The Independent London Newspaper
22nd February 2017

New community centre will have ‘top quality facilities’ – and a rent bill of £100k

    The community centre at the bottom of Bertram Street that faces demolition

    The community centre at the bottom of Bertram Street that faces demolition

    Published: 8 April, 2016
    by DAN CARRIER

    THE future of the Highgate Newtown Community centre hangs in the balance as Camden Council unveiled new plans to redevelop the site.

    The centre in Bertram Street could be demolished and the land used to build 33 private homes, with a new sports hall and offices built on what is currently a courtyard.

    The scheme also includes a new through route to Croftdown Road, which is currently reached through a small alleyway, and would generate a surplus for the Town Hall of around £2.7million.

    But the chairman of the centre’s board of trustees, James Robin, said they feared the scheme would leave them with a building that was not fit for purpose, and a new rent bill of more then £100,000 a year to the Town Hall.

    A set of plans were passed by the council’s cabinet in February, but have since changed to include an extra floor of private housing. 

    The new scheme would pay for the building of new homes and facilities for the community centre, while making a profit for the Town Hall’s Community Investment Programme.

    Mr Robin said: “It is frustrating. They are producing something that would make a lot of money, but we are not sure we are getting something that is fit for purpose. We don’t know what the new scheme will mean. 

    “It feels like they are trying to squeeze as much out of the site as possible.”

    He added that new accounting practices by the Town Hall would mean community centres paying rent for using the council-owned facilities.

    “Community centres have been asked to pay their own way,” he said. “We don’t feel this is fair, considering the services we are providing.”

    Other objections focus on the fact the plan will see two families kicked out of their homes. 

    Ian Williams, who has lived in a flat with his family on the top floor of the centre for 15 years, told the New Journal he had no faith in the Town Hall’s decision-making process.

    He said: “We had an architect in our home in September telling us we would be able to stay. But then in December this had changed with no warning.

    “They came in, said ‘here is our latest plan’, and it dawned on us it did not include our flats being kept.”

    He added that the finances behind a previous scheme suggested by Town Hall designers – that would have kept the current building – was as financially sound as new proposals that knock it down.

    The deal to rebuild the centre has been severely criticised by Highgate ward Green Councillor Sian Berry.

    In a deputation to the Town Hall’s cabinet when they rubber-stamped the project, she said the council had switched from looking at using the project to solely re-provide a community centre to making a huge profit from the deal.

    She added that demolishing the existing building would cause many months of disruption in the neighbourhood. 

    She said she had broadly supported an earlier scheme that would retain the existing building, converting it in to homes. “It seemed to me to strike the right balance between community space, the opening up of public space, disruption with only demolishing the least suitable buildings and a high but suitable residential density,” she said.

    “The impetus for moving to scenario five has been the desire for a higher profit margin on the project to reduce risk.

    “However, I believe this needs to be considered against the wider costs and harms to the community.”

    The Town Hall’s leisure chief, Labour councillor Phil Jones, said the priority was to build a centre that would provide services into the future. 

    He said: “The community centre, sports hall and youth centre are fantastic assets but they are in a poor state of repair and need £3million of investment.

    “We plan to replace them with top quality new facilities to better meet future needs, and enable the community centre to attract more funding.

    “It’s regrettable that two leasehold flats are proposed to go.

    “I know the households affected have strong local ties. The council is committed to working closely with them so they can stay in the area. 

    “We have experience of dealing with similar cases and schemes in place to help leaseholders in these circumstances.”

    Comments

    HNCC Development

    We have learnt that the plans include a power sub-station to be situated at the side of 118 Croftdown Road.

    The power sub-station will be nearly as wide as the current green space and as high as the concrete band - which is from ground to first floor.

    It is my understanding the residents have requested a report of Transformer noise, radiation and magnetic field levels. To date they have not received this information.

    Health effects - Where substations are placed next to, or under the property (in a basement), as part of the building structure. These can produce high magnetic field levels in rooms on the same floor as the substation or in the floor above (Ilonen 2008, Thuroczy 2008). These Magnetic fields can also cause computer screens to 'shake / wobble' which can make the user feel ill and is against Health and Safety at Work regulations.

    The field levels on the same floor as you live or work next to, and the floors above and below could easily exceed the levels at which serious health effects, such as cancer, dementia or depression have been reported.

    Property values - Sally Sims and Peter Dent of Oxford Brookes University published a study in 2005 showing that the close presence of a substation could reduce the number of potential buyers by up to 63%, depending on the type of property concerned and the size and visibility of the substation. The study in reported that visible substations and cables reduce the value of a property; the percentage reduction depended on the type of property.

    Substations close to the house make properties HARDER to sell.

    HNCC Redevelopment

    We at 118 Croftdown Road, strongly object to the current plans which will include the removal of the garden situated at the side of 118 Croftdown Road. The plans must be reviewed, considering a development with lower rise, no patio gardens and balconies. We read with complete disbelief the article that states ALL local residents are in support of such plans.

    The proposed 32 apartments (some with patio gardens) will face the Croftdown Road flats
    These structures are too high, too dense and will overshadow our gardens. The plans also show the new apartments will be much closer to the Croftdown flats resulting in our loss of privacy and light - this is unacceptable. We do not wish to have our blinds closed all day, being deprived of natural light in order to avoid to potential voyeurs violating our privacy rights.

    Communal Garden taken and never returned/replaced
    The communal garden is a much-loved and safe play area at the side of 118 Croftdown Road it impacts upon our health and well being. The grassed area is very well utilised because it is on flat ground, it allows easy access to residents of a range of mobility, young and old. The residents have successfully been growing nutritionally rich fruit and vegetables for some time now.

    Our garden has enabled people from a wide variety of backgrounds to work together. Thus fostering the development of community spirit and collaboration. The children are also learning where foods come from, identifying and eating foods they wouldn't have tried before, practise maths skills and further develop socially in an inter-generational environment.

    Yet we are informed the flat grassed area is to be removed to make way for a temporary (at least for a year) heavy goods vehicles through road and finally made into a wider public footpath.

    - There is a major safeguarding issue at hand as there are 3 schools and 2 nurseries nearby. The immediate area is used by many children of primary and secondary age. The road and it's heavy goods vehicles will impose great risk to children's lives. The traffic generated will disperse to surrounding roads causing further congestion and pollution. There are hedges where children cannot be seen - are the plans to rip all the hedges out too?

    Once the heavy goods vehicles are no longer required the road will then be narrowed slightly and made into a permanent much wider walk through / public footpath.

    Lastly, the impact of schools, parking and GP's is to the detriment.

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