As What is the vigour and cause behind this

As the summary of Michael Hebbert’s book-‘London :
more by fortune than design’ states, “Plague, Fire, Imperial collapse, the
Blitz, London rises triumphant, still one of the brokers of the global economy
and still one of the most liveable cities in the world”. In the aftermath of
the World War II, most of London was left in ruins, and a third of the city had
to be recreated. Despite this, London, a city made up of 32 local authority
districts, or boroughs, and 33 when the central City of London is included,
manages to grow and endure. What is the vigour and cause behind this survival?
Is it the planning schemes put forward by the governing authorities? Is it the
response of residents of the city or ‘Londoners’ to the said planning schemes?
Is it the various conservation measures taken up by heritage councils? As it is
laborious to explore answers to this question relating to the whole of London,
through this paper, I would like to focus on one district of central London,
namely, Fitzrovia, which lies partly on the city of Westminster and partly in
the London Borough of Camden.

Introduction

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Fitzrovia (Fitzrovia
Trust Limited, 2013) is termed after the Fitzroy Tavern, a public house located
on the corner of Charlotte Street and Windmill Street, in the interiors of the
district. The name of the public house was termed after Charles Fitzroy (later
Baron Southampton), who initially established the northern part of the area in
the 18th century. Fitzroy acquired the Manor of Tottenhall and developed
Fitzroy Square, to which he gave his name. The square is the most notable of
the actual architectural characteristics of the district, having partly been
designed by Robert Adam. The
district was first expanded by Charles Fitzroy, lord of the manor of Tottenhall
from 1757. The eastern and southern edges of Fitzroy Square were designed by
Robert Adam in 1794 and endure their original form. In its initial days Fitzrovia
was built for the upper classes, and was principally an area of wealthy tradesmen
and craft workshops, with Edwardian mansion blocks constructed by the Quakers
to permit theatre employees to be close to work. Though it was developed for
the people belonging to the upper classes, the residents soon travelled south-westwards to Belgravia and Mayfair, compelling a partition of the aristocratic houses
into workshops, studios and rooms to let. A post-war dearth of
commercial space in central London encouraged the rezoning of Fitzrovia as a
light industrial area and some admirable Georgian assets – including
Constable’s house, were demolished and substituted by office blocks, several of
which have since been reconstructed.

It can therefore be clearly seen that
Fitzrovia, in the past, was never planned by a governing authority, but by the
residents and the community itself, according to their needs and
specifications, and quickly and efficiently adapted to the different ethnic and
cultural groups which were making it their home over a period of time. Only
Post war, did Fitzrovia come to be governed by the boroughs, namely Camden and
Westminster, and at
present, Fitzrovia is an area where an established residential community exists
along with a mix of Central London activities including commercial, university
and health uses.

Looking back at
the questions put forward at the beginning of this essay, an amalgamation of
these questions can result in one very important question of ‘What planning
model has produced the diverse urban qualities of Fitzrovia?’, the answers to
which, will be clear through the course of the discussion in this essay.

 

Developments
in Fitzrovia through planning models :

There have been
many recent developments in Fitzrovia, the most notable being the project of ‘Fitzroy Place’, which is a new
private development by a private
housebuilding company, Taylor Wimpey, and situated in Central London alongside
London’s significant neighbourhoods like Mayfair, Marylebone, Soho and offering
a luxury living (http://www.fitzroyplace.com/the-place/overview/,
2016). Fitzroy Place (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fitzroy_Place,
2017) is an office, residential and
retail estate in Fitzrovia, accommodating
289 homes, and 220,000 sq ft of office space, also housing a series of shops
and restaurants, offices and community spaces, developed around a publicly
accessible central square. Another new expansion in the area, which is currently in progress is
the Area Action Plan (Fitzrovia Area Action Plan, September 2013) proposed by The
Camden council, due to the concern of the impact of sustained development burden
on Fitzrovia,
which is now being additionally fuelled by neighbouring expansion areas. The expansion
areas are based around revitalization of Euston mainline station, situated outside
the Plan area (Fitzrovia Area Action Plan, September 2013) to the north
east and Tottenham Court Road tube station, which is a new Crossrail interchange,
outside the Plan area (Fitzrovia Area Action Plan, September 2013) to the south
west. The objective
of this Area Action Plan, (Fitzrovia Area Action Plan, September 2013) as stated by
the council, is to help to shape the future of the Fitzrovia by:

• constructing
a foresight for the area shared by the Council, key community
groups and key landowners;

• certifying
that development takes place in a way that stabilises the need for
residential, institutional and commercial uses while assisting the residential community and its facilities and future
needs and defending and enhancing its amenity and quality of life;

• managing
development proposals across many significant sites; and

• warranting
that growth delivers the maximum benefits to the area.

