W.H.A.T. the N.D.F***?

Looking for consistency in approaches to planning applications from local groups professing to defend and protect the neighbourhood

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West Hampstead has a number of local groups and residents’ associations that are active to varying degrees.  The two of particular focus here are West Hampstead Amenity and Transport (WHAT) and the Neighbourhood Development Forum (NDF).

West Hampstead Amenity and Transport was established back in 1973 and claims on its website:

WHAT cares about local issues such as… parkingopen spaces… graffiti… litter… noise… traffic congestion… local amenities… tube safety… bus routes… station improvements… planning issues… too many restaurants and bars… not enough shops… disabled access… children’s amenitiesheritage… environment…

Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!” gave a presentation to the WHAT committee back in October 2015 highlighting some of the many concerns of local residents and the wider West Hampstead community to the proposals for 156 West End Lane, including the devastating overshadowing impact on the one designated open space in the area.

The NDF is a more recent entity whose foundations can be found in the Localism Act 2011 and whose purpose as outlined in Camden’s own documentation is to design and stand in place of a ‘masterplan’ for the area in the form of a Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP), written with input from and overseen by the Camden Planning Department (since at least version 2 of the draft plan):

Proposed headline actions: • Work together with stakeholders to develop more detailed area planning guidance. Either through existing planning legislation such as a Master Plan, Supplementary Planning Document or through supporting stakeholders to develop a Neighbourhood Plan.

Camden document: West Hampstead: Shaping the Future March 2012

NDF Constitution: 3. Aims & purposes of the Forum The Forum shall: • Draw up a Plan for the future development of the area

A local referendum in July 2015 saw the NDP become part of Camden planning policy.

The NDF has an interesting clause in its constitution — unlike most other Neighbourhood Development Forums where the purpose of the forum is to produce a Neighbourhood Development Plan, after which its work is done —  and so the forum still continues in the form of a committee that holds monthly meetings and occasional workshops to “monitor” the plan, as well as hold meetings with developers, Camden Planners and various other entities.

What has been woefully missing from the NDF’s approach to the challenges set by the proposed development at 156 West End Lane — in actuality the first real test of the utility and efficacy of the Neighbourhood Development Plan — is any attempt to communicate with, consult or canvas the opinions of local Residents’ Associations or residents that comprise the local community.

Instead Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!” has had to attend NDF meetings to convey the strength of opposition among West Hampstead residents to the proposals for 156WEL, even to the point of insisting that discussions about such a huge development do not languish at the bottom of meeting agendas.

Reference Documents

The remainder of this article is based on the comments submitted by both WHAT and the NDF to recent planning applications in the area. The two applications in question relate to 156 West End Lane and 11 Blackburn Road.

Consistency versus Duplicity

Several months before the planning application for 156 West End Lane was submitted to Camden by a2dominion, a separate planning application was lodged for a site at 11 Blackburn Road, just across the railway lines from 156WEL. The proposal was to demolish an old warehouse adjacent to Billy Fury Way and build seven four-storey townhouses behind the former Asher House offices which have since been converted into flats. Both the NDF and WHAT submitted objections.

Both WHAT and the NDF’s comments on the Blackburn Road proposal make for interesting reading, particularly when compared with the comments submitted by both groups to the proposals for 156WEL. Bear in mind that we’re comparing Blackburn Road proposals for just seven four-storey townhouses with the proposal for 156WEL for 164 units in seven storey blocks immediately adjacent to the back garden walls of Lymington Road houses that are within the West End Green Conservation Area, and that the blocks would overshadow homes and gardens and the precious designated open space and children’s play areas in Crown Close.

Below we compare some of the statements in the comments of both groups.  Included are the NDF’s objections to Blackburn Road proposals and their comments with regard to 156WEL, which at least they objected to in a diametrically opposite way to WHAT’s sycophantic support.

WHAT’s objections to four-storeys on Blackburn Road:

4 storeys would dominate the neighbouring houses and Asher House on Blackburn Road and not be the requisite distance from neighbouring properties to avoid overlooking.

We would prefer the site to redeveloped to provide employment use only, not residential. If residential is considered appropriate, then it should be restricted to flats above the employment space. If townhouses are deemed appropriate then there should be no more than 4 of no more than 3 storeys.

WHAT’s support for seven-storeys at 156 West End Lane:

Members of WHAT understand the concerns of residents of the 14 houses on the South side of Lymington Road. The closest distance at 30 metres is opposite the six floor block while the 7 floor block appears to be around 32 metres away according to p.48 of the Design and Access Statement. The East Block will have a negative impact on the views from their houses which are in the West Hampstead Conservation Area. This is even after the new design has lowered the building on the northern end. That said we note that this site has been long since between allocated for intensive development under the London Plan and Camden’s Local Development Framework under successive political administrations. Members have different views on the weight to be given to the need for affordable housing against the impact on local residents in these 14 houses.

So, WHAT want heights restricted to three-storeys for seven townhouses on Blackburn Road, but apparently seven storeys is acceptable immediately adjacent to Lymington Road homes inside the West End Green Conservation Area? No mention that this has nothing to do with just “views from 14 houses” (in fact, 15 houses, all of Canterbury Mansions and homes and gardens on the Crown Close Estate) but rather the dramatic and drastic effects of overshadowing which will drive many homes below the BRE minimum levels of daylight and sunlight, meaning that the blocks would cast many gardens and homes into deep shadow. Also no mention of the views into and out of the West End Green Conservation Area to which importance is given under National, Camden and NDP planning policies.

When the developer behind the proposal for 156 West End Lane finally released overshadowing diagrams for the Crown Close designated open space and children’s play areas, we sent these to WHAT with the aim of eliciting comments from them on the damaging impact of the proposals on these important amenities. After all WHAT claim to care about “open space… local amenities…. children’s amenities” yet they said nothing, not a word, about the irreparable harm that would be done to these important amenities in their fawning support for the proposals.

Developed-released overshadowing diagram showing the devastating impact of proposed 7-storey blocks on designated open space and children's play areas
Developer-released overshadowing diagram showing the devastating impact of proposed 7-storey blocks on designated open space and children’s play areas

NDF’s objections to four-storeys on Blackburn Road:

5. The height of the new building is excessive. We consider a three-storey building would be more appropriate. We note that the documents submitted with the application fail to reflect the views from the north of the site – and make it extremely difficult to assess the impact of such a modern building (see Neighbourhood Plan Policy 2).

NDF’s support for five-storeys at 156 West End Lane:

We require that the height of the East Building is reduced to a maximum of 5 storeys (ie lower than the ‘West Building’) to ensure that this part of the scheme is policy compliant.

Buildings on the West End Lane street frontage are generally five-storeys (e.g. Canterbury Mansions) and Lymington Road houses are three-storeys. This transition from “high street” to “side street” is a feature of nearly all roads leading off West End Lane and particularly so within the West End Green Conservation Area. Why then does the NDF state that five storeys is acceptable? Acceptable to whom? The NDF hasn’t consulted any local residents’ associations, or indeed any local residents, prior to making this claim. No representation without legitimate, transparent consultation, thank you NDF.

The NDF also fail to mention that even five-storey blocks would overshadow the Crown Close designated open space and children’s play areas, as well as damage the scene and setting of the West End Green Conservation Area.

WHAT’s Blackburn Road density objections:

The accommodation for an additional 50 residents on the site would add pressure on local services such as schools and medical facilities which are already under provided.

