Greed casts long shadows: Help us save Crown Close Open Space

Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!” is requesting that Camden Council commission a fully independent lighting study based on the proposals for 156 West End Lane. We’re asking all West Hampstead residents to join us in this call in a bid to protect the only public open space in the area.

In this article we explain why a fully independent daylight and sunlight study is required. At the end of the article is a list of contacts to email and a brief template letter. Please help us save Crown Close Open Space.

“Not all parents want their children to play in the sun”

Such was the jaded and cynical response from a representative of A2 Dominion (A2D) when challenged by West Hampstead residents about the deep shadow that would be cast across the two children’s play areas on Crown Close by A2 Dominion’s proposals for the publicly owned land at 156 West End Lane.

While it may be true that some parents might not want their children to play in the sun, it doesn’t follow that developers are automatically granted the right to remove any choice from all parents by erecting seven storey private gated blocks between people, public spaces and the sun. Nor does it grant them the right to remove from adults the choice of whether or not they too wish to maintain their access to sunlight from existing, long-standing public spaces, homes and gardens.

The sun is our primary source of Vitamin D — known as “the sunshine vitamin“. Vitamin D deficiencies among the general population are increasingly well documented and reported. Recent research and government figures suggest that as much as 25% of the population suffers from a deficit of Vitamin D. The many serious health consequences that arise from a Vitamin D deficiency are so great that it has for some time been the case that Vitamin D supplements are “advised for everyone“; or at least everyone that can afford them.

Meanwhile, the many health benefits of Vitamin D, including its anti-inflammatory properties and its necessity in the prevention of a recent alarming increase in rickets and ostomalacia,  as well as its role in the mitigation of cancer risks, heart problems, rheumatoid arthritis and asthma amongst others.

The health benefits of sunshine and its key role in maintaining adequate levels of Vitamin D place a greater burden of responsibility on developers and Council planners alike to secure for all the right to sunlight.

While Vitamin D isn’t a material planning consideration itself, overshadowing by any proposed development and the resulting loss of light definitely is.

Daylight is the source of all life on earth. It is fundamental to our quality of life. How we plan our buildings to ensure access to good levels of daylight is an extremely important but often overlooked part of planning.

The impact of poor quality daylight on health has been known about for hundreds of years. It is a cause of disease such as rickets, which used to be common in London and many other urban centres. Because of this, legislation from the early 20th century progressively sought to improve the access to light and air by laying down rules for maximum heights of buildings, and the minimum distance they must be set apart.

George Turner, OurCity.London

Greed casts long shadows

November/December 2015 Planning Application (2015/6455/P)

Camden Council planning documents identify West Hampstead as being “deficient” in Open Space. In the immediate vicinity of 156 West End Lane, there exists only the Crown Close Designated Open Space that benefits from having two heavily used public children’s play areas. The Open Space currently benefits from full daylight and sunlight, with shade offered by mature trees as the sun follows its path across the sky.

During pre-application advice provided by Camden Council, almost totally ignored by the developer, A2 Dominion were informed that overshadowing diagrams should be submitted along with their application (2015/6455/P). A2 Dominion chose not to provide the requested information.  The advice provided by Camden planners, obtained by Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!” via a Freedom of Information request, offered A2 Dominion a means by which they could make contact with those most affected by their proposals — an offer which A2D refused — and expressly stated the following regarding the importance of the daylight/sunlight analysis:

In terms of amenity, I mentioned the importance of the daylight/sunlight analysis, particular for the properties along Lymington Road.  In order to fully assess this situation, all of the affected properties will need to be visited and the habitable/non-habitable rooms identified prior to the report being undertaken.  I accept this is an onerous task but a necessary one and I would think that once you begin the public consultation process, the vast majority of these neighbours would come along so contact could maybe be made with them in this way.

Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!” campaign supporters lobbied Camden Planners for comprehensive overshadowing diagrams for all times of the year, including overshadowing effects for the surrounding areas such as public spaces and residential properties.

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

Following a long and protracted battle with A2 Dominion, predominantly via Camden Planners, a daylight/sunlight overshadowing diagram was eventually released. The overshadowing diagrams showed the damaging impact on the Crown Close Open Space and MUGA (Multi Use Games Area/Football pitch) on only March 21st, and only at two hourly intervals between 8am and 4pm. From football pitch to pitch darkness.