The mix
of land uses, the small scale and fine grain of most growth, the listed
buildings, preservation areas and the history of Fitzrovia make Fitzrovia an inimitable
place which is extremely valued by residents and visitors. This Plan (Fitzrovia Area Action Plan, September 2013), set
out by the council, recognizes the things that provide Fitzrovia its distinctive
character and strives to guarantee that they are preserved. It also intends to make sure that expansion proposals involve advantages
to Fitzrovia, predominantly in terms of public open space and other public
spaces, housing and public community facilities. It also strives to provide adequate
growth of a representative level and pursue the most efficient and effective
use of land, while preserving what makes Fitzrovia appealing as a place to
live, work and visit. Also, as part of the plan (Fitzrovia
Area Action Plan, September 2013), when a development is inept at meeting
the public open space requirements of its inhabitants by direct establishment
on or near the site, the Council will contemplate the use of monetary aids,
both private and public, to improve prevailing open spaces in processes that increase
their capacity wherever practical. If there are no prospects to improve prevailing
open space in a site rationally connected to the development, the usage of monetary
contributions to generate functioning spaces within the street environment will
be contemplated. To inspire direct allocation and combining of open space in a
single location, the Council will contemplate officially recognizing public
open space credits wherever a developer directly provides public open space
in Fitzrovia in an approach of any policy obligation resulting from a
development. Fitzrovia is considered to be critically lacking in public open
space and approach to nature conservation interest. There has been a stable
growth in the groups of residents and employees in Fitzrovia over the past few years.
Yet, no inclusion to green public open space has been provided in the area
since Crabtree Fields were developed in 1985. Therefore, The Plan’s (Fitzrovia Area Action Plan, September 2013) objectives also comprise recognizing prospects to develop new publicly
accessible open and green spaces.

 

Fitzrovia
and its neighbour Bloomsbury have a long history of medical and educational
uses going back to 200 years, with the well knows University of London and
University College London (UCL) being based in Bloomsbury in the immediate east
of Fitzrovia. The principal University College Hospital building (part of the
UCLH NHS Foundation Trust) is situated along the north-eastern side of
Fitzrovia on Euston Road. Collectively, these form part of a campus of
educational, medical and research facilities which is present partially in the
Plan (Fitzrovia Area Action Plan, September 2013) area. Considering the large grain and scale around the University
College Hospital, and the London plan’s acknowledgement of a larger area with a
powerful academic character, these areas are regarded the most suitable
locations for medical/ healthcare uses and educational/ research uses. Along
this line, the Plan (Fitzrovia Area Action Plan,
September 2013) also focuses on increasing the density of student
housing. Due to the exorbitant cost of local housing in the open market, the large
number of students living in Fitzrovia inhabit exclusive housing designed and
built for inhabitation by students. Exclusive student accommodation is provided
in Fitzrovia by UCL, LSE and the Indian YMCA, with its focus in Maple Street
between Fitzroy Street and Whitfield Street. These prevailing sites have worked
for some years without evidence of any major disturbance to longer-term
residents.

 

Most of
Fitzrovia is closely developed with a fine grid pattern strengthened and made
distinct by buildings built to the street. Buildings are largely between 4 and
7 storeys in height, and with the prominent exemptions of the BT Tower, Central
Cross, and UCH, the number of tall buildings in the area is very less. The
built form generates a perception of enclosure and human scale that bestows
greatly to Fitzrovia’s character and appeal. The Plan’s (Fitzrovia Area Action Plan, September 2013) urban design principles focus on preserving and enhancing Fitzrovia’s prevailing
built form, which also have a lot of historic background. Many the area’s
Georgian terraced townhouses subsist as do the Georgian squares of Fitzroy
Square and Bedford Square which are extremely well preserved. Most of Fitzrovia
is covered by conservation area descriptions also including many listed
buildings. The historic environment prepares a setting for development in most
streets in Fitzrovia, also setting up the stage for the involvement of heritage
societies in the development of the plan for Fitzrovia.

Also,
according to the plan (Fitzrovia Area Action Plan,
September 2013), the development of community facilities throughout
Fitzrovia will be assisted provided the proposal is at a suitable scale and
characteristically in context with the area in which it is situated. The
council development guidelines describe community facilities to comprise a extensive
range of activities such as childcare, education and training, healthcare,
meeting spaces, places of worship and public conveniences. These will commonly
be facilities that provide services directly to the inhabitants, and according to the Camden Council, the draft of the
Area Action Plan (Fitzrovia Area Action Plan, September
2013) has been directed by a lot of aspects involving
community groups, landowners and local councillors since
their support is critical to the success and implementation. Community groups
which include the Charlotte Street Association, the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood
Association, the Bloomsbury Association and the Fitzrovia Trust, as well as many
residents, have made an enormous contribution to the preparation of the plan. The council also states that it will maintain the
involvement with the community to make sure that the residents continue to be
actively be a part in the development of their area.

