Response to Camden New Journal Article

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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