Fair point. What with the raft of other developments underway in West Hampstead, which have yet to be completed much less populated by the many hundreds of residents they could contain, further increases in residential populations must be carefully considered. However…

WHAT’s support for 500+ residents at 156 West End Lane:

The applicant has exceeded the density guidelines of the London Plan by 2%, i.e. by 9 out of 457 habitable rooms. This is on the basis of providing much needed housing units because of the site’s excellent public transport links. There is concern this density may have a cumulative effect on local services in relation to the other nearby developments currently under construction which are not in the Council’s Site Allocation Plan nor in the Growth Area. However, the Department of Communities and Local Government is currently consulting on increases in density around key transport interchanges.

So, 50 new residents in West Hampstead is too many and would unacceptably increase pressure on local services, but around 600 new residents at 156WEL possibly “may have” some sort of effect on local services? The duplicity, stupidity or unstated other agenda required to follow such ‘logic’ beggars belief. Worse yet, WHAT seems to be welcoming an increase in intensification and density around the West Hampstead Growth Area, so where now are their concerns for West Hampstead amenity and transport?

WHAT on Blackburn Road floorspace:

The need for 4 storeys for a 3 bedroom dwelling suggests the individual units are too narrow to meet Camden’s space requirements with the aim of squeezing as many units as possible on a constrained site.

Ironically — although we suspect the irony will be lost on some members of WHAT — the floorspace for the proposed townhouses far exceeds minimum requirements. Meanwhile, in the real world, all of the 2-bedroom 4-person ‘affordable’ units and a 3-bedroom 5-person unit (30 units of the 78) proposed for 156WEL fall below Camden’s own minimum floor-space requirements!

WHAT’s Car-Free Blackburn Road objections:

As the development would be car-free, there would be additional pressure on out-of-hours parking on neighbouring streets.

Compare this with their comments in relation to 156 West End Lane.  None; not one word. No pressure on out-of-hours parking in neighbouring streets from 600 proposed new residents? How strange.

WHAT’s Comments on the Dangerous Proposed Relocation of Access Road at 156WEL:

6. Road access: We welcome the removal of the unsafe lorry exit from the Travis Perkins site on to West End Lane. However, some committee members have expressed concern that the replacement exit on the northern end of the West block will also cause problems for pedestrians, even though vehicle movements will be much lower in number. It has been suggested that some form of traffic lights or barrier could be installed.

The statement regarding the proposed new access road suggests a blatant disregard for the safety and amenity of the hundreds of residents who use the already heavily-congested pavements every day.

NDF’s Comments on the Dangerous Proposed Relocation of Access Road at 156WEL

Strangely, the NDF had nothing at all to say on the proposed relocation of the site access road. When challenged for an explanation as to why they failed to pick up on one of the primary concerns of and dangers to West Hampstead residents from the proposals, the excuse given was that a hastily put together counter proposal worked on by Policy Exchange’s Create Streets on behalf of the NDF also featured a dangerous concealed access road located at the north of the site.

Thankfully, many hundreds of West Hampstead residents have told Camden in no uncertain terms that the proposals for 156 West End Lane are totally unacceptable.

If WHAT and the NDF wish to retain any sort of credibility as entities that purport to represent the interests of West Hampstead residents, they need to consult with, engage, listen to and actually represent the views and sentiments of the people who live here.

Opening up the debate

Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!” have taken up the debate with WHAT in the local press however, to date, we have been unsuccessful at eliciting legitimate replies.  Furthermore, WHAT’s responses have carefully avoided answering the questions posed in favour of championing WHAT’s long history and attacking us for endeavouring to hold them to account.  Links and screenshots of the debate so far are included below.

A similar debate has taken place in the Hampstead & Highgate Express — complete with WHAT’s consistent failure to answer the questions — and you can see screenshots on the Media Coverage page of the main website or follow the links below to the E-Edition of the Hampstead and Highgate Express.

Objections to proposals for 156 West End Lane from a West Hampstead Resident

Dear A2 Dominion,

I have followed the development of these proposals for the site at 156 West End Lane with interest.

I note the changes to the plan that seem to have given the proposed design more bulkiness while (apparently) reducing its actual size. I say apparently because the claim of reducing the height is wholly disingenuous. The original proposal that I saw was 8 storeys. The current proposal is 8 storeys. You may well have floated the idea of making it bigger in the interim, but any claim of reduction is a total deception. I think a phrase like this might be more accurate: “Despite objection from Camden citizens, developer A2Dominion has refused to reduce the height of the proposed Tower Blocks from the original 8 storeys.” (see Fig.1)

I find the side-by-side comparison with Canterbury Mansions thoroughly disheartening. That your design team can draw inspiration from such an elegant and sophisticated building to produce something uglier and blander than the building currently on the site is an architectural achievement not soon surpassed. At least the eyesore that currently stands there has the conviction to embrace a style. That you tout a prominent corner feature as a design goal, and offer a cube shaped exhaust vent as your proposal would be hilarious if it weren’t your intention to build it in my neighbourhood.

In the side-by-side analysis of the elevations you also leave off the profile of an entire floor of your proposed design. Will you build that extra floor? Why leave it off, as if somehow, being light beige, it might sneak by unnoticed? The only nod to the character of the existing architecture seems to begin and end with what can be produced with the barest minimum change to the materials cost and with zero impact on maximum gross internal floor space. Consequently, the proposed new facade looms over the pavement like a giant orange-brick boil, heaving at its seams to burst. I should not like to be waiting for the 328 if it should pop. Furthermore, this feeble attempt to match the character of the neighbourhood architecture is then wholly abandoned for the remainder of the lego block design.

I note you have chosen the top of the chimney pots and a decorative mast as the benchmark for matching the height of your development to the neighbouring building. Why stop there?

You may observe if you were to walk along West End Lane (I don’t know first-hand whether the architect(s) from Child Graddon Lewis have), that where there are changes in grade, the rooflines of the buildings loosely follow that line. You need only look across the road to see this in practice, the resulting effect is the building sitting within the landscape, following the topography, not inflicted on it or bursting out of it as your design appears to. Even the current structure, for its many faults at least got this right. I include a few photographs to illustrate this point if anyone on the design team is unable to visit the neighbourhood. (See fig.2-5)

You commit the same sin in the side elevation, preserving the roofline to the eastern edge of the development, taking no heed of the fact that the grade has dropped nearly a full storey here. This has the effect of adding a storey to the height of the third and fourth Private Sale Towers relative to the local landscape.

But of course the elevation of the buildings on the new private street is a subject worthy of its own discussion. Please take note of this section of the Neighbourhood Plan, Section B7:

The site shall provide an improved design relationship to the adjoining Canterbury Mansions and West End Green Conservation Area, to protect and enhance the character and appearance of the area. Therefore, the height of any new development should ensure the overall design and transition in massing achieves an appropriate relationship with neighbouring properties – and it can be demonstrated that no harm is caused to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area, its setting.

Indeed, this section, specifically about the site at 156 West End Lane suggests what is evident to all those who live in West Hampstead. The building heights and architecture on the High Street, also named the Town Centre, are distinct from those on the side streets. A site that neighbours both will require a transition in massing to achieve this appropriate relationship to both. Consequently, you are not in discussion to purchase and develop one homogenous site. In Camden’s own Site Allocation Plan, we find this description, which very clearly denotes the expectations for the site and intimates a division in land use:

  • Provide appropriate town centre uses along the frontage with residential including affordable housing above and to the rear of site

You most assuredly have two agendas and two design goals to meet. One massive Eight Storey size does not fit all. You have a High Street Development, which extends the entire Western edge of the property and extends Eastward to roughly the end of the existing five storey building. I shall repeat… existing five storey building so that perhaps you may take note that the building being replaced is five storeys tall, not six, or seven and certainly not eight. Behind this, where unsurprisingly the existing development drops substantially in height, you will have a residential site. Where and how this transition occurs may be a matter of discussion, but to proceed as though the entire Southern frontage on Potteries Path is a High Street is to completely misunderstand what such a thing is.

