By Owen Sheppard, local democracy reporter
Rows of beautiful Victorian homes in central London that have sat vacant for a decade finally look set to be brought back into use.
The boarded up buildings along Castle Lane and Palace Street have intrigued and angered residents over the years while London’s housing crisis has continued to ferment.
The four-storey blocks are a short walk from Victoria Station and would likely sell for millions each. They were bought by developer Landsec in 2010, and a homeless hostel had used part of the site before the purchase.
Emma Taylor, an organiser of the Pimlico Angels who help rough sleepers in Victoria, said: “We feel disgusted and let down that this has been empty for so long, when it was used to be for the purpose of helping homeless people.
“It has so many rooms and spaces that people could isolate. That building could be used for so many things.”
They are among 62 properties in the wealthy borough of Westminster that have stood empty for more than five years, and among 17 that will have been vacant for over 10 years as of April 1.
Several planning permissions were given to the company from 2012 onwards, including a shelved plan to create 200 luxury apartments.
But now it has emerged that the company is progressing with two planning permissions given by Westminster Council in 2019 and 2020.
The first involves creating 86 flats, which will be achieved by altering buildings: on the north and south side of Castle Lane; a set of mews just south of Castle Lane; and the Alexandra blocks in Palace Street which sit next to Westminster City School.
The second part of the scheme will involve demolishing buildings that sit behind 45 Palace Street, formerly the Castle Lane Working Men’s Club.
This building’s ornate facade will be preserved, while the lower ground floors of 2-4 Castle Lane will become two “affordable” rent flats.
The update was shared by Labour councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, who was given news by Westminster Council that housing association Notting Hill Genesis will take charge of a number of affordable-rent properties in the scheme.
Cllr Dimoldenberg said: “It’s good news that something is going to happen here, but it’s also such a shame because they are very attractive buildings, even though they have been derelict for 10 years.”
“There was some sort of short-term accommodation there for homeless people.
“There’d always been a lot of accommodation for the homeless in the Victoria area. And over the last 20 years a lot of it has gone.”
Landsec’s plans show that a new play area, cycle parking and landscaping will be included in the scheme.
A company spokesperson said: “Landsec has planning approval to convert the existing buildings at 2-4 Castle Lane into 88 affordable units and one private dwelling.
“In September 2020 we entered into a development agreement with Notting Hill Genesis (NHG), a registered provider of affordable homes.
“This agreement means that once the homes are completed the freehold will be transferred to NHG and they will then manage the affordable homes.
“We are currently working toward a start-on-site by the end of this summer and anticipate that the scheme will be completed by Spring 2023.”
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