Inspector’s report gave weight to a westbound direction, so the Cabinet agreed to undertake another consultation, which would focus on direction of travel.  This took place from November to January.  A report was due to be brought back to Cabinet in April 2019, assessing the westbound scheme and making a final decision.  But this has been postponed – so we’re none the wiser on the final outcome.

Planning applications

We continue to monitor planning applications which we hear about through Camden’s alert system.  If requested by residents, we will lodge an objection in support.

The latest objection was an application for change of use of the Costcutter food store at 87-89 Marchmont Street to become a Johnny Custard Dessert Parlour.

The fact that the MA’s Area of Benefit is a mixed-use area, with residents and businesses sometimes taking opposing positions, can be tricky for the Committee – as MA represents the interests of both businesses and residents. It is necessary to rely on Planning Policy. In this instance, we referred to the specific restrictions regarding the proportion of uses in the street frontage and the fact there can be no more than two consecutive food, drink, or entertainment uses. With Fork Café on one side and the Lord John Russell pub on the other, there is no justification for change of use of Costcutter (a retail shop) to A3 (restaurant). However, as yet there has been no definite decision on this application.

The MA is represented on a number of Community Liaison Groups for developments in the Area of Benefit, including the Old Dairy (next to St George’s Gardens) and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (still working on its Construction Management Plan).  The CLG for Cartwright Gardens is a long-term commitment, and the group continues to monitor noise issues and maintenance of the Gardens. 

The latest development to affect our area is the redevelopment of Camden Town Hall.

MA Committee members have been attending recent working group meetings. The Construction Management Plan has not yet been finalised, but the intention is to make sure that construction traffic makes the least possible impact on nearby residents. Following a meeting last week, we learn that lorries will head north along Judd Street from Guilford Street, to reverse (with traffic marshals) into Bidborough Street, in order to exit on to the Euston Road via Mabledon Place. We are trying to encourage Lendlease (the developer) to explore with TFL the option of heading south from Midland Road into Judd Street (the junction is still open to emergency vehicles) as this is where the site is, and it will reduce unnecessary journeys around the area. There is, as yet, no date for the closure of Lansdowne Terrace which would make their current proposed route impossible.

Residential amenity

We have been supporting residents of Knollys House regarding the noise nuisance they have to endure due to the very close proximity of the Generator Hostel, which has over 800 beds, and frequent coming and going of very large groups of young people.  The MA was heavily involved in previous negotiations with Camden and the Generator Management that resulted in some improvement to neighbours’ quality of life. However, there has been a change of management, a reduction in security staff, and complaints are increasing.  A new smoking area has been created in an internal courtyard but although this helps Knollys House residents, it is having a negative impact on residents of Leigh Street, whose flats overlook the space. We have had one meeting with the new manager, and ward Councillors are now involved to try to resolve the tensions.

Public realm and other issues

We have been monitoring rubbish collection in the area and alerting Officers to instances of non-collection.  The Clean Camden App seems to have some effect in alerting Veolia to collect rubbish that has just been dumped.

The MA was one of the many Community groups and associations that objected to the Evening Standard’s proposal to hold a 4 week Festival of Culture in Russell Square.  Despite these objections, Camden’s Licencing Committee gave their approval. However, in the end the Evening Standard decided to cancel their application for use of space in Russell Square, citing the opposition from local stakeholders. as well as the difficulty in securing full anticipated commercial sponsorship.

We are keeping our eye on issues further afield (outside the MA’s Area of Benefit) through the MA’s connections with BRAG and other local groups. MA Committee members attend meetings and are forwarded info from BCAAC, Bloomsbury Association, Rugby & Harpur Residents Association and Friends of Argyle Square.  These groups in turn have meetings with useful bodies such as the Police and Bedford Estates. The passing on of information within south Camden is important.

2018 Street Party

Despite a lot of work put into organising the Marchmont Street party by the Chair and MA Committee members, in association with KCBNA, the weather was against us this year, and “rain stopped play”.  The stalls and bands struggled on and visitors and local people enjoyed the day – but the street party was forced to end prematurely due to the downpour.

MA’s History Project

Four blue commemorative blue plaques were unveiled during the year, following extensive research carried out by our blue plaques group.

On 6 June 2018 a plaque to James Burton was unveiled at a building on the corner of Guilford Street and Lansdowne Terrace, which is now part of the University of London’s International Hall student accommodation.  Much of the housing in our area was built by James Burton and he lived at 92 Guilford Street between 1794 and 1796.  The plaque was sponsored by the University of London.

A plaque marking the former home of the theatrical impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte, was unveiled on 7 August – currently the north façade of the President Hotel in Guilford Street. Richard D’Oyly Carte lived in a house on this site between 1881 and 1886.  He founded the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company and built the Savoy Hotel and the Savoy Theatre to host Gilbert & Sullivan comic operas. VIPs to the unveiling event included the Deputy Major of Camden, the director of the D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust and the General Manager of the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company. Both the plaque and reception afterwards were kindly sponsored by the owners of the President, Imperial London Hotels.

On 17 August a plaque to George Jacob Holyoake was unveiled at 4 Woburn Walk by the CEO of the National Secular Society and the Deputy Mayor of Camden. George Holyoake was a radical journalist, Secularist and promoter of the Co-operative movement and he lived in Woburn Walk from 1850 to 1861. The plaque was sponsored by the National Secular Society and an informal reception was held afterwards at the Wallace Space in Flaxman Terrace.

The final plaque to be organised by the MA last year commemorated Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Christabel and Sylvia, Founders of the Suffragette Movement, and was unveiled on 19 October by Sylvia’s granddaughter, Dr Helen Pankhurst. Her forebears lived at 8 Russell Square between 1888 and 1893 in a house that was demolished in 1894 and is now the location of the Principal Hotel, who sponsored the plaque. The unveiling ceremony coincided with the 2018 Bloomsbury Festival which had at its theme, Activists and Architects of Change.

In October, the German Lutheran Church in Sandwich Street kindly hosted the launch of the MA’s latest publication, “Three Men and a Field, Bloomsbury North of Tavistock Place”, researched and written by Ricci de Freitas.

Resignation of Chair

Ricci de Freitas resigned as Chair and from the Committee in December 2018.

The MA Committee members would like to publicly acknowledge Ricci’s energy and commitment to Marchmont Street, the street in Bloomsbury where he and his family have lived for many years and which provided the impetus for forming the local community group in 2004, now known as the Marchmont Association.

In particular, Ricci’s aspiration to create the Marchmont Community Garden – with help from many other local people, including Committee members – has resulted in a well-used and undoubted asset for the local area. We thank Ricci for the constructive effort he has put in as Chair of the MA during the past 15 years.

We would also like to thank all the other committee members who have supported the MA over the last year.

Way Forward

We will continue to focus on issues relating to the public realm, community services and heritage.

We will continue to support residents who object to inappropriate planning applications or noise nuisance.

If there is interest, and practical support, we would like to continue the MA’s highly respected commemorative blue plaque scheme.

The MA is also looking to focus more on relationships between the residential community, businesses (retail, restaurants, hotels, university) and Camden Council; institutions that contribute to the area in which we live, work and play.

Some ideas we have had include:

  • Promoting local businesses for the benefit of the local community, residents and visitors
  • Community boards advertising local services
  • Regular walkabouts to bring people together informally and monitor what is going on, on the streets in which we live
  • Campaigning on local issues

We are open to new ideas and aspirations and welcome suggestions for co-creativity and collaboration.

Just send us your thoughts to info@marchmont.org