It was clear from overshadowing diagrams that the impact would be hugely severe, especially during Spring and Autumn afternoons and evenings when children return home from school and play outside.  The same applies for residents returning home from work who can often be found sitting outside enjoying the early and late evening sunshine.

Crown Close Open Space, 1st September 2016 at 5pm
Children and families enjoying the sunshine in Crown Close Open Space, 1st September 2016 at 5pm

In our comments on the first version of the planning application, we highlighted the flaws in the overshadowing information:

Little faith can be placed in the daylight and sunlight figures provided by the applicant. It is not clear what measurements and methods, or the accuracy thereof, were used to create daylight and sunlight reports.

Interestingly, neither of two prominent local groups that like to portray themselves as the great defenders and protectors of West Hampstead saw fit to raise any objections to the proposals on the grounds of the damaging impact on the children’s play areas and the Crown Close Designated Open Space, in spite of their stated aims or policies claiming to protect amenity, open spaces and children’s facilities.

One of these groups is West Hampstead Amenity and Transport (WHAT) which failed to make any effort to protect the ‘amenity’ contained in its title by not raising objections to the impact of overshadowing; even after a detailed Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!” presentation to their committee about damaging impact of the proposal to these valuable West Hampstead amenities.

The second group is the new semi-official, pseudo-legitimate quango known as the Neighbourhood Development Forum (NDF) which also failed to comment on or object to the drastic overshadowing and loss of public amenity. Yet NDP “Policy 16: Local Green Spaces” lists Crown Close Open Space for protection and expressly states:

In a relatively densely developed urban community, these sites have a vital role in providing an essential amenity, as well as space for exercise, relaxation and the appreciation of nature. They all have a high environmental value, are local in character, are in close proximity to the community they serve, and provide important benefits to the biodiversity of the area. They therefore fulfill the requirements set out in Paragraph 77 of the NPPF.

This plan uses the additional protection afforded in the NPPF to designate [this] site as Local Green Space.

June 2016 ‘Revised’ Planning Application

After the first application was determined for a variety of reasons to be unsuitable to progress further, A2D submitted a minorly ‘revised’ proposal in June 2016.

An overshadowing analysis of sorts was included for neighbouring properties for three seasons, Spring (21st March), Summer (21st June) and Winter (21st December).  Note that Autumn/21st September figures are the same as Spring/March 21st figures.

Once again, the diagrams only covered the time period between 8am-4pm, meaning that no overshadowing information was  provided for any of the times at which the play areas and open spaces are most used most of the year.  Additionally, no overshadowing diagrams for the Designated Open Space were included. This is an interesting ‘omission’, as the Designated Open Space has planning policy protections at local, borough, London and national levels.

Crown Close Open Space, 6.35pm, 7th September 2016 - Overshadowing information from A2D’s 156 West End Lane proposal indicates that this well-used public open space — the only local open space – would be in total shade at the time shown.
Crown Close Open Space, 6.35pm, 7th September 2016 – Overshadowing information from A2D’s 156 West End Lane proposal indicates that this well-used public open space — the only local open space – would be in total shade at the time shown.

The Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!” campaign immediately contacted Camden planners to request that A2D’s diagrams should show the full overshadowing impact from Sunrise to Sunset and, further, the impact during the summer months to both the Crown Close Designated Open Space and the two children’s play areas that are well used in the long evenings, as well as neighbouring properties that surround 156 West End Lane that will all at some point in every day of every year be negatively affected by overshadowing from the proposed development.

A2D has not yet provided this information and so the official re-consultation period on the ‘revised’ proposal has not yet officially commenced.  However, comments on and objections to the revised proposal can still be sent to Camden planners even though the official re-consultation has yet to start.  In fact, most councils will accept comments on planning applications until the point at which an application is put before the planning committee.

“Not all parents want their children to play in the sun” – the reprise: A2D aims to ensure there is no choice about access to sunlight outside or inside their development

Reading through the documents in A2D’s planning application, much is made of their proposed “central courtyard”.  The stark reality is that the “central courtyard” is a few square metres of space which — while pretending to be a new “public open space” — only serves to separate the “affordable” block from the private sale units.  However, their approach to this and ‘open space’ within the proposed development also testifies to A2D’s equally scant regard for the amenity of children and families that would live within their proposed scheme; a demonstration of their scant regard for the amenity of current West Hampstead families.

