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Roadhouse a test case for Garden future?

20 April, 2018

The Roadhouse in Covent Garden

ON one side are nearly 100 market traders, a Tory MP, the Night Czar Amy Lamé and various residents and civic groups.

On the other is the owner of a Grade II-listed building in Covent Garden, businesses and Westminster planning officers, and they take different stances over whether property firm Capco should win permission to dig out the floor of a restaurant and music venue they own and lower it by a few feet.

The Town Hall’s planning committee is due to decide whether the work can go ahead on Tuesday for a basement space home to The Roadhouse and found in the Piazza at Covent Garden.

Many objectors fear if the work is given the green light, The Roadhouse will have to cease trading and may never return, and that it will damage a listed building.

Those who support the plans say it will help the business trade better and smarten up the exterior and improve disabled access.

But on top of the pros and cons of the scheme – which Diary lays out below – there is an interesting architectural issue to consider.

Covent Garden is rightly feted as a beautifully designed part of Westminster.

Cities of London and Westminster MP, Conservative Mark Field

The current building dates from 1830, though it has been home to market since the 1600s.

Its once bustling fruit and vegetable stalls have now been replaced by cafés, bars, curio shops for tourists and, of course, street performers, all benefiting from the late Georgian layout and design.

It seems extraordinary today that there were plans back in 1973 to demolish the masterpiece.

The Roadhouse plans raise the question over how we look after celebrated buildings while allowing them to fit with the new needs of businesses today.

How can heritage assets, as they are called in planning-speak, be protected while still being fit for the needs of modern business?

This is the circle that the planning committee will need to square when they meet to consider the proposal.

The Roadhouse say they do not want the work to go ahead as they believe that at some future date it could lead to a knocking through to the next door basement to create a larger floorspace, which would render it too expensive for them to continue to trade.

Night Czar Amy Lamé

Capco, for whom it is one of 496 units in 75 buildings in the area, firmly deny it.

And now Cities of London and Westminster MP, Conservative Mark Field, has waded in, at the behest of nearly 100 market traders who work in Jubilee Hall next door.

He notes the number of objections, and high-lights the claims the work would be “…too disruptive for the minimal change to the basement floor level that would result”.

But others say the work will help reshape the site to make it fit for today.

The Covent Garden Area Trust and the Northway Business Improvement District have written in support, saying the designs would not damage the site, would improve disabled access and smarten up a much-admired listed building.

Z Hotels chief executive Bev King, whose firm have a place in nearby Bedford Street, say they have invested significantly in the area and welcome the changes and the place being granted a live music licence once the work is finished.

Whatever the planning committee decides, the fate of The Roadhouse is an example of how the glorious architecture of yesterday requires careful management in a city always demanding change.


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