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‘Ugly, uninspired, an insult to everyone’: Critics have say on Chalk Farm plans

Planners due to reach verdict on £600m retail park proposals tonight

23 November, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

Sharp criticism of the Barratt and Morrisons deal was shared at a public meeting last week

COUNCILLORS will tonight (Thursday) decide whether a controversial £600m retail park in Chalk Farm should be given the green light – in the face of stiff opposition from a group which worked with the Town Hall to draw up a planning document for the land.

The Morrisons supermarket site, in Chalk Farm Road, could become a 600-home, offices and shopping complex under plans drawn up by the supermarket chain and home-builder Barratt. But the Camden Goods Yard Working Group (CGYWG), which includes residents’ associations, heritage groups, conservation area advisory committees and businesses such as market owners Market Tech and media giant Viacom, says the current designs are not good enough and are driven by profit.

CGYWG laid out the case against the scheme at a public meeting at Holy Trinity Church, in Hartland Road, Camden Town, on Thursday.

More than 100 people heard how the group had tried to shape the designs by meeting regularly with Morrisons over a period of months, but had been roundly ignored, according to CGYWG. Morrisons and Barratt claim the project will create more than 1,000 jobs and bring nearly 600 homes, 40 per cent of which they say will be affordable.

As part of the planning deal, they would contribute £11m to Town Hall coffers to help offset the impact the new residents would have on schools and other services. They say they will im­prove a grossly underused site, and include 10,000 square feet of free office space for young entrepreneurs, new public spaces and a rooftop chilli farm.

But CGYWG claims it breaks planning rules regarding sunlight, includes a 14-storey tower that will dominate the area and fails to deal with issues such as access and traffic.

CGYWG member Steven Stokes, who lives in Gilbeys Yard next to the site, said: “We did not say to them – no development here. We know there is a big housing shortage in London. We have tried hard to be part of the conversation and drew up a planning document to show what could be possible – but Barratt have basically ignored it. That is an insult to everyone who lives here. We think the design is uninspired, we think it is ugly – and it has nothing to do with Camden Town. You could photocopy these designs and plonk them down on any other site. It is a totally wasted opportunity. We want something that we can all be proud of, not something that will be fundamentally detrimental to our neighbourhood for decades to come.”

Camden Town Railway Heritage Trust chairman Peter Darley spoke of the impact the designs would have on historic buildings. “We realise something that developers fail to, namely the present does not have to work to improve the past – the past is there to help the present,” he said. Developers at nearby Hawley Wharf eventually changed their plans, to protect and celebrate Camden Town’s Victorian heritage, he pointed out. Mr Darley warned: “These buildings will absolutely dominate places like Stables Market. One of the enormous buildings on Chalk Farm Road will completely block views of The Roundhouse.”

Architect Paul Witley, a CGYWG member, told the meeting that the buildings were designed in a way that broke Camden Council policies, and would create dark and canyon-like streets. He added that designs for the entrance to the site, in Chalk Farm Road by a petrol station, were dangerous.

Camden Town Labour councillor Pat Callaghan said: “This badly-thought-out scheme will have a terrible impact on the whole Camden Town community. “It is a scheme purely driven by the wish to make as much profit as possible for the developers without any consideration of the effect it will have in years to come.”

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