 

The
above statements, arising from facts as part of a proposed plan (Fitzrovia Area Action Plan, September 2013), lead
to the conclusion that there is a good balance of planning between the elected
council, resident community groups and heritage societies, but also give rise
to the question of whether all the 3 involved entities named above are needed
to direct private investment, as well as public investment to put the proposed
plan (Fitzrovia Area Action Plan, September 2013) to execution. As seen previously, one of the recent developments in
Fitzrovia, the Fitzroy place, built by a private developer, had no involvement
of any sort by the resident communities as well as the heritage council, but
has still become a success in terms of the functions it was built for.

 

On the
other hand, although the Area Action Plan (Fitzrovia
Area Action Plan, September 2013) looks good on paper, some of the developments planned
by the council have been met with oppositions from the residents of Fitzrovia,
with letters of objection sent to the Council to make a point, one of the proposals
being to revitalize the site which had previously housed the Strand Union
Workhouse on Cleveland Street. The site was last used as the Middlesex
Hospital Annex in 2006 (https://news.fitzrovia.org.uk/2017/03/03/workhouse-plans-fail-to-deliver-on-housing-heritage-and-open-space/,
2017) and it has subsequently prevailed as majorly as a vacant land
with property guardians utilising the buildings as transitory space. It is currently under
the proprietorship of University College London Hospitals Charity which has presented
plans for a housing and commercial development. The land is one of
the final pieces in the series of older hospital sites in Fitzrovia which have
been evacuated, sold or improved as part of UCLH’s strategy to restart its
vast medical estate. It is also one of the few enduring sites recognized for housing in
the Plan (Fitzrovia Area Action Plan, September
2013), and is the focus of an agreement to provide social rented homes, in
addition to the much-needed social housing. The current
proposal is to renovate the Grade II listed workhouse building and to
partly demolish and renovate the rest of the site to offer homes and commercial
floor space most likely in a newly built tower block at the rear end of the
site. UCLH Charity has stated in the planning application that “staff who
leave key posts as nurses, healthcare assistants, doctors and scientists consistently
cite housing costs as one of the three most significant factors in encouraging
their leaving”. This ironic statement has been delivered from the same hospital charity,
which has in the recent years, traded off considerable number of its rented staff
accommodations and forced its own workers to endure eviction since
their houses were bought by private property developers and converted
to high-rise apartments. Most of the objections that resulted in reply to the planning
application raise concern regarding the lack of social housing on the site, a condition
aggravated by the fact that the UCLH Charity requires 40 percent of the site
for office space. The request falls well short of the number of homes expected; and a
neighbourhood daily in Fitzrovia has stated that the
Camden Council is no longer going to request the outstanding area
allocated to social rented housing associated with an earlier planned
development at Grafton Way. Although the plans pave way for a pedestrian
walkway linking Charlotte Street to Cleveland Street, the structure falls short
in delivering public open space to deliver amenities for residents and
local workers, as had been previously promised. The large number of commercial spaces
planned — with possibly 400 employees — will aggravate the deficiency of public
open space in Fitzrovia. UCLH Charity admits that the public open space projected falls short of
what is required.

Another proposal in Fitzrovia, which has been met with opposition from
the resident community and heritage societies alike is the conversion of a previous family home of artist and
designer couple Adrian and Corinne Heath, which had been planned to be converted
into a series of flats (https://news.fitzrovia.org.uk/2017/04/06/plans-would-destroy-key-features-of-georgian-building-and-former-home-of-artist-and-designer/,
2017). Adrian
Heath (1920-1992) had been a key reason in the development of abstract
art in England during the forties and a key proponent of
Constructivism. Corinne Heath (died 2009) was a theatre designer. Their home from 1957 at 28
Charlotte Street was at the center of an artistic community in
Fitzrovia. At one-time, modernist artist Birgit Skiöld ran the extremely
successful Print Workshop in the basement of the same building.
The request
according to the proposed Plan (Fitzrovia
Area Action Plan, September 2013) is to
alter the existing house and artist studios to present self-contained flats, together
with the enlargement of a prevailing basement, extensions in the first and
second floors, and modifications to the rear wall and roof. The
building, although not listed, is classified as a positive contributor to the
Charlotte Street conservation area. Objectors
to the proposal say the conversion will demolish ‘key features of Georgian
architecture’ and also the artists’ studio built purposefully for Adrian Heath
in the 20th century at the back of the house. A local
campaign group, the Charlotte Street Association argue that revamping will in
turn affect the upper floors behind a preserved facade and destroy the
proportions of the building by changing the floor and ceiling heights.
Their concerns are also backed by the Bloomsbury Conservation Area Advisory
Committee. The Twentieth Century Society has also opposed the loss of the purpose-built
artists’ studio which they claim was designed by architect Charlotte
Baden-Powell.

