We need a high quality development
28 November, 2019
The development site in Kentish Town
• THERE were two letters on a similar theme in the November 21 New Journal about the emerging proposals for Murphy’s Yard, (Tower blocks are not the answer for this site in Kentish Town and We should be living closer to the ground).
One correspondent, Tom Muirhead, wrote about the two neighbourhood forums that cover the site and noted that a low-rise, high-density, scheme, in the manner of the feted Camden Council estates of the 1960s and 1970s, can achieve similar housing numbers in a more humane way.
Eighty per cent of the Murphy site sits within the Dartmouth Park Neighbourhood Forum area and I would like to reassure Mr Muirhead that his view is very much in line with our own.
The draft Dartmouth Park Neighbourhood Plan includes a set of development principles for the site that put an emphasis on opening up safe pedestrian and cycle connections between Kentish Town and Gospel Oak stations in a mixed-use development that respects the Kentish Town to Parliament Hill viewing corridor in the adopted Kentish Town Neighbourhood Plan.
This, and the need to design to fit the context of a site that is surrounded by conservation areas, mean that a cluster of tall buildings is unlikely to be acceptable here.
In the public engagement that went into the drafting of the Dartmouth Park Neighbourhood Plan we repeatedly found that the local community would support mixed-use development on the site but not without reservations.
For example, on the impact on local services and on design quality: local people feel strongly and are ready to engage to help ensure that any development is of high quality and is in keeping with the best of the surrounding neighbourhoods of Gospel Oak, Parliament Hill, Kentish Town and Dartmouth Park.
We are also determined that any new housing is within the reach of local people in our socially-mixed corner of London.
Designing in context should be simple stuff, especially when the local character is so rich. But Murphy’s architects don’t seem to have risen to this modest challenge yet.
Readers need to be aware that the least high-rise of the three options recently presented has a wall of nine towers of between nine and 18 storeys. We will continue to engage with Murphy to make the case for a human-scale, locally-relevant, neighbourhood.
In the meantime, the Dartmouth Park Neighbourhood Plan has passed independent examination and will be put to a referendum in February. If local people vote “yes”, the plan will become part of Camden’s Local Plan and have real teeth.
Chair, Dartmouth Park Neighbourhood Forum