I attach a selection of views of neighbouring roads that clearly show what the accepted transition from High Street to side street looks like. (Fig. 6-14) As it happens, I love the proposed name of your new side street: Shared Surface. It evokes history, community and the village feel that West Hampstead is striving to protect. You may well note, that on all the other side streets (or shared surfaces if you prefer) in and around West Hampstead the homes are three storeys high. You may find the odd exception, stretching skyward to four storeys, but by and large the acceptable height of homes on the residential roads of West Hampstead is pretty well fixed.

Of course it is a different matter when Mansion Blocks occupy the entirety of city blocks, but this is not the circumstance of the site at 156 West End Lane. In fact, this site is adjoined to the north, quite closely I might add, by a considerable number of houses that contain a surprising number of residents. Residents who have no desire to have their homes plunged into the shadow of your eight storey monoliths. Citizens who do not want their wonderful sunny southern views to be consumed wholly and completely by a view of the back of your proposed orange Tower Blocks. Your document describes these houses as Villas, bringing to mind the predominantly vacant summer homes of Emperors. Perhaps this language is designed to be inviting to a certain demographic you may be targeting for the “private sale” units, who will be buying off plan from distant countries without any ambition to become our neighbours. Those absentee buyers may be the reason that you project a mere 209 employed residents in 191 units. Make no mistake however, these are houses on Lymington Road not Villas, lived in by your neighbours and you are proposing to radically diminish the benefit they can enjoy from their homes.

Where Camden Site Allocations Plan suggests that there should be “an appropriate transition in massing towards the south and east of the site” you clearly have interpreted that to suit your own ends. You ought to read Camden’s guidance as an indication that the height and mass should “transition” to something more “appropriate” as you move away from the high street. Instead, you have made NO transition whatsoever to the east, and seem to think that this licenses you to reach maximum heights at the south edge of the site. (See Fig. 15) To avoid further confusion on the matter, here is the full text followed by a plain English translation:

If redeveloped the existing relationship of new development immediately adjoining Canterbury Mansions to the north should be considerably more sympathetic in terms of scale, height and design with an appropriate transition in massing towards the south and east of the site.”

In simple unambiguous English:

A new development should look nicer next to Canterbury Mansions and be less imposing than what is currently there, and should change heights and bulk to a more suitable smaller size once you move back from the High Street.”

You could not have got it more wrong really.

The Camden Site Allocations Plan goes on to say that a new development will be expected to “ensure an acceptable relationship to the adjacent residential properties on Lymington Road”. As mentioned above, the unwelcome construction of a looming block of luxury flats is not the foundation of an acceptable relationship. Perhaps the hope is to assuage your neighbours by reducing the heights of the towers sharply from eight to six to four storeys as they near the garden fences. Simply put, the site is not wide enough to push a tower block any meaningful distance away from those garden fences. Hence any new structure anywhere on the site that exceeds the conventional rooflines of West Hampstead homes (three storeys) will serve to obliterate the views from Lymington Road and overshadow the existing homes completely. This is clearly not “an appropriate relationship with neighbouring properties.” (Fig. 16)

I haven’t measured my own house, but as the heights offered in the current set of proposals are measured from grade at the pavement on West End Lane (e.g. buildings labelled +25 metres and +21 metres are in fact the same height) I can say the houses are around +9m. In other words: You propose to build homes that are MORE THAN TWO TIMES TOO TALL. Put another way, you are asking for more than DOUBLE what is the established norm. Our neighbourhood is not a buffet where you can gorge yourself on a double helping of pudding.

Most sad of all, the solution to overcoming these simple objections are staring you in the face. Your neighbours. A word you’ve used on occasion. Canterbury Mansions is a terrific model of a successful mixed-use building housing five businesses and boasting some 17 residential units in a footprint substantially smaller than the existing former Camden offices at 156 West End Lane. Immediately to the north of the proposed site, Lymington Road provides a somewhat crude but straightforward blueprint of how to put 50+ residential units on a parcel of land similar in all dimensions to the residential portion of the site you hope to purchase. Naturally, purpose built structures would certainly improve the efficiency of the delivery of this housing, offering substantially more living space per square meter than period conversions, without over-reaching on the elevations. With some creativity, you might be able to put 70 or more units on the land that backs on to Lymington Road without eclipsing 9+ metres (or eclipsing the existing homes and residents). Case in point, there is a sizeable affordable housing development built by Camden itself that is your third neighbour (the soccer pitch and playground you propose to cast into shade for nine months of the year are part of that very same development). You will note that they have built a variety of unit sizes with significant density while keeping the height of the homes in line with the homes in the rest of the neighbourhood (see Fig. 17).

I would welcome a proposal from A2Dominion to develop the site in keeping with the established norms of the neighbourhood (the adjoining conservation area).

Of note in Camden’s Document “Shaping the Future of the Wider West Hampstead Area” is the conclusion that:

“…whilst there are a number of open spaces within the area, including award winning Maygrove Peace Park, Iverson Road and Crown Close open spaces, West Hampstead as a whole has been identified in Camden Planning documents as an area deficient in open space.”

It is consequently reprehensible that you should propose to submerge one of these rare open spaces in the shadow of your overblown development.(See Fig. 18) Without knowing an actual height from grade of the proposed towers at the edge of the Crown Close Open Space (+ 21 metres above a pavement approximately 150 metres east = 8 storeys = dwarfing everything around it), I can only roughly calculate that the proposed structure will cast the entirety of the football pitch into shadow each day after school for nine months of the year. It will be in shadow on every single day that shade is unwelcome and likely none of the days it might be seen as a mercy. It is galling also that at the recent round of “presentations” A2Dominion had the cheek to suggest that the shade was a benefit to parents in protecting their children from the sun. I do not need an eight storey blight of private luxury flats to help me with my parenting, thank you. No matter how many square metres of roof garden you plan to include in your proposal, you cannot possibly make up for the loss of daylight to the children of West Hampstead. (Of course we do understand that no one shall be allowed to visit these roof gardens, for you claim they will not impinge on the privacy of the gardens and homes they overlook.)

I note also with interest your recent invitation to the presentation on September 10th and 12th touted A2Dominion as a charity. Now that I have looked more closely at your corporate structure, I am curious to know something. Will the not-for-profit arm (A2Dominion Homes Ltd) be the only division of A2Dominion involved in the development of the site? It seemed from this last correspondence that the project was a not-for-profit venture. I can only assume that this is the case. It would be unseemly for one to hint that were so, only for it to be discovered that this represents just one aspect of the development and the profit motive behind the project was obscured by the use of this reference. Perhaps unethical might be a more accurate term for this type of obfuscation. I assume for instance that the holders of A2Dominion Bonds will be expecting their nearly £14,000,000.00 in pay outs this year and wonder how this is achieved in isolation from the business of building non-profit affordable housing. Perhaps you could provide a broad strokes outline of the corporate structure behind the proposed development and their respective roles. This would help avoid any further confusion (deliberate or otherwise) surrounding who the real beneficiaries of this development are.