The much vaunted “central courtyard” would itself be overshadowed most of the day for most days of the year by the proposed bulky seven-storey blocks to the east and west, while a proposed ‘open space’ for private residencies (Garden 3 in the table below) is blessed with receiving zero percent sunlight at all times!

Worse yet, while jeopardising the existing amenity of Crown Close, it’s Multi-Use Games Area, children’s playground and Designated Open Space, the proposals include a “podium deck” designed as the open space for families within the so-called “affordable” accommodation (Garden 2 in the image and table below).  As shown by the developer’s own data, this fails to meet even the basic BRE minimum requirement of two hours of sunlight on 21st March!

Football pitch to pitch dark
Destroying amenity: The June 2016 proposal from A2 Dominion includes open spaces that receive 0% sunlight and just 10% of the proposed play spaces for families in so-called “affordable” accommodation would receive the BRE minimum of two-hours sunlight.

Just 10% of this space would receive the bare minimum of two hours sunlight in Spring, meaning 90% of this area for less well-off families would be in total shade and devoid of direct sunlight. As with other amenity areas it will be in almost constant shade throughout the year. Elsewhere within the development, the abject lack of light designed into the proposal is demonstrated by the over-abundance of proposed “shade tolerant planting”.

Taken along with the irreparable damage that would be done to the long existing amenities at Crown Close — amenity that is precious to all families in the area and particularly those without access to their own gardens or outdoor spaces — it is abundantly clear that the proposed development would be an utter disaster for residents within the proposed development, the wider area, its people, families and children in both the short and long-term. As we have stated from the outset of the campaign, if planning policies and the upholding of planning policy has anything to do with this development, it must absolutely be refused permission.

The impact on sunlight and the lack of residential amenity arises predominantly from the extremely high density of the scheme, which exceeds density guidelines outlined in the London Plan.  Concerns about these issues were expressed in the GLA Stage 1 Report, as highlighted below.

GLA Stage 1 Report - 2015/6455/P
GLA Stage 1 Report, expressing concerns about density and the lack of residential amenity within the proposed development and requesting further information on access to Daylight & Sunlight in Open Spaces

In the June 2016 revised proposal, further insult is added to the threat of injury by the inclusion of a sun-drenched roof terrace on the eastern block — the very block which most damages light to the existing, genuinely public open spaces.  This new proposed space is claimed to be ‘shared’ in an attempt to address concerns raised by the GLA regarding lack of amenity within the proposed development.

Yet no indication is given in the plans of how the roof terrace might be accessed, nor who might be allowed to access it. It is highly unlikely to be a ‘communal’ space for all residents of the proposed scheme nor the West Hampstead community that currently enjoys the existing Designated Open Space as it sits on top of the private block. Furthermore, the plans don’t show any play equipment for children, just green space and benches.

Artist's Impression of the sun-drenched seventh floor exclusive private roof terrace that would destroy the amenity of Crown Close Designated Open Space public facilities and children's play areas
Developer image of a sun-drenched seventh floor exclusive private roof terrace that would destroy the amenity of Crown Close Designated Open Space public facility and children’s play spaces. Note that the developer also seems to have cropped at least half a person out of the open space.

If you can’t make it work, FAKE IT!

Although the Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!” campaign queried the original methodology used to obtain the Sunlight/Daylight/Overshadowing figures and diagrams, what wasn’t anticipated was that figures in the ‘revised’ application would show marked reductions in the amount of sunlight available to locations that are currently overshadowed by nothing.

It is notable that locations which suffered the greatest reduction in sunlight in the original daylight and sunlight studies — reductions that resulted in them falling below the BRE minimum guidelines — are now claimed to receive significantly less sunlight ‘before development’ in the June 2016 report than they did in the December 2015 report. One example of this discrepancy — and there are many others — is shown below:

Save West Hampstead "Stop the Blocks!" Daylight/Sunlight dossier outlining apparent manipulation of lighting figures in favour of the proposed development
Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!” Daylight/Sunlight dossier outlining apparent manipulation of lighting figures in favour of the proposed development

No reason nor any explanation is given for such dramatic differences between the before development figures in the June report and those contained in the December 2015 report. What is evident is that, if the June ‘After development’ percentages were subtracted from the Nov/Dec ‘Before development’, these windows would all fall well below even BRE minimums.  It is difficult to interpret this manipulation of the figures as anything other than the developers attempting to conceal the true impact on neighbouring properties and public spaces.

