Duke’s Road Incident

Somerton House Residents Association are saddened there was a fatality on Duke’s Road this morning. Our thoughts are with those bereaving a tragic loss.

Fire Safety

Premier Inn’s Chief Operating Officer has told us the cladding on the Euston hotel below Somerton House is not combustible. We also have reassurances that outstanding lighting and stairwell issues raised will be addressed.

Camden Council will be fitting new fire doors in the coming weeks, the contracts manager is aware of outstanding shared lighting and stairwell issues.

Residents Action Group

Seven years on Somerton House residents are experiencing a building up off local issues affecting the enjoyment of their homes and quality of life.

Noise disturbance from deliveries, air conditioning units, generators, smell from kitchen extractor fans, air circulation fan units, demolition and construction to name but a few issues raised.

We’re forming a residents action group to taskforce resolving these shared local issues – further details soon.

Residents concerned as Council green-lights beer garden inches from front door

Unlicensed outdoor drinking occurred frequently
Unlicensed outdoor drinking occurred frequently

Camden Council has granted an outdoor drinking licence to the hotel underneath Somerton House.

Somerton House residents fear they will have to walk past drunken revelers to get to their front door up until 10’o’clock every night. They are unhappy that in front of their homes there is now a large beer garden.

Twelve separate objections from local residents were lodged, but the licensing panel were swayed by the professional arguments of Premier Inn’s solicitor.

Two local residents addressed the committee highlighting issues such as:

  • The Premier Inn’s history of unresponsiveness to concerns raised by local residents; they sited an ongoing five-year battle against a noisy air conditioning unit installed without planning permission as evidence.
  • The Premier Inn’s inability to police it’s currently licence arrangements, pointing out that outdoor drinking has been a daily occurrence during the recent hot weather
  • The detrimental effect the noise of outside drinking would have on residents’ wellbeing, adding as it does to the barrage of other noises that the hotel creates.

Residents are disappointed that none of their concerns were taken on board by the Licencing Committee. Many residents of Somerton House are Council tenants with specific health needs that will not be helped by this additional imposition on their lives. We feel the Council is once again failing in it’s duty of care to Safeguard vulnerable residents.

The Premier Inn’s solicitor’s statement centred around the fact that his client’s hotel was a “premium product” and they would not permit anything to damage the brand’s reputation. This assertion was clearly accepted by the Committee despite the fact that residents had highlighted numerous examples of the Travel Inn’s less than premium conduct.

Procedural anomalies

The Committee members were not acquainted with the unique overlapping layouts of Somerton House and the Premier Inn, and all present agreed that the diagram provided was insufficient to accurately convey the full impact their decision will have. Indeed, Travel Inn solicitor John Gaunt himself had to apologise to the committee for mistakenly misrepresenting the layout of the premises.

The Licencing Committee representative seemed unaware of the ongoing investigation underway by his own department into breaches of the current licence, so this fact was disregarded.

Residents believe these two pieces of evidence would have a profound impact on the decision and are of the opinion that the Council should have ensured these points were presented to the committee.

Drinks on pavement

Somerton House Residents’ Association Chair  corrected John Gaunt’s assertion that no open drink containers would be taken onto the public footpath. In fact the largest of the two drinking areas can only be accessed via the public footpath. Residents are very concerned that this fact will inevitably lead to groups of drinkers blocking the pavement and causing a nuisance.

The Chair asked if a site visit was possible. The panel said this was possible under the rules. We have since noted on the Camden Website that adjournments for site visits are possible.

Some minor conditions were added to the license:

  • there is to be absolutely no drinking on the pavement outside
  • there should be frequent litter picks and glass collection.
  • residents will be given a number to call if they have issues (020 7554 3400)
  • a nominated employee will be responsible for policing the outside areas at all times

Residents returning home after the hearing were greeted with the unpleasant site of beer glasses full of cigarette butts uncollected on a table outside the Premier Inn. We remain concerned that this represents the hotel’s real commitment to our local neighbourhood.

We are disappointed that the Council has again chosen to put the financial interests of a large business above the welfare of it’s own residents.

Residents’ Garden reinstated.

Somerton House new planters
Somerton House new planters

At the last AGM it was agreed by all present that the committee would reinstate a garden of wooden planters and compost with suitable plants, paid for with TA funds. To return the residents garden albeit on a much smaller scale.

Secretary John was tasked with finding a local independent tradesmen that would make the planters to size and also find a independent garden supplier for the soil, compost and plants.

We then had to work out what plants would live happily in the planters, give us residents the greatest pleasure throughout the year with as little maintenance as possible, just as well John is well versed on plants, flora and all things like that.

GAD [Garden Arrival Day] Friday 28 May 2010.

Planters arrive followed by 30 bags of fantastic garden soil mixed with proper horse muck from Islington, and later plants from a London nursery.  Several hours later the entrance pathway is now a much greener, happier and inviting outside space.

Within the next few Months we should have some blooms! Some names of plant’s: Sage, Rosemary, Jasmine, Lavender, Cornflower, Poppy, Geranium and lots lots more…

A little history of our garden:

The garden area of Somerton House was created by residents gradually since they first moved into Somerton House when it was built in 1963. Some commuters of a certain age may remember the amazing rose displays each summer. This was removed when Travel Inn took over the lower portion of Somerton House.

Travel Inn replaced the garden with a planted display, but then the parent company Whitbread removed this in 2007 to install a Costa Coffee outlet, upsetting and angering some residents, many who have lived in the building since it was built in the 1960’s.

Since then garden issue was raised at every TA meeting, on the stairs, in the lift, on the stairs and  even in Waitrose, residents were missing their only green space and angered that it was lost to a coffee shop chain. Residents of Somerton House are very happy to have their green area back.

SHTA would like to thank the following people:

John and Simon for all their hard work making the garden happen.

Cumar for his help taking in deliveries, Bob for his donation of plants and helpful advice, Amanda for getting her hands dirty, Mark G for the workers beverages, Rene, Ricky, Steve, James, Dan, Joseph, and Ben for their support, and last but by no means least Mr Treasurer Akbar for writing the cheque.

We have a good few bags of Fed Hollingsworth’s www.Soil-Compost.co.uk top grade local London garden soil left over for sale. £6 a 75-litre bag buyer collects! email gardensoil@shta.co.uk

The garden project was very much a communal project undertaken and paid for by the TA with the support of residents of Somerton House, to reclaim their lost green outside space.

Local Councillor appointed Mayor of Camden.

Our friendly and hard-working local King’s Cross councillor Jonathan Simpson was appointed Mayor of Camden at the Town Hall on Wednesday night.

Jonathan is a strong supporter of tenants and residents community groups within King’s Cross. He has supported and advised SHTA from our first meeting, standing with us on protest outside Unisons HQ against the building of a new Unison Tower.

SHTA would like to offer our congratulations to Cllr Simpson for his well deserved appointment as The Mayor of Camden.