As you’ve seen fit to share a cocktail napkin cross section of your proposal, here’s some back of the envelope math to consider. West Hampstead real estate has surpassed £8,500/sqm. The site at 156 West End Lane is 6,000 sqm. If you built on the site, that represents a one storey building worth £51,000,000. Subtract the land costs of £20,000,000 and a reasonable £1000/sqm building costs and you’re left with £25,000,000. Surely that’s enough to pay for the demolition, the salaries of the hardworking types at A2Dominion (and their PR firms) and any other pay outs (totalling £ 19,000,000), leaving an additional £6,000,000.00 untouched to build a second storey of affordable housing (Camden’s 50% target), already bought and paid for. Of course this is an oversimplification. Who would want to consume the whole footprint of the site for example? And there’s revenue generating retail space to consider. Equally, a proposal that sought five (even six!) storeys of High Street development and three storeys of residential housing, with ample room for open space and “shared surfaces” would certainly produce a much higher gross internal area and would meet the many disparate agendas of the stakeholders with minimal resistance. Save perhaps for the A2Dominion shareholders and bondholders, but we’ve previously established this is a non-profit venture. Correct?

Finally, as the site is designated as an Archaeological Priority Area, what steps does A2Dominion propose to take in the demolition, site clearing and excavation of the site? Could you please detail these for me? I see you have a designated Archaeology consultant, but what real steps will be taken?

I look forward to a point by point reply to these views. I also look forward to seeing them duly considered in the next round of presentations. Please expect that I will vigorously oppose your planning application should it fail to address my concerns and the concerns of other Camden residents.

West Hampstead Resident
London UK

P.S. I include for your benefit some relevant sections of the various planning guidance your next proposal needs to adhere to. No doubt these are well known to you. I have bolded some of the most relevant sections as well as those which are referred to above.

PLANNING CONSIDERATIONS

CAMDEN SITE ALLOCATIONS PLAN
Site 28: 156 West End Lane

Development will be expected to:

  • Provide appropriate town centre uses along the frontage with residential including affordable housing above and to the rear of site
  • Provide an improved design relationship to adjoining Canterbury Mansions and West End Green Conservation Area to protect and enhance the character and appearance of this area
  • Ensure an acceptable relationship to the adjacent residential properties on Lymington Road

Main Policy Considerations

  • The Council will ensure that new development will preserve and enhance nearby built heritage assets (Policy CS14 and DP25).

FURTHER INFORMATION

If redeveloped the existing relationship of new development immediately adjoining Canterbury Mansions to the north should be considerably more sympathetic in terms of scale, height and design with an appropriate transition in massing towards the south and east of the site.

Development should relate appropriately to open spaces and not be detrimental to its function or ecological value.

FORTUNE GREEN & WEST HAMPSTEAD NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN
POLICY 2: DESIGN & CHARACTER

All development shall be of a high quality of design, which complements and enhances the distinct local character and identity of Fortune Green and West Hampstead. This shall be achieved by:

  1. Development which positively interfaces with the street and streetscape in which it is located.
  2. Development which maintains the positive contributions to character of existing buildings and structures.
  3. Development which is human in scale, in order to maintain and create a positive relationship between buildings and street level activity.
  4. Development which has regard to the form, function, structure and heritage of its context – including the scale, mass, orientation, pattern and grain of surrounding buildings, streets and spaces.
  5. A presumption in favour of a colour palate which reflects, or is in harmony with, the materials of its context.
  6. New buildings and extensions that respect and are sensitive to the height of existing buildings in their vicinity and setting. Tall buildings in the Growth Area will need to have regard to their impact on the setting of the two immediately adjacent conservation areas, in order to avoid any negative impact on them.

A9. The NPPF (60) states that it is “proper to seek to promote or reinforce local distinctiveness” and says (58) that development shall “respond to local character and history, and reflect the identity of local surroundings and materials”. As outlined in 2.2 & 2.5 many parts of Fortune Green and West Hampstead have a clear architectural heritage – with an attractive character and a distinct local identity. These positive features are strongly supported (as set out in the Consultation Statement) and need to be protected and preserved. New developments in such areas – particularly terraced streets – need to be sensitive to the defining characteristics of the local area in terms of their proportion, height, scale, massing, materials, storey height and rooflines. Larger developments, while reflecting new design, need to incorporate design features that reflect the character of existing development, using materials (such as red brick) which complement existing buildings. Innovation is not ruled out, however schemes incorporating innovation will need to make a persuasive case for such development and demonstrate the suitability of such schemes.

A10. The height of existing development in Fortune Green and West Hampstead makes a significant contribution to the overall character of the Area. The NPPF (59) recognises height as an important consideration and that design policies “…should concentrate on guiding the overall scale, density, massing, height, landscape, layout, materials and access of new development in relation to neighbouring buildings and the local area more generally”. Much of the Neighbourhood Plan Area consists of terraced housing, which is normally two or three storeys high. Mansion blocks tend to be four, five or six storeys in height. New buildings and development will need to be based on a human scale and efficiently use the site area. High density developments are not ruled out, and it is noted (see recent reports on ‘Mid-Rise Housing’ from the Prince’s Foundation and other groups) that high densities can be achieved through high quality design, without the need for tall buildings. In order to promote and reinforce the distinct and widely appreciated local character of Fortune Green and West Hampstead, new development shall respect, and be sensitive to, the height of existing buildings in their vicinity and setting.

B. West Hampstead Growth Area
Section B7
The design of any new building will need to reflect the design of neighbouring buildings and the neighbouring Conservation Area (see Policies 2 & 3), including use of red brick.

• The site shall provide an improved design relationship to the adjoining Canterbury Mansions and West End Green Conservation Area, to protect and enhance the character and appearance of the area. Therefore, the height of any new development should ensure the overall design and transition in massing achieves an appropriate relationship with neighbouring properties – and it can be demonstrated that no harm is caused to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area, its setting.

PHOTOS AND DIAGRAMS

Fig. 1 – We can see that the height of the buildings were increased to 9 storeys for the June presentations. Note also the change in grade that makes the two private sale blocks one storey taller than the affordable rented block.

Fig. 1 – We can see that the height of the buildings were increased to 9 storeys for the June presentations. Note also the change in grade that makes the two private sale blocks one storey taller than the affordable rented block.
Fig. 1 – We can see that the height of the buildings were increased to 9 storeys for the June presentations. Note also the change in grade that makes the two private sale blocks one storey taller than the affordable rented block.

Fig. 2 – Throughout the neighbourhood, rooflines descend to follow the contours of the ground.

Fig. 2 – Throughout the neighbourhood, rooflines descend to follow the contours of the ground.
Fig. 2 – Throughout the neighbourhood, rooflines descend to follow the contours of the ground.

Fig. 3 – Here again we see the roofline in step with the slope of the hill.

Fig. 3 – Here again we see the roofline in step with the slope of the hill.
Fig. 3 – Here again we see the roofline in step with the slope of the hill.

Fig. 4 – Where grade drops one storey, the roofline matches.

Fig. 4 - Where grade drops one storey, the roofline matches.
Fig. 4 – Where grade drops one storey, the roofline matches.

Fig. 5 – Though difficult to see from street level because of the interesting geometry of the building, the vacant Camden Offices at 156 West End Lane are taller to the north, with the roofline dropping in harmony with the slope of the street.

