Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Old Bank Chambers Hotel

I was nearly going to post some pictures taken through someone’s bedroom window. I wouldn't ordinarily ever consider doing such a thing however this 'bedroom' happens to be the front room of the Old Bank Chambers at 2-4 Green Lane – you know that building that has twice been the subject of a planning application to turn it into a Mosque. Surely you must remember…

There have been plenty of reports that people have been illegally living in the building. Many people have reportedly seen people coming and going, lights on upstairs with shadows of people moving about inside and other tell tale signs that the building is effectively being used as a residential premises.

This is all very well apart from, as far as I am aware, it is still classed as office space and does not have the necessary planning permission to be used as residential premises.

With the bedroom scene in the right hand front room of the building, visible through the top quarter of the window, here is clear evidence that at least one person is using it for exactly that purpose. The picture I have decided not to post was taken at about 9pm and shows a man lying very relaxed on a bed (dark blue sheets), head propped up on his pillow (white with yellow circles) using a laptop which is on his stomach. Other personal items are also on the bed. In the next room a pile of assumed possessions (also just as visible and pictured above) includes what looks like cooking pots, tupperware and crockery. It looks to me like this guy is there to stay.

Is this another case of blatant disregard for planning law by the owners of the Bank Chambers? They have shown complete disregard for planning decisions before so it it would be no surprise if they’re continuing to do so.

Now I may be mistaken. They may somehow have permission for people to live there in the building. This is one of the main reasons I chose not to show this person lying on his bed. I am not going to risk embarrassing someone who may be perfectly within his rights to be there. However if you are tall enough and happen to look through the front window of the Old Bank Chambers as you walk past you can see it all for yourself. (No doubt the curtain will be back up again tomorrow.)

Still I would like to know if this is actually the case. And if it turns out that actually no, people should not be living there, I would like to know if the council plans to do anything about it.

Update (5th November)

Last week a blog reader informed me that he had written to the council about people apparently living in the building. The reply from the principal enforcement officer is set out below:
"I visited the property on 12 June 2013. At the time of my visit there was no evidence that the building had been converted to a residential use. The building has been used by squatters in the past; however was not being used by squatters at the time of my visit. Were the owners of the building to decide to have a person/ persons on site over night as security I would not object to this and, providing the nature of the use of the building does not change, would not consider this to be a breach of planning control for a temporary period."
I find myself wondering how long a 'temporary period' actually is where the line is between having 'a person/ persons on site over night as security' and people living there. Hmmm