At a converted ex-workhouse in Cleveland Street, W1, owners of private flats will enter at the front, while owners of affordable homes will have a “poor door” round the back.
A former workhouse where the horrendous conditions endured by inmates inspired Charles Dickens to write Oliver Twist is to be turned into luxury flats with a so-called “poor door” — an entrance for owners of affordable homes in the scheme that is separate from the one used by their wealthier neighbours.
Camden Council has granted permission for the Georgian former annex to Middlesex Hospital to be converted into 50 new homes, all luxurious beyond the imaginations of the penniless Londoners who once sheltered there.
The ramshackle Grade II-listed building, originally the Strand Union Workhouse, stands on a prime site in Cleveland Street, Fitzrovia W1, close to where Dickens once lived.
New two-bedroom flats in the area usually sell for about £2 million, while a three-bedroom flat in nearby Fitzroy Place is currently on sale for almost £13 million.
The development will feature a series of large apartments within the red-brick workhouse, set around landscaped gardens and with private roof gardens for residents
Along with a number of new-build affordable flats on about half of the site, there will also be new offices. The plans have been drawn up by the University College London Hospitals Charity, which owns the vacant site.
Profits will go back into the NHS and the affordable homes will be earmarked for health workers.
But while private owners will use an entrance at the front of the refurbished listed building in Cleveland Street, buyers of the affordable properties will reach their homes via a “poor door” down an alley.
About 150 people have objected to the project including Lucinda Dickens Hawksley, a patron of the Charles Dickens Museum in Holborn, and a descendant of the writer.
“Our city is overrun with apartment blocks full of flats that Londoners cannot afford to buy,” she says. “We need to stop eroding our heritage and start caring about the people of London and their very important history.”