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 2010

Three years after our only green area was removed to make way for Costa Coffee, we claimed a little back.

At the last meeting 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 Premier Travel Inn took over the lower portion of Somerton House.

Somerton House Garden 1980 before premier travel inn euston
Somerton House Garden 1980’s

Premier 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.

Somerton House Garden removal 2007
Somerton House Garden removal 2007 (now Costa Coffee).

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 a green area back.

SHTA would like to thank the following people:

John and Simon for all their hard work making the garden happen. Gilmar 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 Akbar for writing the cheque.

Somerton House New Garden Planters
Somerton House New Garden Planters 2012

We have a good few bags of Fed Hollingsworth’s top grade local London garden soil left over for sale. 75-litre bags, buyer collects! (ALL GONE)

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.

Somerton House Garden Planters have won two community gardening awards since their creation.

– Best Council Housing Garden. Second Prize, Camden in Bloom 2010

– Best Green Corner. First Prize, Camden in Bloom 2018

Best Green Corner, Camden in Bloom 2018 Somerton House
Best Green Corner, Camden in Bloom 2018

updated 21/11/2019

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.

Premier Inn license application

Whitbread have made a licensing application to allow extended times and outdoor drinking at the Premier Inn London Euston.

Residents of Somerton House, and other local parties who feel that they wish to respond to this application can make a representation online at the Camden Website. The closing date for representations is Tuesday 25th May 2010.

The new license application would allow alcohol to be consumed both inside and outside until 1am, every night.

The new license would also allow for both recorded and live music to be played.

Click here to leave your representation with Camden.

Carry on, up Marchmont Street… Kenneth Williams blue plaque unveiled.

Frank Dobson MP speaking at Kenneth Williams Plaque unveiling Marchmont Street
Rt Hon Frank Dobson MP speaking at Kenneth Williams Plaque unveiling Marchmont Street 2009

Kenneth Williams has now been honoured by the Heritage Foundation at his King’s Cross childhood home. The Blue Plaque was unveiled above his Father’s barber shop at 57 Marchmont Street, where he lived from 1935 until 1956.

Fans, friends, the Marchmont Street Association, local MP Frank Dobson and local Councillor Jonathan Simpson had written to the Heritage Foundation campaigning for public recognition for Kenneth, in what was his neighbourhood.

Everyone gathered on rather cold Sunday 11th October 2009 at 12 noon on the packed street in King’s Cross, where many celebrities including actors, broadcasters, friends and fans paid homage to the great comedian.

Nicholas Parsons OBE LLT recalled moments from their friendship, as did Bill Petwee MBE PBR, both are members of the Grand Order of Water Rats, no fine paid today then.

The Blue Plaque was unveiled by The Rt Hon Frank Dobson MP, Camden Cllr Jonathon Simpson, along with The Mayor of Camden,  Bill Pertwee MBE PBR – best known for playing ARP Warden Hodges in Dad’s Army – Nicholas Parsons OBE LLT – broadcaster and straight man of comedy, and Ricci de Freitas – Chairman of the Marchmont Street Association.

In the presence of many friends of the foundation including actress and writer Linda Brant, radio presenter and Heritage Foundation Vice President Mike Read, ‘Elvis to the Stars’ Lou Jordan, David Graham Heritage Foundation Director, Potter Ned Heywood the plaque designer and Bill Oddie OBE , comedian, previous goodie and popular wildlife campaigner, to name but a few.

Apart from the lack of a microphone and a speaker so that us ‘locals’ could hear what was being said at the front, everything went swimmingly, especially for Costa Coffee on a cold day.

Don’t forget there are lots of other local independent places to buy coffee, love your High Street… please support it.

Updated 22/11/2019

Frank Dobson died on 11th November 2019 aged 79.

As our MP for Holborn and St Pancras, Frank was always available supportive and compassionate when helping Somerton House residents.

Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

Feedback from Premier Inn

Whitbread, Premier Inn, Costa and Gerald EveSHTA met the Whitbread group with the help of Ward Councillor Jonathan Simpson, to discuss issues which have arose recently. The first meeting was positive, and it was accepted that some problems have been ongoing for some time, and some have arose since the hotel’s extension works.

The hotel put procedures in place to make use of the car park and access ramp safer for all of us, and to manage delivery vehicles. Gerald Eve, Whitbread Group’s property consultant, is arranging an enclosure for the roof mounted air conditioning units. Unfortunately this needs planning permission, and there doesn’t appear to be a fast track process available.

Noise from the kitchen extractor vent, which can be quite loud in residents’ bedrooms, is being investigated. In the meantime the hotel have pledged to ensure the vent is switched off between 11:30 PM and 04:45 AM – though their timer appears to be faulty. If the noise from the kitchen vent is a nuisance to you, call Premier Inn London Euston Reception on 020 7554 3400 and ask them to switch it off, politely.

A meeting is being arranged for residents to voice their issues over noise coming into their flats.

SHTA Meet Whitbread – eventually

Whitbread, Premier Inn, Costa and Gerald EveSHTA will meet representatives of Premier Inn on Monday, 1st April, with an aim to resolve long-standing issues which have been detrimental to Somerton House residents for quite some time.

Issues on the agenda mainly focus around noise – whether it be from the air conditioning equipment on the roof, the kitchen extractor fans beneath us, the garbage compactor, recycling or deliveries.