Fig. 5 – Though difficult to see from street level because of the interesting geometry of the building, the vacant Camden Offices at 156 West End Lane are taller to the north, with the roofline dropping in harmony with the slope of the street.
Fig. 5 – Though difficult to see from street level because of the interesting geometry of the building, the vacant Camden Offices at 156 West End Lane are taller to the north, with the roofline dropping in harmony with the slope of the street.

Fig. 6 – This view could not be more illustrative of what is permitted in West Hampstead. The photo was taken directly across the street from the proposed development site. On the right, an imposing (yet elegant) High Street building, behind it on a footpath (not Potteries path but a footpath along the rail line) a NEWER development has been built. Note the height of the white building on the left. There could not be a more precise duplication of the circumstances at 156 West End Lane. It is mere steps away from the site and bears the identical relationship to the High Street, the rail-side path and residential neighbours to the north. Note also the busy pavements, still surprisingly crowded in the morning even after rush hour and the school run when this photo was taken.

Fig. 6 – This view could not be more illustrative of what is permitted in West Hampstead. The photo was taken directly across the street from the proposed development site. On the right, an imposing (yet elegant) High Street building, behind it on a footpath (not Potteries path but a footpath along the rail line) a NEWER development has been built. Note the height of the white building on the left. There could not be a more precise duplication of the circumstances at 156 West End Lane. It is mere steps away from the site and bears the identical relationship to the High Street, the rail-side path and residential neighbours to the north. Note also the busy pavements, still surprisingly crowded in the morning even after rush hour and the school run when this photo was taken.
Fig. 6 – This view could not be more illustrative of what is permitted in West Hampstead. The photo was taken directly across the street from the proposed development site. On the right, an imposing (yet elegant) High Street building, behind it on a footpath (not Potteries path but a footpath along the rail line) a NEWER development has been built. Note the height of the white building on the left. There could not be a more precise duplication of the circumstances at 156 West End Lane. It is mere steps away from the site and bears the identical relationship to the High Street, the rail-side path and residential neighbours to the north. Note also the busy pavements, still surprisingly crowded in the morning even after rush hour and the school run when this photo was taken.

Fig.7 – The impressive buildings on the High Street give way to the more human scale of the residential side streets of West Hampstead.

Fig.7 - The impressive buildings on the High Street give way to the more human scale of the residential side streets of West Hampstead.
Fig.7 – The impressive buildings on the High Street give way to the more human scale of the residential side streets of West Hampstead.

Fig. 8 & 9 – Newer developments observe the established appropriate relationship with neighbouring properties. Note the differing heights from High Street to side street.

Fig. 8 - Newer developments observe the established appropriate relationship with neighbouring properties. Note the differing heights from High Street to side street.
Fig. 8 – Newer developments observe the established appropriate relationship with neighbouring properties. Note the differing heights from High Street to side street.
Fig. 9 - Newer developments observe the established appropriate relationship with neighbouring properties. Note the differing heights from High Street to side street.
Fig. 9 – Newer developments observe the established appropriate relationship with neighbouring properties. Note the differing heights from High Street to side street.

Fig. 10 & 11 – Buildings on the High Street are afforded considerably more height than those on the side streets. Once we move a few steps from West End Lane (the High Street) we can see residential structures are 3 storeys high.

Fig. 10 – Buildings on the High Street are afforded considerably more height than those on the side streets. Once we move a few steps from West End Lane (the High Street) we can see residential structures are 3 storeys high.
Fig. 10 – Buildings on the High Street are afforded considerably more height than those on the side streets. Once we move a few steps from West End Lane (the High Street) we can see residential structures are 3 storeys high.
Fig. 11 – Buildings on the High Street are afforded considerably more height than those on the side streets. Once we move a few steps from West End Lane (the High Street) we can see residential structures are 3 storeys high.
Fig. 11 – Buildings on the High Street are afforded considerably more height than those on the side streets. Once we move a few steps from West End Lane (the High Street) we can see residential structures are 3 storeys high.

Fig. 12a & 12b – Yet more examples of what is the case throughout the neighbourhood.

Fig. 12 – Yet more examples of what is the case throughout the neighbourhood.
Fig. 12a – Yet more examples of what is the case throughout the neighbourhood.
Fig. 13 – Yet more examples of what is the case throughout the neighbourhood.
Fig. 12b – Yet more examples of what is the case throughout the neighbourhood.

Fig. 13 & 14 – As though more examples might be required, here again we see how the mass and height of buildings in West Hampstead change from High Street to side street. This is by no means an exhaustive examination of the subject. There are many, many more such examples at the intersection of West End Lane and each and every residential street. Take a short walk around the neighbourhood and you’ll see nothing else.

Fig. 13 – As though more examples might be required, here again we see how the mass and height of buildings in West Hampstead change from High Street to side street. This is by no means an exhaustive examination of the subject. There are many, many more such examples at the intersection of West End Lane and each and every residential street. Take a short walk around the neighbourhood and you’ll see nothing else.
Fig. 13 – As though more examples might be required, here again we see how the mass and height of buildings in West Hampstead change from High Street to side street. This is by no means an exhaustive examination of the subject. There are many, many more such examples at the intersection of West End Lane and each and every residential street. Take a short walk around the neighbourhood and you’ll see nothing else.
Fig. 14 – As though more examples might be required, here again we see how the mass and height of buildings in West Hampstead change from High Street to side street. This is by no means an exhaustive examination of the subject. There are many, many more such examples at the intersection of West End Lane and each and every residential street. Take a short walk around the neighbourhood and you’ll see nothing else.
Fig. 14 – As though more examples might be required, here again we see how the mass and height of buildings in West Hampstead change from High Street to side street. This is by no means an exhaustive examination of the subject. There are many, many more such examples at the intersection of West End Lane and each and every residential street. Take a short walk around the neighbourhood and you’ll see nothing else.

Fig. 15 – The Proposed development makes no “transition” to the south and east of the site. Inappropriate.

Fig. 15 – The Proposed development makes no “transition” to the south and east of the site. Inappropriate.
Fig. 15 – The Proposed development makes no “transition” to the south and east of the site. Inappropriate.

Fig. 16 – The Proposed overdevelopment will obliterate the views from the existing homes on Lymington Road.

Fig. 16 – The Proposed overdevelopment will obliterate the views from the exiting homes on Lymington Road.
Fig. 16 – The Proposed overdevelopment will obliterate the views from the exiting homes on Lymington Road.

Fig. 17 – The Camden council housing on Lymington Road achieves higher density while observing an “appropriate” scale and massing.

Fig. 17 – The Camden council housing on Lymington road achieves higher density while observing an “appropriate” scale and massing.
Fig. 17 – The Camden council housing on Lymington Road achieves higher density while observing an “appropriate” scale and massing.

Fig. 18 – A composite of what the site might look like from the Crown Close open space. The eight storey Private sale block which towers above will cast the football pitch and playground into shade after school every day for nine months of the year.

Fig. 18 – A composite of what the site might look like from the Crown Close open space. The eight storey Private sale block which towers above will cast the football pitch and playground into shade after school every day for nine months of the year.
Fig. 18 – A composite of what the site might look like from the Crown Close open space. The eight storey Private sale block which towers above will cast the football pitch and playground into shade after school every day for nine months of the year.

Save West Hampstead, “Stop the Blocks!” Community Meeting Report

Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!” held a fantastic community meeting at the Lymington Road Residents’ Association Hall last night, Tuesday 8th September.

