Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!” held a fantastic community meeting at the Lymington Road Residents’ Association Hall last night, Tuesday 8th September.
The meeting was well-attended (another standing room only affair!) and we were thrilled to see plenty of regular and new faces from the West Hampstead community, demonstrating how great concerns are about forced over-development of the area with projects that do not meet actual housing needs. It was also wonderful to have present at the meeting key organisers from other local campaigns against unwanted developments across Camden including the Combined Residents Associations of South Hampstead (CRASH), Save Swiss Cottage, and West Hampstead Gardens & Residents Association. Journalists from the Camden New Journal and the Ham & High were present to cover the meeting.
The meeting was chaired by Neil Fletcher, ex-Deputy Leader of Camden Council and the evening started with an update from the Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!” campaign. For those that were unable to attend, a brief summary of updates is included at the end of this article.
Next up was George Turner of Reclaim London, The Battle for Waterloo and the 8 Albert Embankment challenge who gave a fascinating talk about the trials and tribulations of taking on rapacious developers. He provided a wealth of useful information about challenging inappropriate and unwanted developments that don’t meet the housing needs of local communities, and highlighted the importance of Conservation Areas and heritage assets. George also explained how the proliferation of blocks and high-rise ‘luxury’ developments is, at its core, little more than a drive by developers to maximise on the volume of floor-space that can be sold, usually off-plan, to investors who care nothing for amenity, public services or the local communities but rather about the value of their international investments in safety-deposit boxes in the sky.
George took and responded to questions from the floor in which he made the very pertinent point that, just because someone is claimed to be an ‘expert’ in their field, doesn’t mean that what they say can be taken at face value and, often, information is selectively presented to support an a priori conclusion. He also made the point that the best experts on the subject of any local area are the residents themselves, not drop-in developers that frame everything within the context of their intended development objectives.
Finally, a round-up of what the near future holds in store was presented by the campaign and covered the forthcoming round of A2D/Instinctif presentations this week. Times and dates of the September presentations are as follows:
- Thursday, 10th September, 4pm to 7.30pm at Hampstead Synagogue
- Saturday, 12th September, 10am to 1pm at Sidings Community Centre
We would encourage everyone to attend these presentations and to be vocal about their objections to yet another proposed development of blocks in West Hampstead that threatens the amenity of all residents while delivering no tangible benefits to the community.
The point was made that Camden Council have willingly derogated their duties on the provision of housing that meets the needs of ordinary people across multiple sites in Camden, preferring instead to accept the ‘legalised bribery’ of Section 106 monies. However, despite collecting considerable monies from S106 payments, West Hampstead residents are facing the possible closure of the only remaining library in the area (prior to foisting a Library Heights development on the neighbourhood?) as well as reductions in the levels of public services provided and funded by the council.
The question remains: Exactly what are the supposed benefits to local residents of forced, over-intensive over-development of the area?
Meeting attendees were also encouraged to attend two related events:
- The campaign to Save West Hampstead Library, by attending the meeting at the library on Thursday 10th September at 7.30pm.
- The Monday 14th September meeting of the Neighbourhood Development Forum which takes place at 7.30pm in West Hampstead Library and at which Phil Jones, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Transport & Planning, will be speaking.
Campaign Update Notes
Updates from the Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!”Campaign were as follows:
- Our previous standing-room only meeting was held on 14th July. A week later, on 21st July, Lymington Road south-side residents whose homes immediately adjoin the 156 West End Lane site were invited to another presentation by PR firm Instinctif. We were shocked to discover that the number of storeys proposed had increased to 4, 7 and 9 storeys through the addition of a deceptively named “lower-ground” floor situated above-ground.
- No significant alterations had been made to the proposals to reflect the many objections submitted, so the use of the term ‘consultations’ is highly questionable, given that any true consultation is a two-way process.
- On Sunday evening a meeting was held between local residents and our three local councillors, Angela Pober, Phil Rosenberg and James Yarde. There was a general ignorance among councillors about how the planning process is proceeding and the councillors stated that A2Dominion was not engaged in pre-planning meetings with council planners. Since then, Save West Hampstead “Stop the Blocks!” has provided the councillors with clear evidence that council planners are indeed meeting with the developers. This information was contained in a communication from Camden’s Director of Culture and Environment, Ed Watson, that was passed to us by our local MP Tulip Siddiq.
- This provides further evidence – as if it were needed – that Camden Council as the owners of the land, Camden Council as the brokers of the land, Camden Council as the planning authority, Camden Council working closely with Camden Council’s ‘preferred bidder’, and Camden Council as the beneficiaries of any monies received for the sale of the land cannot possibly act independently, impartially and honestly in any decision making process.
- West Hampstead residents, whose amenity will be negatively impacted by a proposed development of the scale, mass, bulk and height proposed by A2Dominion are now just two exhibitions away from the developer’s stated time-line that includes a planning application submission in November that could seal the fate of 156 West End Lane for evermore.
- It has been mooted that a Development Management Forum will be organised by Camden Council, however we have not received any further details about when this process will commence. This means that now is the time to step-up the campaign to Stop the Blocks.
- If A2Dominion determine that the well-supported and growing public opposition to their proposals in tandem with the need to comply with Camden Council’s planning regulations, and the planning restrictions imposed by building on the perimeter of the cherished West End Green Conservation Area are not sufficient obstacles for them to walk away from the project before it is too late and they do submit a planning application, we may need to commission the services of planning professionals to lodge a successful challenge. We will of course be ready to cross that bridge should we come to it.