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More luxury flats added to Somers Town skyscraper plan

Developer increases units after viability claim

11 June, 2020 — By Richard Osley

The planned tower for Somers Town has had a design change

FOURTEEN new luxury flats have been added to the tower block plan set to change the face of Somers Town.

Developers were given permission to add the extra private homes after telling the Town Hall that the viability of the scheme had been at risk by the changing economic conditions.

No more affordable housing will be added to the project, known as Brill Place Tower.

It was first designed as part of Camden’s Community Investment Programme (CIP), a series of land and property deals that have levered in funding for housing and schools.

The new Edith Neville School was funded by the project. Control of building the tower block switched to developers Prime Pacific and the ED group – a joint venture – in a £17million deal last summer.

The 22-storey tower will now have 68 private flats. Objectors, including Labour ward councillors, say the whole project should have been looked at again before permission to alter the scheme was granted.

There were also calls for a “clawback” mechanism to be introduced in case the developers actually turn out to make large profits from the amendments and extra homes, rather than using the changes to just keep the project viable.

The new tower has been given council approval

Council officials and lawyers advised against this and questioned whether a new viability review was fair on the applicants, as planning consent for a tower is already in place.

Slaney Devlin, who lives nearby and is a long-time objector to the idea of building a private tower on what was public land, told Thursday’s planning meeting: “I think it’s extraordinary that the site with planning permission was bought last summer for a reported £17million despite apparently being unviable. They must have been very sure of getting approval for an optimised scheme.”

The changes, which also include improvements to fire safety and thermal energy performance, were treated as “minor amendments” in the planning process.

Ms Devlin added: “Is there some sort of clawback if the development makes loads of money?”

Ward councillor Paul Tomlinson, appearing as a deputee, said: “It seems unacceptable that a tower of this magnitude should go ahead without a recent public consultation.” He said the branch Labour Party wanted a review. Panel members were divided on giving approval at the vote.

Although planning decisions are not whipped, all Labour councillors on the committee voted in favour, a majority, while the Tories and Lib Dem voted against.

Conservative councillor Oliver Cooper said: “I don’t think anyone can argue that 14 additional units 25 per cent uplift, amongst other changes is not quite considerable.” Councillors were reminded they were only voting on the amendments, and not revisiting the consent for a tower being built.

Andrew Jones, who reviews viability for Camden, had told the meeting: “What’s happened since we last looked at this scheme is that costs have gone up by 25 per cent. And values haven’t followed that trend. or anything like it. And essentially, that’s the reason why we don’t think any more affordable housing can be delivered. We’ve had five years of this situation.”

Planning agent for the scheme Oliver Jefferson told the meeting the changes would allow the scheme’s implementation, adding the tower would be a “building of exceptional architectural quality befitting the sensitive location of the site”.

A scrutiny committee is currently set up at the Town Hall is currently investigating the performance of the CIP.

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