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The meeting was well-attended (another standing room only affair!) and we were thrilled to see plenty of regular and new faces from the West Hampstead community, demonstrating how great concerns are about forced over-development of the area with projects that do not meet actual housing needs.  It was also wonderful to have present at the meeting key organisers from other local campaigns against unwanted developments across Camden including the Combined Residents Associations of South Hampstead (CRASH), Save Swiss Cottage, and West Hampstead Gardens & Residents Association.  Journalists from the Camden New Journal and the Ham & High were present to cover the meeting.

The meeting was chaired by Neil Fletcher, ex-Deputy Leader of Camden Council and the evening started with an update from the Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!” campaign. For those that were unable to attend, a brief summary of updates is included at the end of this article.

Next up was George Turner of Reclaim London, The Battle for Waterloo and the 8 Albert Embankment challenge who gave a fascinating talk about the trials and tribulations of taking on rapacious developers. He provided a wealth of useful information about challenging inappropriate and unwanted developments that don’t meet the housing needs of local communities, and highlighted the importance of Conservation Areas and heritage assets. George also explained how the proliferation of blocks and high-rise ‘luxury’ developments is, at its core, little more than a drive by developers to maximise on the volume of floor-space that can be sold, usually off-plan, to investors who care nothing for amenity, public services or the local communities but rather about the value of their international investments in safety-deposit boxes in the sky.

George took and responded to questions from the floor in which he made the very pertinent point that, just because someone is claimed to be an ‘expert’ in their field, doesn’t mean that what they say can be taken at face value and, often, information is selectively presented to support an a priori conclusion. He also made the point that the best experts on the subject of any local area are the residents themselves, not drop-in developers that frame everything within the context of their intended development objectives.

Finally, a round-up of what the near future holds in store was presented by the campaign and covered the forthcoming round of A2D/Instinctif presentations this week. Times and dates of the September presentations are as follows:

  • Thursday, 10th September, 4pm to 7.30pm at Hampstead Synagogue
  • Saturday, 12th September, 10am to 1pm at Sidings Community Centre

We would encourage everyone to attend these presentations and to be vocal about their objections to yet another proposed development of blocks in West Hampstead that threatens the amenity of all residents while delivering no tangible benefits to the community.

The point was made that Camden Council have willingly derogated their duties on the provision of housing that meets the needs of ordinary people across multiple sites in Camden, preferring instead to accept the ‘legalised bribery’ of Section 106 monies. However, despite collecting considerable monies from S106 payments, West Hampstead residents are facing the possible closure of the only remaining library in the area (prior to foisting a Library Heights development on the neighbourhood?) as well as reductions in the levels of public services provided and funded by the council.

The question remains: Exactly what are the supposed benefits to local residents of  forced, over-intensive over-development of the area?

Meeting attendees were also encouraged to attend two related events:

  • The campaign to Save West Hampstead Library, by attending the meeting at the library on Thursday 10th September at 7.30pm.
  • The Monday 14th September meeting of the Neighbourhood Development Forum which takes place at 7.30pm in West Hampstead Library and at which Phil Jones, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Transport & Planning, will be speaking.

Campaign Update Notes

Updates from the Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!”Campaign were as follows:

  • Our previous standing-room only meeting was held on 14th July. A week later, on 21st July, Lymington Road south-side residents whose homes immediately adjoin the 156 West End Lane site were invited to another presentation by PR firm Instinctif. We were shocked to discover that the number of storeys proposed had increased to 4, 7 and 9 storeys through the addition of a deceptively named “lower-ground” floor situated above-ground.0d99e01f-8aa1-4f62-bbd7-bf2b0d762bf6 c5f48dcf-8fee-4042-8ad7-b17225453068
  • No significant alterations had been made to the proposals to reflect the many objections submitted, so the use of the term ‘consultations’ is highly questionable, given that any true consultation is a two-way process.
  • On Sunday evening a meeting was held between local residents and our three local councillors, Angela Pober, Phil Rosenberg and James Yarde. There was a general ignorance among councillors about how the planning process is proceeding and the councillors stated that A2Dominion was not engaged in pre-planning meetings with council planners. Since then, Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!” has provided the councillors with clear evidence that council planners are indeed meeting with the developers. This information was contained in a communication from Camden’s Director of Culture and Environment, Ed Watson, that was passed to us by our local MP Tulip Siddiq.
  • This provides further evidence – as if it were needed – that Camden Council as the owners of the land, Camden Council as the brokers of the land, Camden Council as the planning authority, Camden Council working closely with Camden Council’s ‘preferred bidder’, and Camden Council as the beneficiaries of any monies received for the sale of the land cannot possibly act independently, impartially and honestly in any decision making process.
  • West Hampstead residents, whose amenity will be negatively impacted by a proposed development of the scale, mass, bulk and height proposed by A2Dominion are now just two exhibitions away from the developer’s stated time-line that includes a planning application submission in November that could seal the fate of 156 West End Lane for evermore.
  • It has been mooted that a Development Management Forum will be organised by Camden Council, however we have not received any further details about when this process will commence. This means that now is the time to step-up the campaign to Stop the Blocks.
  • If A2Dominion determine that the well-supported and growing public opposition to their proposals in tandem with the need to comply with Camden Council’s planning regulations, and the planning restrictions imposed by building on the perimeter of the cherished West End Green Conservation Area are not sufficient obstacles for them to walk away from the project before it is too late and they do submit a planning application, we may need to commission the services of planning professionals to lodge a successful challenge. We will of course be ready to cross that bridge should we come to it.

Save West Hampstead, “Stop the Blocks!” Community Meeting

Save West Hampstead, “Stop the Blocks!” Community Meeting
7pm, 8th September, Lymington Road Residents’ Association Hall

We’ll be holding a short news and updates meeting in the LRRA hall at 7pm on 8th September in advance of the two forthcoming presentations from A2Dominion/Instinctif.

We’re really excited to announce that writer and campaigner George Turner will be giving a short talk based around his experiences challenging developments. This will help inform residents in the run up to A2 Dominion’s planned planning application, which is when formal objections will need to be lodged with Camden planners. We also hope to have a member of the Save Swiss Cottage group to inform us about the progress of their campaign.

George Turner on The Battle for Waterloo

We’ll also be providing updates from the Save West Hampstead campaign, highlighting some of the many ways in which the proposals are counter to Camden’s own planning regulations as well as being damaging to local conservation areas. We will also be requesting a little bit of assistance from everyone that lives, works or plays in West Hampstead to help in the fight to “Stop the Blocks!” at 156 West End Lane.

Join us at 7pm on Tuesday in the LRRA Hall, 1 Dresden Close, NW6 1XP

A2 Dominion / Instinctif September Presentations

Another round of presentations is fast approaching at which A2Dominion and their PR firm Instinctif will attempt to sell West Hampstead residents four blocks and 200 units at 156 West End Lane.

They have totally ignored the many objections sent in by residents following the first exhibition in June. On 21st July, south-side Lymington Road residents were presented with the latest proposals for 4, 7 and 9 storey blocks, with heights and bulk increased through the disingenuous addition of an above-ground ‘lower ground’ floor.

Cartoon representation of blocksStop the Blocks!

Despite presenting these drawings only to Lymington Road south-side residents, it is abundantly clear that crowbarring-in approximately 200 units and many hundreds of residents into an area with such a small footprint will have a hugely negative impact on West Hampstead amenities.

