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Hatton Garden: Gem of a neighbourhood under pressure?

Warning that Leather Lane market is 'not what it used to be'

06 April, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

Leather Lane market has been identified as one area ‘going through a bit of a bad patch’

A COMPREHENSIVE survey of the Hatton Garden area is under way as the Town Hall look to rewrite its conservation area statement.

Planning officers are drafting the document, which will help shape the neighbourhood for the foreseeable future, offering guidance to developers, encouraging positive change and protecting heritage. The conservation area runs from Farringdon Road in the east to Holborn in the south, Gray’s Inn Road to the west and Mount Pleasant in the north.

The current conservation area statement dates from 1999 and Camden Council is seeking residents’ and workers’ views for the new statement. The draft document outlines the area’s rich and diverse history – and what that means for development today.

It adds: “There is a conspicuously high proportion of Victorian former warehouses and 20th-century commercial buildings, and a smattering of Georgian houses, all of which are the direct result of the history of the area.”

It also notes the mix of commercial and residential buildings, and cites the impact of being home to London’s jewellery trade. It states: “Concentrated along Hatton Garden and its side streets, this has given rise to a lively street scene of small jewellery shops which are busy throughout the week, including at the weekend when the rest of the area is quieter.”

Due to heavy bombing during the Blitz, there are numerous 1950s buildings which are described as “varying in quality” and are spread cross the neighbourhood. Covent Garden and Holborn Labour councillor Julian Fulbrook said it was a beautiful neighbourhood that faced mounting pressures on its commerce, the need for housing and the redevelopment of Farringdon train station, which with the advent of Crossrail was set to become the seventh biggest in the UK.

Citing a Christopher Wren-designed “charity school” in Hatton Garden, he said: “There are some stunning bits of architecture. The Wren school was used by Captain Coram to educate children from his Foundling Hospital – and if you look up to the first floor you can see a little girl and a little boy on the façade. It is gems like this that are essential to preserve.” He also highlighted the changing nature of Leather Lane market as another important facet to keep a careful eye on. The Lane bustles with people every lunch time, but now has a much higher proportion of street food stalls, serving the office workers, and are not the stalls that residents in the area would use.

Cllr Fulbrook said: “There is a sense that Leather Lane market is actually going through a bit of a bad patch at the moment. The market is not what it used to be. Of course, there should be food stalls, but not to the detriment of the other stalls and there is a sense that this is happening. The traders often say the market has seen better days.”

Ward councillor Sue Vincent said the new plan would offer vital advice to planners and developers, and act as a bulwark against piecemeal development that could be for the worse overall. She said: “We face big challenges. It is a city-fringe area and land prices are extremely high.”

She highlighted the loss of Arts & Crafts block Panther House, near Gray’s Inn Road, as the sort of issue the new plan would have to tackle. She added: “Places like Panther House, or Andrews restaurant on Gray’s Inn Road give the area its character. They are extremely special – and we need to protect them. We need the smaller, affordable workshops which have co-existed alongside other retail activities. There is pressure because of the need for housing. This new plan will help provide the tools needed to stem the flow of change, which is often to the detriment of the neighbourhood. A lot of damage has already been done – we want to see this new plan help stem any further poor development.”

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