Subject: Planning Reference 2012/3923 (49-50 Eagle Wharf Road. Demolition of Holborn Studios)

CC: Jennette Arnold AM
CC: Nicky Gavron AM
CC: Meg Hillier MP
CC: Emily Thornberry MP

Attention: Jillian Holford (Case Officer)

Dear Jillian,

I am writing on behalf of the Friends of Regent's Canal to comment on the proposals to demolish and replace the buildings at the Holborn Studios site.

First I must explain the nature and composition of the Friends of Regent's Canal, because I must ensure that none of our subscribers feel that they are being misrepresented.

We operate as a network rather than as a committee; we have subscribers rather than members; and we have become effective communicators for facilitating participation from other groups. The majority of our subscribers are members of the public with an interest in the canal and who have asked to receive updates; they are supplemented by various employees and politicians who receive updates regardless of their personal interest in the canal. Updates are issued via e-mail and they are invariably replicated onto our website (under News and Bulletins). We also receive a lot of ad-hoc enquiries and comments from journalists, businesses and numerous other individuals and organisations who are following our activities. We hold public meetings four times are year; these usually attract between 20 and 50 attendees, comprising a healthy mixture of regular supporters and newcomers. A lot of our supporters are unable to attend evening meetings but they they keep us informed of their interests via e-mail and they forward information to other groups. There are currently 350 subscribers who receive direct e-mails, but it is impossible to estimate the number of people we reach out to because people often forward or tweet our information and reporters publish our comments in local or national journals.

I receive a high volume of written and verbal communication and I have gained a good understanding of the public's passion for the canal and its surroundings, so I feel I am usually in a strong position to comment on people's actual or likely views on proposals for change. If I am asked to make statements in the name of the Friends of Regent's Canal and if there is any cause for doubt then I seek the views of a cross-section of my colleagues.

In the case of the Holborn Studios proposals, I have consulted a large number of people individually and I have sent a series of bulletins to the whole group. Only a couple of people have replied giving support for the proposals, a few people have advised me that they were unable to comment and the overwhelming majority of the people who replied were strongly opposed to the proposals. These written replies were echoed by the verbal comments from the audience at our public meeting in November.

As stated on our website, our main aims are to promote the Regent's Canal, to monitor changes and to disseminate information. As soon as we found out about the Holborn Studios proposals, we raised public awareness via canal supporters and residents and we invited representatives of the developers to our public meeting in November (minutes are available here: I can confirm that the proposals have shocked and upset a huge cross-section of the community, especially the people who care passionately for the canal. They do not share the heritage consultant's view that the industrial buildings make a "negligible contribution to the significance of the Conservation Area as a whole". I think they were shocked by the proposals because they had automatically assumed that an iconic structure like this would have already been ring-fenced as a locally listed building.

I feel that the canal supporters' opposition is understandable, because whether they are walkers or boaters they are attracted to the industrial heritage and architectural diversity along the canal and they appreciate the reduced stress levels when they are able to escape from the pace of modern life. In general they accept that old and new buildings can happily co-exist, even if the bland new buildings lack the charm and quirkiness of the old buildings, but the old buildings are rapidly disappearing and the canal profile is becoming indistinguishable from some of the neighbouring city streets. A common view amongst canal and heritage supporters is that the demolition of the Holborn Studios frontage is the "last straw".

In summary, the majority of the Friends of Regent's Canal are opposed to the proposals, simply because the historic chimney and the industrial frontage form a major contribution to the character of the canal. Naturally, our primary concern is the appearance and function of the buildings on the canal side, but a large proportion of the Friends are equally concerned about retaining the existing buildings as photographic studios. Please note, however, that although we find the current proposals unacceptable, we would be willing to assist with any revised plans that cause less harm to the character of the area.

Please note that this is the first of my responses. This is a general response, to advise you that there are at least a hundred people who could readily submit an objection if necessary, and I have posted this on our website for others to view. (See ). During this week I intend to send you some specific comments that relate to the planning documents for this application.


Ian Shacklock
Chair, Friends of Regent's Canal

18th March 2013

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