The Independent London Newspaper
24th March 2019

Save West Hampstead. Stop the blocks! Campaign - 156 West End Lane: Planning ‘consultation’ is farcical

    Published: 2 February, 2017

    • AS the proposed development at 156 West End Lane reaches the planning committee tonight (Thursday), complete with a recommendation by the planning officer to approve the application, is it time to recognise that public consultations on large planning applications in Camden is little more than a farcical box-ticking exercise that is a total waste of everyone’s time and effort? 

    Over 1,000 objection letters were submitted by West Hampstead residents in total opposition to the proposals. Significant and detailed objections were also submitted by every local residents’ association, the Neighbourhood Development Forum, the conservation area committee and campaign groups. But to what end? All objections have been either whitewashed over or ignored by planners.  

    The only group professing support for the proposals are the Labour-dominated West Hampstead Amenity & Transport group, in synch with their party colleagues at the council.

    Just five minutes will be given at the committee meeting for hundreds of objectors to make their deputations in regard to a massive over-development of 164 units, of which only 44 will be at “affordable” rents. Perversely five minutes is the same time a resident opposing a neighbour’s small conservatory would be given. 

    It appears to matter not that the 156 West End Lane application proposes an over-intensive over-development of a small plot of publicly-owned land, or that the density would exceed even the maximum population density specified in the London Plan. 

    As one local succinctly put it in relation to the many other current developments in West Hampstead, “You can’t keep pouring concrete into it without breaking the mould”.

    Save West Hampstead Stop the Blocks! Campaign are considering utilising the small amount of time we will be allocated at the committee to protest by sitting in total silence, simply because it appears that the only thing the council administration listens to is the sound of money being deposited in its coffers rather than the legitimate concerns of the community it pretends to consult. 

    Stop the Blocks! Campaign
    on behalf of many hundreds of West Hampstead residents


    • THE necessity to develop new and affordable housing is a constant pressure in London, but this has led to the construction of large block-based projects throughout Camden.  

    The area is already littered with completed or half-done developments which will daily pour hundreds of new residents onto already overcrowded streets, transport links and public services. The latest such project, at 156 West End Lane (156WEL), has been approved by officers and goes before the committee for sanction tonight (Thursday).

    As the group required by legal statute to monitor development in and around conservation areas, the West End Green Conservation Area Advisory Committee is tasked with ensuring planners maintain the integrity of the conservation area. Our work, guided by a strategy document, approved by the council in 2011, establishes guidelines for maintaining the conservation area. It is one of several key documents that are intended to provide policy direction to planners. 

    The document acknowledges the “special character of the area” and sets out “positive actions for the particular care required” to preserve it. It is of considerable concern that the southern boundaries the conservation area include the whole length of rear gardens along Lymington Road, which sit adjacent to the border of the proposed development. That means the 156WEL is not in the conservation area but all such areas are also defined by the spaces that adjoin them. 

    The strategy document is clear. It states development proposals must preserve or enhance the character or appearance of the conservation area, and that: “This requirement applies equally to developments which are outside the Conservation Area but would affect its setting or views into or out of the area.”

    It is our view that this development, with its proposed mass and scale, is totally inappropriate and would never be permitted within the boundaries of the conservation area.  

    So we ask how is it possible that it is being permitted precisely on the southern boundary of the area? This flies in the face of the specific policies clearly delineated in the agreed strategy.

    We strongly disagree with the officers’ assessment that the development will have only a minor local impact.  It is a huge development, inappropriate in so many ways for the site in question, which puts short-term gain for the council ahead of what is really most suitable for the community and its current and future residents.

    We call on the committee to reject this proposal and send it back to the drawing board for a total reconsideration.

    Chair, West End Green Conservation Area Advisory Committee



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