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.
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Camden New Journal letter, 30th July 2015

 Many reasons for opposition to this brutalistic over-development

Published: 30 July, 2015, Camden New Journal

• FAR from being a battle between residents and the Town Hall over the building of new homes as the headline on Dan Carrier’s July 23 report (New Journal, July 23) implies, this will be the first real test of Camden’s overarching planning directives, building on land adjacent to West End Green Green Conservation Area, Camden’s own building regulations and the newly adopted Neighbourhood Development Plan.

The Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!” campaign is clearly not against development that falls within the guidelines that Camden itself has adopted and stringently enforce in other instances.

A July 14 meeting at Lymington Road Residents’ Association Hall was filled to capacity, residents from all over West Hampstead opposed this development.

One of the many reasons they oppose this brutalistic over-development of blocks at 156 West End Lane is that its height and mass have a negative impact on the adjacent area and it will be an eyesore seen all over West Hampstead, as is the Ballymore development; erected like tombstones to welcome you.

Architecture to make your eyes vomit.

The rush to push through the proposed plans is a concern for all in the area, especially as the full impact of developments at Ballymore, Iverson Road, Liddell Road, and Maygrove Road on the infrastructure has yet to be evaluated regarding GPs, school places and the sheer volume of residents on the narrow pavements using the three train stations in the morning rush hour for which there are already queues to get into the tube station and on the trains.

The cumulative impact of the developments when considered alongside all the others already underway will have an adverse effect on the area and not provide the type of housing needed to satisfy local needs.

A2 Dominion will exchange contracts with Camden soon for the purchase of the site, subject to planning permission, a decision which also falls to the council as the vendors.

The site is being sold at a give-away price.  Camden should know better.

Residents are bemused they are having to endure exhibitions and one-to-ones with a PR company working for A2 Dominion to look at proposed plans for a site that Camden still owns, that are in breach of Camden’s own planning regulations and guidelines.

I conclude with Camden’s own policies and a few of the objections raised at our community meeting on the 14th and the one-to-one sessions with Lymington Road residents on the 21st which led to the headline: “Neighbours’ anger at plans for 200 homes.”  This fell for the illusion being fed by A2 Dominion’s PR firm Instinctif that the development only affects 15 houses on Lymington Road. Residents came away from the one-to-one meeting none the wiser after receiving a variety of answers to the same questions, proving that the event was nothing more than a box-ticking exercise to show that processes have been adhered to; no matter how loosely.

“Due to the largely dense urban nature of Camden, the character or appearance of our conservation areas can also be affected by development which is outside of conservation areas, but visible from within them. This includes high or bulky buildings, which can have an impact on areas some distance away, as well as adjacent premises. The council will therefore not permit development in locations outside conservation areas that it considers would cause harm to the character, appearance or setting of such an area.”

IAN FERRIE
Lymington Road, NW6

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