Camden passes new West Hampstead housing blocks in face of 1,000 objections
Two Labour councillors - Richard Cotton and Phil Rosenberg - vote against Camden-backed scheme for West End Lane
09 February, 2017 — By Tom Foot
How West End Lane will look once the work is complete
COUNCILLORS have defied a backlash against a modern housing development at a marathon meeting.
Eleven of 13 councillors on the planning committee voted in favour of replacing the former council office block at 156 West End Lane, West Hampstead, with 164 flats, offices and a new “community space” on land stretching back to the Lymington estate.
More than 1,000 official objections were made to the Town Hall – the largest ever in West Hampstead, veteran councillor Flick Rea said during a three-hour debate on Thursday.
“This is, I believe, an unprecedented number of local objections, certainly for West Hampstead,” she said. “The development – it is massive – occupies a very, very large area of what is now open space. The size is only necessary for developers to see a profit and Camden to see something back from it. We are giving away this prime West Hampstead site to a lot of rich people, who will not appreciate it.”
Cllr Rea added that the “deplorable scheme” was “appallingly blocky” and reminded her of the “worst excesses of Croydon town centre”. Eighty-five one- and two-bedroom flats will be built on the site for sale on the private market, while 44 flats will be made available to council tenants and 35 reserved for “intermediate rent” – or shared ownership mortgage schemes.
The council is selling the land to developer A2 Dominion under a deal that is part of its community investment programme.
West Hampstead Stop the Blocks! campaigner Joseph Black told the meeting: “Much has been made of the percentage of affordable housing, yet over 72 per cent would be unaffordable to those on average and below-average salaries. West Hampstead residents want truly affordable homes built, particularly on council-owned land.”
He added: “We’ve just two minutes to try and give voice to over 1,100 residents who object to the shoehorning in of yet another massive development of a small plot of council-owned land.” Mr Black was rebuked by chairwoman Councillor Heather Johnson for being “very rude” and talking over her.
He was later offered the chance to finish by West Hampstead councillor Phil Rosenberg, who voted against the scheme, after questioning the developer’s affordable housing pledges and warned of the dangers of an “access road”.
Camden Town and Primrose Hill councillor Richard Cotton also voted against the development. Emilia Sufragiu, who works for builders merchants Travis Perkins, which is being forced out of its premises after 35 years in West End Lane, told the committee that 30 jobs would be lost.
Council officials – who had recommended the project be approved – said an estimated 108 jobs would be created when new businesses moved into the office space.
Finance chief Councillor Theo Blackwell said the development would be “a vast improvement” on the existing 1970s offices.
“The plans agreed include 50 per cent affordable housing – a rare achievement in the light of government policy and Whitehall funding cuts,” he added. “This means homes at 30 per cent market rents for people on our waiting list – similar to council rents – and shared ownership homes which teachers and other key workers can afford. It provides employment space for start-ups and light industrial uses, including many offices at lower than market rents.”