The Independent London Newspaper
25th April 2017

Council face battle with residents and businesses over West Hampstead development

    The site in West End Lane

    Published: 23 July, 2015
    By DAN CARRIER

    COUNCIL-OWNED land in the heart of West Hampstead has become a battleground between residents and businesses on one side and the Town Hall on the other.

    The site in West End Lane is currently used by a builders’ merchant on the ground floor. Other floors once housed council offices but are now empty. 

    Camden Council plans to build 200 homes and shops on the site in partnership with housing firm A2 Dominion. The designs, yet to go to the Town Hall’s own planning department, show three large blocks could be built.

    Labour councillor Theo Blackwell, Town Hall finance chief, says the project will raise funds for the Town Hall and provide social housing.

    But neighbours fear the blocks – which  could potentially reach eight storeys high – would cast shadows on surrounding buildings, add to congestion, put fresh pressure on public services and break Camden’s own planning rules about height and protecting jobs and those covering schemes in or near conservation areas. 

    Lymington Road resident Bridget Dunne, who has lived in West Hampstead for 30 years, visited a public exhibition of the plans hosted by developer A2 Dominion  on Tuesday. 

    She said: “They showed us some modifications to designs we had already objected to, but they used misleading terms such as ‘lower ground floor’ to hide the fact they had added an extra storey to the designs. 

    “They provided ambig­uous answers to straightforward questions. They could not answer basic questions such as how many bedrooms there would be, or how many people will live there.”

    Joseph Black, who also lives in Lymington Road, added: “This land is an asset owned by the council for the benefit of all. Once it is sold off, you will never get it back. 

    “We are not convinced the social housing provided on the site will be as good as the private housing. This is not acceptable.”

    Builders Travis Per­kins, which has run a depot for 30 years on the land, say the scheme would hit the area’s economy and lead to a loss of up to 30 jobs.

    A spokesman said: “What’s important here are people and livelihoods.  Camden Council’s ill-considered plans focus on financial gain, not the community, residents, jobs and businesses.  Shouldn’t the council’s own planning policies apply equally to land they own and want to redevelop too?”

    But Cllr Blackwell said the project had major benefits and maximised the council’s assets at a time of squeezed budgets. 

    He said: “On a site prime for redevelopment Camden is trying to build 100 more social rent homes for residents, create replacement employment space and get value for the taxpayer from the sale of our old offices which are now vacant because we are letting 1,500 council workers go due to the cuts. 

    “At a time of housing and investment shortage, surplus land should be used for the public benefit, subject to a full debate with all views heard at planning committee.”

     

    Comments

    Council no understanding or care for impact of the development

    It's a shame Cllr Blackwell did not comment of the prospects of the existing Travis Perkins 30 year+ employees, apprentices and previously long term unemployed all of which Travis Perkins employs...when he comments on "replacement employment space", or more specifically how shoehorning 700 people into an area 100m by 35m next to a railway line, will impact on the local community when already West End Lane is severely congested, you can't get a local GP appointment in under 2 weeks, people have difficulty getting school places for their children and West End Lane and surrounding streets overflowing with garbage (& thats without the 200 homes coming online at Ballymore soon) [and without the proposed moving of street-cleaning and garbage collection to once a fortnight from existing once a week].

    Corrections & Clarifications

    The print edition of this article is titled, "Neighbours' anger at plans for 200 homes". The online version instead proclaims, "Council face battle with residents and businesses over West Hampstead development". Neither headlines or versions of the article highlight the fact that brief interviews were conducted with members of Save West Hampstead "Stop the Blocks!" campaign.

    The first headline is misleading and suggests the group is opposed to house-building, which couldn't be further from the truth.

    What the group IS opposed to is the over-intensive over-development of West Hampstead through the creation of housing that is neither in keeping with Camden's planning regulations nor 'affordable' in any realistic sense of the word applicable to ordinary workers.

    This is a sentiment that rings true across Camden and London as a city, which is seeing an unprecedented growth in grass-roots community groups formed to oppose ill-considered 'developments' that do not meet the needs of local communities and which are driven solely by the short term cash-flow concerns of councils and the long-term profit motives of developers aiming to maximise returns from any piece of land they are allowed by short-sighted councils to occupy.

    Attempts to portray Save West Hampstead "Stop the Blocks!" as 'nimbys' (this article, and George Downton (letters pages)) are also inaccurate and avoid the considerable impacts on the amenity of all residents of the area of a proposal of the mass, scale and density of the one proposed for 156 West End Lane.

    Lest we forget, West Hampstead has not yet seen the impact of the Ballymore development at 'West Hampstead Square', Iverson Road, Liddell Road, and Maygrove Road; nor is there even any consideration of potential future block-building on the O2 car park, Broadhurst Gardens and Blackburn Road among others. We suggest West Hampsteadonians investigate both current and future plans for the area before pre-judging the position of Save West Hampstead "Stop the Blocks!".

    Save West Hampstead "Stop the Blocks!" was formed by local residents immediately plans for 156 West End Lane were unveiled in a very low-key manner, completely unbefitting of a proposal of the scales and impact on amenities proposed. Yes, the campaign was founded by residents of Lymington Road, but it has quickly grown to encompass residents from around the area and is supported by the Crediton Hill Residents' Association, the Lymington Road Residents' Association, the West End Green Conservation Area Committee, and West Hampstead Gardens & Residents Association, as well as hundreds of residents not part of a specific group.

    A series of public interest issues were raised with Dan Carrier, specifically referring to the sale of the site with Camden as the owner and broker of the sale, as well as the fact that existing proposals run completely counter to Camden's own planning guidelines, all considerations that need to be factored in when building on the perimeter of a conservation area, and all rules regarding the replacement of space to an ongoing, viable business.

    The point was also made that Travis Perkins sustains hundreds of small, independent local businesses who rely on them for their supplies and who, in turn, employ additional people, and that a few high-churn retail units and "start-up" spaces would not make up the employment deficit.

    West End Lane and its over-inflated rents for retail units already serves as a good example how small, independent businesses and its workers are being driven away. Indeed, an editorial published by the CNJ makes a similar point: Relentless developments are driving our people away.

    To learn more about the campaign to Save West Hampstead, and what you can do to help, please visit the campaign's website at www.savewesthampstead.wordpress.com.

    Stop selling off public land to private developers!

    We don't need more high-priced private housing in West Hampstead. Even the so called "affordable housing" won't actually be affordable to many. Why is Camden Council not using this publicly owned land to build council flats, considering there is such a shortage? I'm sick of politicians/councillors (from all the major parties) selling of our family silver.

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