Fortunately, Camden Council’s own planning policy CPG 6.13 states:

“For existing dwellings the Council will consider the overall loss of daylight as opposed to the minimum acceptable levels of daylight.”

As it stands, residents and planners have been presented with two conflicting sets of data in which no one can have any faith.  Analysis differs between the two versions of the documents submitted and, significantly, the applicant has reduced the amount of light available to properties ‘Before Development’ in some of the cases where the ‘After Development’ figures would have the greatest impact and render available sunlight to below minimum BRE guidelines.

While A2 Dominion may flaunt the fact that, following after their adjustment of figures, “minimum acceptable levels of daylight” have been achieved, this is a very different thing to the council’s commitment to “consider the overall loss of daylight” which in all cases for properties and public spaces alike, is substantial and unacceptable.

The applicant has not provided any explanation of the methodology used to create either set of figures, nor have they explained why public spaces, homes and gardens that are not currently overshadowed by anything suddenly have a dramatic reduction in light.  The entire methodology used to compile these sets of figures and the accuracy of the information provided is contentious and questionable.  Furthermore, this would not be the first time that a developer had misrepresented the impact of a proposed development, as explained in a series of articles by George Turner on OurCity.London.

  1. Daylight Robbery – How London’s Skyscrapers are plunging the city into darkness
  2. Daylight Robbery – Part 2 – Meet GIA, the princes of darkness

Publicly-owned land — Demand a Fully Independent Sunlight/Daylight/Overshadowing Analysis

156 West End Lane is publicly owned land, with Camden Council as the custodians of that land.  Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!” has written to the local MP, Tulip Siddiq, our elected councillors, Camden planners and other Camden officers to request that a fully independent study is now commissioned. The grounds and justification for this are clear: No faith can be placed in the conflicting studies that have been prepared by Right of Light Consulting on behalf of A2 Dominion in support of A2 Dominion’s proposal for 156 West End Lane.

Included with our request for a fully and truly independent lighting study is a comprehensive dossier of evidence outlining several examples of instances where it appears figures have been manipulated to weight daylight and sunlight studies in favour of A2 Dominion’s proposal.

We urge all West Hampstead residents and supporters of the campaign to Save West Hampstead and “Stop the Blocks!” to join us in our call and reiterate the demands for a fully independent daylight and sunlight study with comprehensive Sunrise to Sunset overshadowing diagrams to be commissioned and to insist that no official public consultation on the revised application starts until such time as the facts regarding the impacts of overshadowing can be truly and honestly known by all.

Who to write to

Below are some of the key people to contact regarding the call for Camden Council to commission a fully independent daylight and sunlight study and comprehensive Sunrise to Sunset overshadowing diagrams based on A2 Dominion’s proposals for 156 West End Lane.  Please email as many of them as you can. We include a brief template email at the end of this article.

To make this as easy as possible for everyone, all you need to do is click the email address of each recipient and a prefilled email with a subject line and the body text shown below will open. All you need to do then is add your name at the end and send the email. The whole process should take no more than a few minutes of your time.

Elected Representatives

Camden Council Cabinet Officers

Camden Council Officials

Others

 

Sample email/letter template


Re: Camden Council Planning Application 2015/6455/P

The 2015 and 2016 revised applications for the publicly owned land at 156 West End lane contain conflicting sets of daylight and sunlight data and no methodology is outlined that allows anyone to determine the means by which the figures were calculated. As such, I do not believe that any faith can be placed in either the original nor revised sets of figures.

What is clear is that irreparable damage would be done to the Crown Close Open Space.

I request your assistance in ensuring that Camden Council commission a fully independent Daylight and Sunlight study, complete with comprehensive Sunrise to Sunset overshadowing diagrams based on A2 Dominion’s proposals for 156 West End Lane so that it is possible to establish the true impact on neighbouring properties, public amenities and the Designated Open Space in Crown Close.

I also request that you help ensure no official public consultation on Application 2015/6455/P commences until such time as this fully independent Daylight and Sunlight study is made available.

Best wishes.


To date, we have only received a response from councillor Angela Pober.  Updates will be added as and when responses are received from other representatives. If you receive a reply to your queries, please feel free to forward them to SaveWestHampstead@gmail.com

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

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.

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.

IMG_20150908_190549_cr

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.