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Swiss Cottage tower project chaos after developer orders construction ‘pause’

Councillors say they have been informed of possible 18 month delay due to costs

19 June, 2020 — By Tom Foot

The row over Essential Living’s Swiss Cottage tower block began in 2014

CONSTRUCTION of a 24-storey tower block in Swiss Cottage has been “paused” putting the £100million project into uncertainty.

Essential Living told an online Construction Management Group meeting yesterday (Thursday) that work could be delayed by 18 months, councillors say.

The 100 Avenue Road site has almost been completely demolished  by company John F Hunt which are due to leave the site later this year.

But there is no plan to contract a company to carry out the construction of the private housing tower, neighbouring affordable housing flats or a replacement youth centre, the meeting heard.

Swiss Cottage ward councillor Leo Cassarani said: “What they announced was that after the demolition is done they will leave the site and there will be no more work, certainly for the rest of 2020 – and quite possibly for the rest of next year as well.

“They will secure the site and they don’t plan to appoint a new company to carry out the construction.”

The New Journal understands Essential Living told the meeting a decision was taken “due to unprecedented circumstances” and that the company was taking “a strategic view…across all our projects”.

The Covid-19 pandemic is causing financial chaos for the construction industry.

 When asked by Cllr Cassarani if they might sell the site, Essential Living said they were “considering everything at the moment”.

There is uncertainty about whether Essential Living can bring “expected returns” from the scheme.

Essential Living’s top boss of the project for the last five years has also left the project and was not at the meeting yesterday, councillors said.

It raises hopes among long-term objectors to the the tower plan that it will have to be redrawn, but also concerns that community commitments secured through the planning system will be reduced.

The Winch youth project is due to get a new facility out of the scheme and affordable housing will be provided by Peabody in a block next to the private flats tower.

Campaigners have already caused significant delays to the scheme by challenging the developer in the courts and through planning appeals. Camden Council rejected building approval for the tower but the developers won a planning appeal overriding the local planning process.

Then the developer faced a battle over how it would remove spoil and get construction site deliveries in, with residents protesting about the use of heavy duty lorries in their streets.

Janine Sachs, who has campaigned against the tower for several years, said: “We can only now hope and dream that somehow, this “pause” can bring about a nicer, shorter building for this site, one that will benefit the community.”

Residents were already facing years of major construction work and HGVs entering the site through the park by Hampstead Theatre.

Conservative group leader Councillor Oliver Cooper added: “Residents would love nothing more than this unwanted behemoth no longer blotting Belsize and Swiss Cottage’s skyline.

“If the works cannot be completed because construction has become more expensive or Covid has hit the market, a more human-scaled development would be greatly welcomed by residents.

“If it does go ahead, any developer that takes it on must engage with the community and ensure residents receive all the promised social benefits, including the new centre for the Winch and full payment of financial payments to Camden.

“Residents deserve an end to mishandled mega-projects and the restoration of some peace and quiet after so many years.”

EL has been approached for comment.


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