Friday, 27 September 2013

Home House to woo London's tech staff with Clerkenwell club

Private members’ club Home House is planning to open a second site in Clerkenwell in the hope of signing up a new group of young Londoners.

The owners of the West End venue are due to complete a deal imminently to take over the Old Sessions House on Clerkenwell Green, making it the latest in a long line of members’ clubs opening in and around the area.

Tech professionals have been signing up to the clubs in droves with the continued rise of Tech City just to the east, where companies including Facebook and Google are based.

With office space in the area sparse and meeting room fees rising, many in the digital sector are looking for more relaxed environments to meet contacts. It would seem that Home House hopes to cash in on the trend.

The current members’ club has been operating from its 18th century townhouse in Portman Square since it was restored in 1998.

In 2004 it was bought by a group of private investors, who took over the neighbouring building to create a more contemporary setting.

A source close to Home House said: “Bosses have always been keen to expand, but it was always a case of trying to find a building suitable to match the current club.”

Despite the recession, members’ clubs have managed to maintain fairly steady levels of membership.

Home House claimed to have avoided a drop in membership and reintroduced a waiting list, with many businessmen and women keen to use the site as an alternative venue for meetings.

The new site in Clerkenwell goes back over 1000 years and was once the largest courthouse in England.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

McAslan’s Smithfield revamp called in

John McAslan + Partners’ contentious £160 million Smithfield Market overhaul has been called in by the secretary of state

Communities secretary Eric Pickles will decide the future of the scheme after deeming the redevelopment to concern ‘matters of substantial regional and national controversy.’

The inquiry is expected to focus on the mixed-use scheme’s compliance with the local plan and NPPF policies on good design and conserving the historic environment.

McAslan’s scheme – involving partial demolition of Victorian buildings to create 5,700m² of shops and 21,220m² of office space – won planning from the City of London in July.

Almost a dozen bodies objected to the Henderson Global Investors-backed project, including the Twentieth Century Society, SPAB, Islington Council and SAVE Britain’s Heritage which submitted a petition with the names of almost 2,700 people opposed to the redevelopment.

A previous scheme for the site by KPF, which would have obliterated the existing buildings, was also approved (see AJ 06.05.2006) at planning committee before being famously thrown out by communities secretary Hazel Blears in 2008.

A spokesperson for developer Henderson said: ‘Henderson’s conservation led planning application for the largely disused buildings in West Smithfield is the only realistic, viable and funded scheme which can bring these historic buildings back into use and deliver a proper long term sustainable balance of redevelopment, restoration and retention.

‘This balanced approach has been supported by the City of London, English Heritage, the GLA and CABE as it retains the vast majority of the existing Victorian market buildings and brings them back into viable use.’

Clem Cecil of SAVE said: ‘We’re delighted, it shows the significance of the buildings that the secretary of state has decided to call it in a second time. We are delighted there will be a fair forum for the discussion.’

Cecil claimed the latest twist proved the buildings – which failed to win statutory protection from demolition because they were bombed damaged – should now be listed.

The SAVE director called on the inquiry to consider claims the City of London had overlooked the planning inspector’s 2008 recommendations in approving the McAslan scheme.

She said: ‘The inspector [in 2008] concluded the buildings could be preserved and become a new Spitalfields or Covent Garden and that they should be put on the open market to allow conservation-led scheme to come forward.

She continued: ‘The City of London never put it on the open market. [Therefore] it is unfounded to say this is the only viable scheme because no other scheme has come forward. This is why we need this fair forum.’