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

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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.

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