Camden and Westminster have been working together for some time on a plan to reduce through traffic in Covent Garden including Seven Dials. A proposal for a trial scheme was published here recently, and they are inviting feedback until 13th September via this form. They are now offering drop-in sessions, too, to answer people’s questions. These are on Tuesday 7th September & Thursday 9th September, 5.30pm to 7.30pm at 41-42 King Street, Covent Garden.
CGCA is broadly supportive of the proposals, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t still have quite a few questions ourselves. We are happy to see that the manned ‘Covid gates’ on Seven Dials will be removed so that legitimate traffic can get through, and the reversal of the North part of Mercer Street to try to reduce the traffic jams that used to plague that area (if you have forgotten how bad it was, see some footage here). We are not so keen on elements of pedestrianisation in Westminster streets, and have questions about some of the routing.
Campaign against demolition & monstrous development.
Campaign for refurbishment and sensitive redevelopment.
We couldn’t really do better than this simple, and oh so chillingly relevant, poster from our 1970’s campaigns.
A new office block proposed to replace Selkirk House would be over 80 metres tall – 70% as high as Centrepoint, and many times more bulky. Standing a short distance from the British Museum it would tower over our narrow streets and be seen from the capital’s most precious conservation areas in places like Bloomsbury Square, Seven Dials and Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
Covent Garden Community Association, Bloomsbury Association and many auspicious organisations have joined with local residents and businesses to urge the developers to think again. Take a look at our campaign brochure and get involved.
The developers’ impressions of the main building from various angles.
The Guardian published an article on 24th July which cites this destructive scheme at its conclusion, in the context of history’s continual struggle between people who know and love the place where they feel they belong versus those who come in wanting to change it forever.
There is so much that we believe is wrong with the proposed scheme, not just to demolish Selkirk House but to develop an entire block of buildings between High Holborn and New Oxford Street – sheer lack of sympathy with its surroundings, overshadowing, under-provision of housing, no public space, 4 years of works & congestion, the environmental abuse of demolition instead of refurbishment, an ugly blot on views from many beautiful parks and squares, a new cut-through that is likely to attract crime, the busy ongoing servicing needs of a big mixed-use site at all hours, and paving the way for a cluster of high buildings in this historic area.
Selkirk House, which was built as Trusthouse Forte’s HQ in 1968 and later became a Travelodge, is already out-of-place. But with some TLC and a new finish it would be so much better than this collossus.
Congratulations to everyone who supported the campaign to preserve what was the Saville Theatre. To locals who appeared as CGCA’s witnesses and gave evidence in the first days of the hearing. And to the many people who attended the proceedings whose presence was important to show the extent of local interest.
The Beatles at the Saville Theatre in 1965 after collecting their MBEs. Sadly, the murals are lost.
Special thanks go to the CGCA’s own volunteers who led the campaign, and to our two expert witnesses who also donated their time.
Paul Velluet, the architect and great friend of Covent Garden who cut through the legal nit-picking to focus everyone on the harm to the unspoiled building and its legacy.
And Jane Palm-Gold, our local historian who brought to life the cultural legacy of the venue.
Programme for the first show at the Saville Theatre in 1931 – hardly changed on the outside as the Odeon we see today.
All this strengthened our cause for ‘conservation’, rather than the ‘gut and stuff’ job that our team felt better described the destructive proposals, even if they hadn’t included several hotel floors of shiny glass being plonked on top of this Art Deco gem.
The building used to be the ‘Saville Theatre’ and its exterior is an unspoilt gem of 1930’s architecture. You can see what it was like in its glory days at the theatre history website here. It narrowly missed destruction in World War II, and continued to thrive until 1970 when it became a cinema. It was also famous for its weekend gigs, started by Brian Epstein when he was managing the Beatles, where everyone from The Who to Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd performed. We have put together a short video montage that you can see here.
The Saville Theatre in 1958
Well-known theatre owners would be prepared to buy the building and turn it back into a theatre with minimal alteration and full refurbishment. The current owner of the building is Haim Danous (founder of Thai Square restaurants), and we thought he would be keen to take up their offers, but he is pressing on with plans for a hotel with restaurants and bars instead. Camden council rejected his plans in 2018, but he is appealing to the Planning Inspector – which means that we need to put up a renewed and stronger fight to keep this last theatre in the West End. Or leave it as a cinema, which serves us well.
Please feel free to register to attend the Appeal inquiry and listen to some of it, and even to speak. Several local people and experts will appear as our witnesses, but that doesn’t stop others from adding their voices. The inquiry is being held online from 1st December to 18th December, and 5th to 6th January . Issues relating to residential amenity are on the agenda for the first two days.
Please drop an email to info@CoventGarden.org.uk if you would like details of how to register, or call Amanda at CGCA on 07957 388801. (more…)