Planning inspector visits site at centre of row between Camden Council and hospital charity

Work is already in progress at the site. Photograph: Julia Gregory

Planning inspector Gareth Thomas has paid a visit to a former central London workhouse at the heart of a row between a hospital charity and Camden Council.

The brick-built Georgian workhouse is a few doors down from the first London home of novelist and  social observer Charles Dickens.

The writer lived in the street twice – a fact commemorated by a plaque on the building. Dicken’s novel Oliver Twist is partly set in a workhouse.

The workhouse and two neighbouring buildings became part of the Middlesex Hospital before falling vacant.

The University of London Hospitals Trust sold the site to the UCLH Charity in 2015.

Work is already underway on part of the site which will include six medical diagnostic machines and a new home for the breast cancer centre.

However Camden Council turned down the charity’s revised plans for the site – which proposed a reduction in the number of affordable homes from 30 to 17.

The Town Hall said this was not enough while the charity argues it is simply not viable to create more low-cost homes.

After its plan was turned down, the charity went to appeal.

Planning inspector Gareth Thomas. Photograph: Julia Gregory

An inquiry being held this week at Camden Council’s Crowndale Centre heard that the planning inspector paid a site visit to see for himself.

The plans include penthouse flats on the upper storeys of the listed building.

The charity and the council agree new buildings on the development pose “less than substantial harm” to the Georgian workhouse.

However, the reduced number of social homes has left the Town Hall concerned about the “public benefit”.

Its lawyer Morag Ellis told the inquiry: “The risk is that those 30 families or individuals will not have a home on the site. There is a parlous condition of affordable housing in the borough.”

UCLH Charity’s lawyer Rebecca Clutten said: “I understand the strength of feeling around this but this scheme cannot deliver those numbers.”

The charity told the hearing that the scheme was facing a deficit following changes to the economy outside its control that have seen construction costs soar.

It said it is not a property developer and is considering finding a joint venture partner to help fund the development.

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