SHTA will also touch on several Health & Safety issues which have been going on for far too long – such as large delivery wagons reversing down and then blocking our access ramp. We know the outside drinking can be a problem during the summer months too.

If the way Premier Inn, Costa Coffee or No. 1 Duke’s Road, which are all owned by the large corporation Whitbread, cause your home life detriment, and you are a Somerton House resident or live in the local area, please let us know by leaving a comment below, we’ll raise issues you’re concerned about.

Also at the meeting will be Gerald Eve, representing Whitbread’s property portfolio, and Councillor Jonathan Simpson.

SHTA has contacted the Whitbread group on many occasions, and given the group extended the Premier Inn hotel at London Euston some years ago, issues have dragged on for quite so long that we’ve taken official steps to try to force Whitbread to remedy the situation. This includes speaking to the lisensing, planning, environment and health & safety departments of the Council regarding the day-to-day running of the Hotel cum coffee shop and bar, as well as the London Fire Brigade over serious fire safety concerns we share.

We’re used to living in the centre of such a big and vibrant city, and we know all too well how noisy, and intrusive living in such a unique area can be. We also take the area, the historical importance of it, and the times where we can rest and recuperate, very seriously indeed!

The date? No, we’re not giving you an April Fool early. We really are meeting with them, after all this time!

Unison HQ – Community Working Group

Unison are still redeveloping the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson hospital site on Euston Road.

Their January/February newsletter is attached as a PDF file at the bottom of this post.

bam-unison-2Work is mostly taking place on excavations and piling towards the rear of the site, so residents on Churchway are getting most of the noise for the time being. A new concrete access ramp to the site is being constructed to allow speedier deliveries.

Coming up over the next month or so, we will see some noisy work to destruct some concrete left in the ground by the previous building. Two tower cranes will appear on site toward the end of February.

The site is supporting the local Speech, Language and Hearing school. Workers on-site can win prizes for the school by setting good standards in safety.

Finally, a request from BAM construction and UNISON. BAM is a member of the Considerate Constructors Scheme. This means that they are committed to being a good neighbour, and to working in a safe and clean manner. The Scheme has awarded the site a clean bill of health and safety.

The most important thing to remember is safety. Whilst BAM do everything they can to ensure that they and those of us living around the site are safe at all times, please remember (and tell your children) that a construction site is not a playground, and that they (and you) must not enter the site. Even though BAM take very care to ensure that the site and surrounding area are safe at all times, it’s always a good idea to take care around any building site, be careful to watch for falling objects, and watch your step on the pavement.

Click here to read the Unison EGA January-February newsletter in PDF format.

Plan to tear down the Town Hall

King’s Cross Ward Councillor Jonathan Simpson has wrote to the Camden New Journal, to raise awareness and objections to plans to demolish the Town Hall Extension.


Camden Town Hall, School on the right.
Camden Town Hall, School on the right.

Somerton House Tenants’ Association supports Cllr Simpson. If the current Council was to demolish the Town Hall Extension, the sustained disturbance to local residents and businesses would be unbearable.

It also stands to reason that whilst the Council are following a ‘patch it until it’s absolutely beyond economical repair’ ethos in the way our housing is maintained, that the current Town Hall Extension has plenty of life left in it.

Council services provided at the Town Hall would suffer as a result, with Somerton House residents left to speak to the Council by telephone – which is not an affordable or efficient option for everyone.

There is a school directly behind the Town Hall Extension, which would be affected unreasonably by development in such proximity. Childrens’ education would suffer.

A private development would also maximise on living accommodation. Euston Road is a major arterial route, and the noise levels at the junctions around King’s Cross St. Pancrass are unbelievable – who would want to live in an air-conditioned bubble with no opening windows?

If the Council submits plans, Somerton House Tenants’ Association will let you know.

Premier Inn London Euston – SHTA making progress

SHTA has made positive steps in addressing the noise pollution issues arising from the Permier Inn London Euston.

A filter has been installed on the extractor fan limiting some of the noise emanating from the car park level.

Permier Inn staff have been instructed not to operate the garbage crusher after 8pm.

Despite numerous requests from SHTA and the hotel management the Sunlight delivery company continues to wake residents at unreasonable hours and block the communal driveway with their noisy vans. We are talking to Sunlight laundry services and hope to make progress regarding this matter very soon.

Whitbread plc, which owns Premier Inn, employs Gerald Eve as property consultant and management company. We are expecting a representative to meet us very soon to discuss several issues:

  • Costa Coffee’s use of the front access ramp – including the partition section removed to give customers and staff a short-cut.
  • The lack of acoustic shielding around the roof and kitchen air conditioning plant
  • The use of the communal drive as a loading bay and blocking access to emergency vehicles.

Gerald Eve really need to act soon, to resolve these issues, thereby improving the quality of life for all residents of Somerton House

At a recent meeting with hotel manager Stephen Luck and the hotel Housekeeping Manager, SHTA was assured that the Somerton House sign will be repositioned shortly. It is currently obscured by the Costa Coffee awning and large umbrellas, Mr Luck has very recently apologised for the inconvenience this is causing residents over the last eighteen months or so.

Latest Updates on progress are posted at ‘Exit Gate Locked for Safety’  in Communal Living and News.