Presentation Windows

  • Hampstead Synagogue
    Thursday, 10th September, 4pm to 7.30pm
  • Sidings Community Centre
    Saturday, 12th September, 10am to 1pm

Press Release: Open Letter to Camden Council & A2Dominion

Introduction

West Hampstead in the London Borough of Camden is, like many other boroughs in the city, facing unprecedented levels of ‘redevelopment’ – indeed over-intensive over-development – at the behest of councils operating in tandem with private developers. In rather too many cases, long-standing communities are being destroyed and local public assets being sold-off and handed over to private developers to do with largely as they choose, irrespective of the direct tangible benefits to existing residents, in a single-minded race to build housing and cleverly-named “affordable housing” that is beyond the means of the majority of workers.

Camden is no different, having already seen the historic Camden Lock Market and huge swathes of light industrial space in King’s Cross and elsewhere sold-off. West Hampstead, with its multiple railway network interchange and widely touted “village feel” is also the focus of a series of large-scale developments approved by the council in spite of their impact on residents, their businesses and livelihoods and the area’s heritage.

Today, the Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!” Campaign publishes its open letter to Camden Council and A2 Dominion, the council’s latest preferred bidder for a site at 156 West End Lane, in an attempt to shine a light on the dubious operation of the council, its representatives and the way in which it seems happy to ignore and overturn its own planning policies in bids to secure short-term profits from the rapid disposal of public assets against the wishes of the very people and communities the council is meant serve.

For further information about the campaign, please see the Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!” website at savewesthampstead.wordpress.com, follow us on Twitter, or email us directly at SaveWestHampstead@gmail.com.


Open Letter to Camden Council & A2Dominion

Fundamental flaws and failings in the plans to redevelop 156 West End Lane

Balancing the pressures of growth with the sustainability of communities is one of the biggest pressures we face today. In our borough of Camden, as across London, we must plan for tomorrow, provide for today, and not lose sight of the past and our heritage.

The public emergence of redevelopment proposals for 156 West End Lane in West Hampstead (the Travis Perkins site) has fundamentally called into question how our elected representatives at Camden Council are trying to tackle this delicate balancing act. The ill-considered plans unveiling themselves before residents in a fast-paced one-horse race to secure the site and planning permission have spurred the formation of our community action group, Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!”, and people across our community are deeply concerned and disturbed by the proposals.

Let us be clear – we do not wish to stand in the way of house-building – we want to see more done to provide high-quality and actually affordable homes in our community and we want our elected representatives – and the officers who advise them – to take the lead.

What we do not want is for inappropriate developments to be foisted upon us by arbitrary developers, with or without consultation.

We do not want our Council and its representatives to sell-off public assets to fund their out of control spending plans or financial mismanagements.

We do not want our Council to have the unaccountable ability to selectively set-aside policies they have established to protect and support borough-wide planning. Likewise entities like Travis Perkins, a local employer and server of local retail and tradesman in the community for nearly four decades, should not be held hostage to the vagaries of an inconsistent planning department simply by virtue of the fact that the land they sit on is not owned privately, but by the Council who may deem it desirable to grant themselves and their preferred developer of the moment carte blanche planning consent.

There are a number of critical questions that we want to see answered before the fate of the area is sealed without the application of appropriate process and due diligence:

  • What joined-up assessment is being made of the proliferation of developments now taking place in West Hampstead and the cumulative impact they, and other developments under consideration, will have on the area? We have major developments already in construction or in planning all around West End Lane and major concerns over public services, such as schools and healthcare, public transport, public amenity and safety. As is clear from a cursory study of the facts so far, the Council is failing in its duty to plan coherently, strategically and for the benefit of the community.
  • What effort is the council making to ensure that any proposed development at 156 West End Lane does not negatively impact on the Conservation Area which the site adjoins? The much vaunted ‘village feel’ of West Hampstead, as described by the now leader of the council, Sarah Hayward, is too precious to neglect. When it’s gone, it’s gone. We will not let it go without a fight.
  • Why has the Council bungled the ‘sale’ of 156 West End Lane so spectacularly, costing taxpayers so significantly in the process? We all know about the wasteful neglect of the office space above Travis Perkins/Wickes which has lain vacant for years now, costing us thousands every month. Compounded with a mis-managed ‘sale’ process which saw a developer (Mace) appointed and then kicked off the scheme, a beauty parade courting other developers held but then, as we understand it, fudged and then, finally, A2 Dominion appointed and apparently about to sign a contract worth around £5m less to the Council than if it had properly concluded the original bidding opportunity approximately 12 months earlier. This is not astute financial and asset management at a time when Camden residents are already suffering swingeing cuts to public services across the board, including everything from healthcare services to refuse collections to threats of closure of public services such as libraries.
  • Why is it that the Council seems to have forgotten its own adopted policies on employment and supporting established businesses in the borough when considering developments? We have witnessed the scandalous fiasco at Liddell Road with the Council trying to justify closing down local businesses and much needed light industrial space to build an out of scale tower block by using the sop of a new school (in fact, an extension to an already existing school rather than a new school) in a bid to placate the local community that fought hard against the plans. We all know that more school places are needed and the council has a duty to provide them, but they need to be delivered in a joined-up, measured and sustainable way that does not negatively impact the wider community through the imposition of inappropriate developments that do not meet housing requirements of local people and the majority of workers on average London wages. We do not now need Councillors waiving through another set of ill-considered, profit-driven plans for 156 West End Lane just because they own the land and need to generate cash to balance their spending plans. At best this is hypocritical, at worst it requires scrupulous further investigation of the facts to determine quite what lies behind the drive to steamroller through another inappropriate development in West Hampstead. Probity is key and proper judicial scrutiny must be applied.
  • Where have our ward councillors gone? In meetings and discussions to date, we are seeing a worrying back foot shuffle by the members of the council elected to represent West Hampstead residents. They are not at all keen to engage with or even listen to us – apparently on the basis of legal advice to preserve Development Control Committee positions – while simultaneously more than happy to meet with developers. So we are left with no option but to question their priority – is it the party whip (and the diktat to ‘get the consent and bank the cash’ in the short term) or the electorate, the community, and the people that elected them whom they are there to represent?

We are a passionate group of concerned residents that have learned from Camden’s mistakes of the near past and are demanding better long-term solutions. Today, we are around 100 people and support for our organisation locally and across the borough is growing faster than we could have hoped. We echo sentiments that ring true across Camden and London, which are seeing an unprecedented growth in grass-roots community groups formed to oppose ill-considered and inappropriate ‘developments’ that do not meet the needs of local communities and which are driven by the short term cash-flow concerns of councils and long-term profit motives of developers aiming to maximise returns from any piece of land they are allowed by short-sighted councils to occupy. Our mission is to ensure proper scrutiny is applied both to the management of public assets and to the people we elect to represent us and provide stewardship for our community.

The proposals for 156 West End Lane contravene Camden’s planning policies and threaten to blight a heritage conservation area. Worse, they offer nothing more than the worst possible deal for the taxpayer. Attempts to whitewash the legitimacy of the Council’s approach on the basis the scheme will deliver new housing – which is necessary but not an end in itself – are disingenuous.

We are calling for a better solution. We are calling for Camden Council to act as considerate and caring custodians of our community, not cash-chasing property speculators acting fast and loose with public assets that belong to everyone and could be used to benefit the whole community, rather than a private developer and the incumbent Council administration. Councillors and elected representatives are transient, but the communities they leave behind are forced to live with their legacies.

There are better ways than the proposals outlined and these need to be explored fully before a decision that will negatively impact the community, the environment and the general amenity of residents while simultaneously failing to provide the type of housing that is so desperately needed. Other options need to be explored and the sooner Camden Council changes course, the better for all concerned in the long term.

