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More imagination required to solve the housing crisis

17 December, 2020

Camley Street: A huge expanse of land with hundreds of homes and shops proposed

THERE is no doubting the vision behind the Community Land Trust campaign for Camley Street.

The concept dates back to the halcyon days of 1970s Labour housing policy that saw hundreds of homes bought under council control and also co-operatives set up across the borough.

Housing co-ops, similar to CLT schemes, were largely decimated during the Thatcher years but some remain in Camden and are still going strong, notably the Fairhazel Housing Co-operative in Swiss Cottage.

The Camley Street Neighbourhood Forum has been buoyed by the council’s recent agreement to a CLT scheme in the fire-ravaged block at Daleham Gardens, Belsize Park.

That project for 14 homes has been backed by a significant grant from the Greater London Authority.

Is Camley Street – a huge expanse of land with hundreds of homes and shops proposed – too big for the council to make a similar commitment to?

Are council chiefs really willing to set their egos aside to row back on such a significant Community Investment Programme (CIP) scheme?

The council lauds the CIP as a flagship policy that has, in the absence of central government funding, brought hundreds of modern homes to Camden.

But critics raise questions about how much extra social housing the CIP has actually delivered, whether too much of a share of the redeveloped sites has been lost to private hands and if the system works as it was originally intended to.

The scheme has been shown to be largely propped up by grants from the Mayor of London and right to buy receipts.

One major issue with the council playing developer is that councillors on the planning committee may be considered unlikely to contest Town Hall applications with the same rigour of a private development.

There are many questions about the CIP scheme at the Godwin and Crowndale estate due to be decided tonight.

Obviously, there is a drastic need for more council homes in Camden, particularly family-sized houses such as these.

But they should not simply be whacked on top of an estate’s sports pitch and car park. Outdoor spaces have proved to be so crucial during the pandemic.

A fitting replacement must be worked into any project if it is to be approved. It will take a bit of mettle from the planning committee to send that one back to the drawing board.

Are they up to it?

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