CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

The proposed development for the Holborn Library would ruin the building

20 September, 2018

Alec Forshaw outside No 49 Great Ormond Street

• THERE’S one error in Angela Cobbinah’s conversation with Alec Forshaw about his fascinating history of his house, 49 Great Ormond Street and its neighbourhood – An Address in Bloomsbury – that needs correction, (The inside story of 49 Great Ormond Street, September 13).

Mr Forshaw is recorded as being apprehensive about two possible developments in the locality, one being the Great Ormond Street Hospital’s plans for a grand new frontage building which would overwhelm the old houses opposite which include No 49. The other is Camden’s plans for Holborn Library. And it’s here that the error occurs.

The development Camden is proposing is not just of the mews behind the library, it is of the library itself. The plans as they stand would destroy the integrity of this remarkable and elegant building, designed by Sydney Cook, Camden’s outstanding borough architect from 1965 and 1973.

Twice put forward for listing and twice, for unaccountable reasons, rejected, the building would be ruined if the current plans were to go ahead.

It would be given a new glass front; floor levels would be changed; it would have a roadway driven through it to open up the mews at the back; and it would have an extra storey added which, with the existing top floor would provide two levels of luxury flats looking south over Gray’s Inn gardens. There would also be some “affordable” housing in the development along the mews behind the library.

As with most of Camden’s housing developments, these plans could go ahead only if they were self-funding, which is where the luxury flats come in. We can only hope the fall in house prices in London and apprehensions about the effect of Brexit will mean that, when the council’s financial experts go over the figures, the scheme will be shown to be unviable.

And then it might not be too much to hope that the building would be restored from the run-down state it’s in now, and that currently unused space would be used to provide adequate and safe accommodation for the borough’s invaluable archive, currently poorly housed there in the Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre.

MICHAEL POUNTNEY
Lamb’s Conduit Street, WC1

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