Sincerely,

On behalf of the Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!” Campaign

Supported by:

  • The Lymington Road Residents’ Association
  • The Crediton Hill Residents’ Association
  • The West End Green Conservation Area Committee
  • West Hampstead Gardens & Residents Association
  • Combined Residents Association of South Hampstead (CRASH)
  • Save Swiss Cottage
  • Reclaim London

Response to Camden New Journal Article

A version of the following comment was submitted in response the Camden New Journal print edition article, “Neighbours’ anger at plans for 200 homes” in order to correct and clarify the position of Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!”.  The article makes no mention of the campaign, misquotes, and fails to include some of the key points conveyed during the telephone interview with the CNJ.

At the time of publication of this post, the comment below is yet to appear on the CNJ website.


The print edition of this article is titled, “Neighbours’ anger at plans for 200 homes”. The online version instead proclaims, “Council face battle with residents and businesses over West Hampstead development”. Neither headlines or versions of the article highlight the fact that brief interviews were conducted with members of Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!” campaign, while the first headline is misleading and suggests the group is opposed to house-building, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

What the group IS opposed to is the over-intensive over-development of West Hampstead through the creation of housing that is neither in keeping with Camden’s planning regulations nor ‘affordable’ in any realistic sense of the word applicable to ordinary workers.

This is a sentiment that rings true across Camden and London as a city, which are both seeing an unprecedented growth in grass-roots community groups formed to oppose ill-considered ‘developments’ that do not meet the needs of local communities and which are driven solely by the short term cash-flow concerns of councils and the long-term profit motives of developers aiming to maximise returns from any piece of land they are allowed by short-sighted councils to occupy.

Attempts to portray Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!” as ‘nimbys’ (this article, and George Downton (letters pages)) are also inaccurate and avoid the considerable impacts on the amenity of all residents of the area of a proposal of the mass, scale and density of the one proposed for 156 West End Lane.

Lest we forget, West Hampstead has not yet seen the impact of the Ballymore development at ‘West Hampstead Square’, Iverson Road, Liddell Road, and Maygrove Road; nor is there even any consideration of potential future block-building on the O2 car park, Broadhurst Gardens and Blackburn Road among others. We suggest West Hampsteadonians investigate both current and future plans for the area before pre-judging the position of Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!”.

'Consultation' or 'Indoctrination'?
Stay Put – ‘Consultation’ or ‘Indoctrination’?

Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!” was formed by local residents immediately plans for 156 West End Lane were unveiled in a very low-key manner, completely unbefitting of a proposal of the scale and impact on amenities proposed. Yes, the campaign was founded by residents of Lymington Road, but it has quickly grown to encompass residents from around the area and is supported by the Crediton Hill Residents’ Association, the Lymington Road Residents’ Association, the West End Green Conservation Area Committee, and West Hampstead Gardens & Residents Association, as well as hundreds of residents not part of a specific group.

A series of public interest issues were raised with Dan Carrier, specifically referring to the sale of the site with Camden as the owner and broker of the sale, as well as the fact that existing proposals run completely counter to Camden’s own planning guidelines, all considerations that need to be factored in when building on the perimeter of a conservation area, and all rules regarding the replacement of space to an ongoing, viable business.

The point was also made that Travis Perkins sustains hundreds of small, independent local businesses who rely on them for their supplies and who, in turn, employ additional people, and that a few high-churn retail units and “start-up” spaces would not make up the employment deficit.

West End Lane and its over-inflated rents for retail units already serves as a good example how small, independent businesses and its workers are being driven away. Indeed, an editorial published by the CNJ makes a similar point: Relentless developments are driving our people away.

Save West Hampstead Residents & Community Meeting

14th July, 7pm, Lymington Road Residents’ Association Hall

The community meeting developers refused to organise

The Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!” residents and community meeting will be held this evening, Tuesday 14th July at 7pm in the Lymington Road Residents’ Hall, 1 Dresden Close, London NW6 1XP.

To date, community involvement in the proposal to build 200 housing ‘units’ at 156 West End Lane has been neglibible, to put it mildly. Only a small number (we don’t know how many) of the local residents were invited to two ‘exhibitions’ – referred to in a linguistic connivance by the developers’ PR company as ‘consultations’ – on 11th and 13th June.  A total of just 6.5 hours was offered for those who knew about the exhibitions to attend.  By the developer’s own admission only 120 people attended in total.

The next round of ‘consultations’ offered by the current preferred supplier is by invitation only.  Invitations have only been extended to the residents of the south (even-numbered) side of Lymingon Road, houses inside the West End Green Conservation Area that directly adjoin the site at 156 West End Lane, and are to be held on 21st July.  The developers are favouring brief one-to-one meetings with the residents of just 15 houses, rather than seeking input from the wider West Hampstead community and residents, all of whom will have their amenity impacted by the over-intensive over-development proposed.

When we challenged the developers about whether any public consultation would be held, we were informed that they viewed one-to-one meetings with a small number of people as ‘beneficial’.

This prompts the question: “Beneficial to whom?”

It would appear that neither the developers nor Camden Council want the wider community engaged in any meaningful way with what happens in the West Hampstead area.   And herein lies the reason for the Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!” Residents and Community meeting.  Thus far, our request to the developers for them to attend the meeting has been ignored.

We have however invited our MP, local councillors, the leader of Camden council and our GLA representative to attend to learn about the community’s objections to the plans for the council-owned Travis Perkins site at 156 West End Lane.  Unfortunately, most of the officials appear to have found prior commitments or are on Camden’s Development Control Committee and therefore reluctant to attend and listen to the concerns of their constituents.  We are pleased to say that Andrew Dismore, our local GLA member, will be attending and can opt to make the community’s widespread objections known to the Mayor and the Greater London Authority.

The meeting will be chaired by Neil Fletcher, 40 years a resident of West Hampstead and a former Deputy Leader of the Council. You can read Neil’s article in the Camden New Journal expressing his concerns about what is happening in the area. Speakers will include representatives from:

  • Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!” campaign team
  • Crediton Hill Residents’ Association
  • West End Green Conservation Area Committee
  • West Hampstead Gardens & Residents Association
  • Travis Perkins

Whatever development occurs at the 156 West End Lane will directly affect all of the West Hampstead community and directly impact amenity and services to existing residents. If you care about your local community and what happens in it, we look forward to seeing you at the meeting.

A2Dominion – Camden Council’s “preferred bidder” for 156 West End Lane

A2Dominion Housing Group Ltd is a Housing Association that builds private developments for the property market via it’s FABRICA by A2Dominion arm.  As an exempt charity registered under the Co-operative & Community Benefit Societies Act 2014, A2Dominion pays no tax as part of its operations.

The quality of A2Dominion’s social and ‘affordable’ housing is often dubious and has resulted in many disgruntled tenants, as shown by this petition:

We the people whom are managed by A2Dominion housing association are fed up to the hind teeth with the total lack of customer care and management from A2Dominion. We want people who are being dealt a bad life and whose lives are being destroyed by this company to sign this petition and back us so we can bring this severely mismanaged company to heel. Ultimately we want A2Dominion brought under a national inquiry into their conduct.

Continue reading “A2Dominion – Camden Council’s “preferred bidder” for 156 West End Lane”

Save West Hampstead – Stop the Blocks!

Welcome to the website of Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!”

Please use the menu above to learn more about us and find out more about how to register objections with Camden Council to the proposed plans for 156 West End Lane.

To subscribe to the Save West Hampstead: “Stop the Blocks!” campaign newsletter, please register here.