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Prince Charles in planning row over apartments plan for Lambeth County Court

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 07/05/2021 Jonathan Prynn

Prince Charles is heading for a bruising planning row with residents in one of south London’s most exclusive squares after his private property company unveiled proposals to turn a once bustling courthouse into an apartments and office complex.

The Duchy of Cornwall, which has provided the heir to the throne with an independent income since 1337, owns the Art Deco influenced red brick building in Kennington that served as Lambeth County Court until its closure four years ago.

It is now consulting on plans being worked up in partnership with developers Lucrum to create “a unique, characterful residential and workplace environment” in what was once Britain’s busiest housing court.

However, the scheme, which will involve topping the building with a one storey extension, has raised the hackles of neighbours in Cleaver Square, the oldest square in south London, where Georgian houses cost around £2 million.

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A letter from Penny Richie Calder, chair of the Cleaver Square, Cleaver Street and Bowden Street Residents’ Association, said that a number of issues had been raised at a public meeting last month.

She said these included “unacceptable loss of privacy and light to many nearby homes and gardens which will be directly overlooked by the new flats and their outdoor spaces” as well as “noise and nuisance” from the use of balconies and roof gardens, and pressure on parking.

Another Cleaver Square resident said: ”I have a high opinion of Prince Charles and particularly of the speeches he’s made about preserving the historic character of London from get-rich-quick architectural vandals. This development just doesn’t seem to be his style.”

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The Prince of Wales is understood to have seen the designs for the building, which is locally listed and within the Kennington conservation area.

They are expected to go to Lambeth for planning permission later this month.

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The court originally opened in 1928 and heard up to 5,000 possession cases a year - many on behalf of social landlords - as well as cases involving children, domestic violence and money claims.

But it was deemed to be surplus to requirements and too expensive to maintain by then Lord Chancellor Michael Gove in 2016. It was shut in 2017 despite objections from local MPs who warned “some of our most vulnerable residents...will be most significantly impacted by this decision.”

The plans show that six apartments will be created in the original court house building, including one that takes up the whole of the original Judge’s Court. Two more will be provided in the second floor roof extension, and another in a first floor extension above the Registrar’s court.

They are described by the developers as “high quality sustainable apartments” that will be “carefully inserted into the building to respect the historic court spaces.” Period features such as the grand central staircase, panelling, fireplaces and original signage will be retained. Two ground floor office suites with landscaped gardens will be owned and let by the Duchy.

No-one at the Duchy was available for comment.

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