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.”