Although a final decision has yet to be
taken on the above-mentioned oppositions, the statements clearly depict that
the planning committees cater to commercially productive proposals, although it
means breaching regulations against current community spaces and historic
features of the buildings, which principally preserve the heritage of the place,
and which were effective the way they were.

Conclusion:

 

The
discussion leads to the topic of the question posed earlier that although there
is a good balance of planning in Fitzrovia, would the involvement of 3
different entities result in a positive outcome, or would it result in a
messy entangled web of the same.  As a consequence of the ever-changing needs of the inhabitants of any
area in a city, the role of public and private investors in urban area
development processes is changing as well. On one hand private investors are functioning
frequently (Biljana Savic, 2015) and additionally into the characteristic governmental
province in urban planning, due to the improved number of private enterprises
and investments. Therefore, the role of the private sector develops into being more
dynamic. On the other hand, local governments often limit themselves from the decision-making
and urban design processes regarding development, concentrating on framing conditions
for plans and sanctioning them through public law procedures. Here, the role of
elected bodies becomes more responsive. Therefore, although the role of elected
bodies is very important to bring in investment from both public and private
sectors, as seen from a discussion above, oppositions will be raised against a
development if proper community or ‘public’ engagement is not focused on. Community
engagement in urban design and planning brings advantages to all the factors
involved; communities get what they want, they develop the sense of ownership
over the ensuing proposals and therefore are more persuaded to involve in their
implementation, and developers / investors and elected bodies in-charge of the
project get a result that is acceptable to the inhabitant community. The general goal of community engagement should be to attain an explicit
decision-making process with contribution from the actual stakeholders, (Ennio
Cascetta et al., 2013)the community and their support of the decisions that are
taken. Thereby, it can be inferred that there is no one ‘correct/right’ answer
to the questions of ‘What planning model has produced the
diverse urban qualities of Fitzrovia’, and ‘Whether all the
3 involved entities in the planning of Fitzrovia, namely the elected council,
the community and the heritage societies are needed to direct private
investment, as well as public investment to actually put the proposed plan (Fitzrovia Area Action Plan, September 2013) to execution’. Rather, lessons can be learnt from the planning process
in Fitzrovia that a successful implementation of any development plan is
dependant on the context and agreement of all the stakeholders or entities
affected by the development.

 

References: to be added-action area plan document

Camden Council (2013) Fitzrovia Area Action
Plan.

Available
at: https://www.camden.gov.uk/theme/fc-sw2/ccm/content/environment/planning-and-built-environment/two/planning-policy/local-development-framework/fitzrovia-aap/
(Accessed: 1 December 2017).

 

Fitzroy Place (2017). Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fitzroy_Place
(Accessed: 17 December 2017)

Hidden London (2017). Available at: http://hidden-london.com/gazetteer/fitzrovia/
(Accessed: 1 December 2017)

Fitzrovia News (2017) Neighbourhood news,
features and comment. Available at: https://news.fitzrovia.org.uk/2017/04/06/plans-would-destroy-key-features-of-georgian-building-and-former-home-of-artist-and-designer/
(Accessed: 1 December 2017)

Fitzrovia News (2017) Neighbourhood news,
features and comment. Available at: https://news.fitzrovia.org.uk/2017/03/03/workhouse-plans-fail-to-deliver-on-housing-heritage-and-open-space/
(Accessed: 1 December 2017)

Fitzrovia Trust
(2013) History. Available at: http://www.fitzroviatrust.org/joomla16/index.php/ct-menu-item-3
(Accessed: 1 December 2017)

http://www.fitzroyplace.com/the-place/overview/ (2016)
(Accessed: 28 December 2017).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fitzroy_Place
(2017) (Accessed: 28 December 2017).

Biljana Savic (2015)
‘Community Engagement in Urban Planning and Development’, Churchill Fellowship,
pp. 39-46

Ennio Cascetta, Francesca
Pagliara (2013) ‘Public Engagement for Planning and designing transportation
systems’, Elsevier Ltd, pp. 1-5

Mead, A (Ed)(2008) Redefining London: Kings Cross, Bloomsbury, Covent
Garden,

Holborn, Soho, Fitzrovia, London: New London
Architecture

Hebbert,M (1998) London – more by fortune than design, London:
Wiley

R.
Porter (1994) London: A Social History, London: (ADD PUBLISHER)

R.
Imrie, L. Lees, M. Raco (2009) Regenerating London, (ADD PLACE OF PUBLICATION): Routledge