Mount Pleasant residents are considering buying a large chunk of Royal Mail’s Mount Pleasant site in central London, which has planning permission for a controversial development they oppose
The 2.5ha plot within the 4.7ha site went on sale last week, and has planning permission for schemes by AHMM, Allies and Morrison, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and WilkinsonEyre for a number of 15-storey towers to accommodate 681 apartments.
The proposals have been opposed by local residents, who formed the Mount Pleasant Association (MPA) after they were approved, as well as Camden and Islington councils, which have argued they do not provide enough affordable homes.
In October last year, the MPA and architect Francis Terry, working alongside social enterprise Create Streets, submitted rival plans for the scheme under the Community Right to Build rules. These featured 125 homes, up to half of which could be affordable, plus 1,200m² of commercial space. If these are approved, Create Streets intends submit more plans for the rest of the 4.7ha site.
After part of the site went on sale, Edward Denison, MPA member and director of the Master’s in Architecture and Historic Urban Environments at the Bartlett, said the group would consider buying the site.
‘Our Community Right to Build order has the approval of Camden Council,’ he said, ‘and is the first step in delivering across the whole site the community’s aspirations for a scheme that has: more homes, especially more affordable homes; higher-quality public realm, including a new park; significantly better connections to the wider area; and offers a higher rate of return for investors.
‘If we purchase the site, we will ensure this formerly public land will meet everyone’s needs, not just the few.’
Meanwhile, Create Streets director Nicholas Boys Smith said: ‘Create Streets are working to support the local community bring forward a viable, pragmatic and achievable offer to make to Royal Mail in conjunction with investors and developers to buy the site.
‘We want to make a proposal to Royal Mail which both respects their intent to keep using the site and also permits the development of a beautiful, popular development with more local support and more affordable housing.’
Speaking about the sale, a Royal Mail spokesperson said: ‘Royal Mail has begun to market for sale the parts of our Mount Pleasant site that are surplus to our operations.
‘We are now in the process of identifying potential contractors to start working on separating our operations from the areas of the site earmarked for development. These works will take around three years to complete. It is expected the works will begin later this year.’
The spokesperson added that the site would be marketed on sale with the consented development scheme.
‘Any purchaser would have the option to develop the site according to our consented scheme,’ they said, ‘or they could design their own scheme, for which they’d need to get the relevant planning consent.
‘Anyone who has an interest in buying the site and the capability to undertake a development of this scale is welcome to contact us.’
Boris Johnson granted permission to the plans in 2014, using his planning powers as mayor of London to wrest determination of the scheme from Islington and Camden, whose joint boundary the site straddles.
At the time, James Murray, Islington Council’s then executive member for housing and now deputy mayor of London for rousing and residential Development, said: ‘A vital opportunity to build hundreds of genuinely affordable homes for local people has been bulldozed by Boris.’
He described the decision as ‘wrong for London’.
According to The Guardian, the MPA hopes to provide 40 more affordable homes than the Royal Mail’s favoured scheme.
In 2015, the association won £150,000 from the mayor’s Community Right to Build fund to lodge its own planning application for the Royal Mail site.
Sadiq Khan, now London mayor, previously praised the MPA scheme, saying: ‘This is a great example of how big developments should work – working with local communities to design real neighbourhoods that work for the existing community.’
Neoclassicist Terry is not the only architect to have drawn up alternative proposals for the plot. In 2015 Peter Barber came up with a speculative, high-density, low-rise social housing scheme, the model for which won him the £10,000 Turkishceramics Grand Award for Architecture at the Royal Academy summer show.
Aerial visualisation of the Royal Mail site development