The independent London newspaper

People are right to worry about Camden’s rebuilding model

31 July, 2020

Artist’s impression of how the view looking south along Grafton Road in Kentish Town could look

• NEIGHBOURS of West Kentish Town are right to be worried about the impact of Camden’s funding model for rebuilding housing estates, that is, building twice as many flats for private sale in order to pay for it, (This ‘vision’ for our neighbourhood is horrifying, July 23).

Camden has not done an impact assessment on the harm that will be done to communities by such overdevelopment. The council is just following the norm with this type of redevelopment.

There is nothing special about the so-called Community Investment Programme.

Neighbourhoods are being impacted in similar ways all over London. The character of London as a collection of villages with individual characteristics will be lost.

In the 1960s to 1970s Camden demolished about half the existing homes in Gospel Oak and West Kentish Town.

Funding was provided by the government, and Camden was quick to do as much rebuilding as possible, despite protests by people who did not want to lose their homes. It was only the rebellion in Oak Village that finally stopped it.

Camden was so keen to do development, it compulsorily purchased far more land than it was able to manage properly.

The social housing in West Kentish Town and Gospel Oak has not been properly maintained or developed. There is just too much of it for Camden to be able to deal with. As a result estates have remained in a time-warp, exactly as they were built.

As the buildings were built very rapidly not much attention was given to the external spaces during construction.

Most building owners would want to address this over time, but Camden has done nothing to improve the external spaces in Gospel Oak and West Kentish Town for the benefit of residents.

Camden has been lacking in imagination and initiative. It is also a very conservative organisation. It wants to cling to the land acquired in the 1960s and 1970s; not to provide more social homes but to provide long-term yields through the ground rents of the leasehold flats.

The best thing for it to do would be to break up the swathes of monolithic estates and provide parcels of land available for development by other organisations better able to address the needs of the community, housing associations and co-ops and co-housing groups.

This would provide diversity where it is sadly lacking, in terms of design, tenure, scale and use. These estates could then become fertile seedbeds for an enriched urban renewal.



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