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And 198 new flats at West Hampstead Square

Housing targets 90 percent fulfilled with 14 years to go!

Last week we looked at job creation in West Hampstead. This week, we turn our attention to housing.

In the London Plan 2016, West Hampstead is glamorously referred to as “Area for intensification, number 45”. The original designation dates back to the time Ken Livingstone used to commute to City Hall via West Hampstead and no doubt saw all this space around the railway tracks. The “intensification” was to increase housing by 800 new homes and jobs by 100 in the Growth Area, mapped below.

In 2015, Camden confirmed these numbers in its own plan for  the West Hampstead Interchange over the following 16 years, though this is substantially lower than the number outlined in its 2010 Core Strategy document, which was 2,000 new homes but was then scaled back to 1,000. The “Interchange” is almost exactly the same as the growth area.

It is not clear who originally drew the outline of the Growth Area, and why, for example, it didn’t include the council-owned light industrial site  Liddell Road.

WH Growth area2

In early 2017, how is West Hampstead progressing towards this housing target?

Nido. The student housing on Blackburn Road immediately presents a challenge. It has 347 beds but unless you really stretch the definition of a “home”, that does not really equate to 347 new homes. A better measure, though not perfect, is to look at it as 39 shared-flats and 52 studios = 91 units.

Asher House. Next door to the student housing is the former Accurist offices, which was fairly quietly converted to residential under a government scheme to speed up planning that improved the valuation of the building without including any affordable housing. It was converted into 25 units, however, it is possible that it may be fully redeveloped in the future, which would be likely to add a couple of stories.

West Hampstead Square. If anyone ever actually moves in, then its seven blocks contain 198 units (145 market, 33 affordable rented, 20 shared ownership).

156 West Lane. The Travis Perkins building that’s just been given the go-ahead for redevelopment will have 164 units (85 market, 44 affordable rent, 35 shared ownership).

And 198 new flats at West Hampstead Square

And 198 new flats at West Hampstead Square

That’s 478 units so far within the Growth Area, but there are a number of large developments that fall just outside the Growth Area, but at the same sort of density. Should they be included in the targets? We are talking about large-scale dense developments on the fringes of the growth area and whose residents will certainly be gravitating to West Hampstead for their transport needs in particular.

Liddell Road. The largest of these developments, Liddell Road includes 106 units of housing to sit alongside the school (indeed, paying for the school). Just four of these units will be at affordable rents.

The Residence. Next door at 65-67 Maygrove Road, this scheme includes 91 units (79 market, 4 shared ownership, 3 social rented and 5 affordable rented).

The Ivery & The Central. The old Iverson Tyres site has 19 units (15 market, 2 shared ownership, 2 social rented) while the former garden centre site next door has 33 units (23 market, 7 socially rented, 3 shared ownership).

Adding these additional 249 to the 478 gives us 727 housing units – 90% of the housing target for 2031!

There are at least three other sites in the planning pipeline, although progress is slow and final numbers speculative.

11 Blackburn Road. This attractive but run-down Victorian warehouse had a planning application for six 2-bed houses and the conversion of the main warehouse into B1 employment space downstairs with a couple of flats upstairs. Nothing seems to be happening with this at the moment, but there’s a potential 8 units.

14 Blackburn Road. Way back in 2004, permission was granted to redevelop the Builders Depot. This was for two 4-storey blocks, one with employment space and one with 8 houses and 6 flats, plus underground parking. This permission has now lapsed so would have to be renegotiated, but these 14 units, would likely be the minimum of any new proposal.

Finally, Midland Crescent. That’s next to the O2 centre on the Finchley Road – which still counts as the West Hampstead Growth Area. This has been refused planning permission three times. The latest proposal included student housing, private housing, a shop and employment space. Again any estimate of potential is speculative, but the latest application would have delivered 40 units.

That’s a potential extra 62 new units within the growth area, but on top of that there are other sites that could be – and in some cases will be – redeveloped for housing: The Taveners Yard on Iverson Road, the Paramount carpark and – the big one – the O2 carpark.

At the workshop on the 02 carpark, there was talk of 300 new homes as well as employment and retail space. In one fell swoop West Hampstead could soar past the 1,000 new homes target. Maybe then, the tube station would finally be decreed worthy of an upgrade. Maybe.

Inside Ink at Blackburn House Image: Ink Global/Sidetrade

Is anyone counting West Hampstead’s job growth?

The reason West Hampstead seems inundated with new developments is that it was designated a “Growth Area” by City Hall. The Growth Area is specifically the part of West Hamsptead around the railway lines. Targets were set for 800 new homes and 100 new jobs between 2010 and 2031. Yes, 2031.

WH Growth area2

Growth Area is outlined in black

Seven years in, we are far ahead of that job target, but there seems to be little joined up thinking about the implications. The whole issue is far more complex than it should be.

For a start, Camden seems to have changed the employment target from 100 jobs to 500 jobs (or 7, 000m2 of business space) in its Core Strategy 2010-2025 document. Yet Camden’s soon-to-be-adopted Local Plan 2016-2031 still talks about the Mayor’s targets of 100 jobs, which is also the current London plan target.

Inside Ink at Blackburn House Image: Ink Global/Sidetrade

Inside Ink at Blackburn House – Image: Ink Global/Sidetrade

Nido student housing. The first development built in the growth area was the student housing on Blackburn Road that replaced the Mercedes Benz garage. It contains 2,100m2 of office employment space, which at 12m2 of floor space per job should have created 175 jobs. It took a while to let the space out, but now, the magazine publisher Ink Global operates out of the space (if you have ever read the Easyjet Magazine that’s one of theirs), and they sublet some, but in total there are 150 full time jobs on site, and the student housing itself accounts for nearly 20 full-time jobs on site. So at ~170 full-time jobs, this space has delivered as predicted but not quite as planned. And indeed that is the entire London Plan job target met in one fell swoop.

But of course it doesn’t stop there,

West Hampstead Square. Alongside the 198 flats, there’s the M&S (583 m2), which will have ~35 full-time equivalent staff. There is another 300m2 of retail space, which has been taken by the Village Haberdashery, Provenance butcher, and Johns & Co. (Ballymore’s in-house estate agent). There’s also a further five units of 100m2 each for business or healthcare still to be let. There has been early stage interest from a doctor and a dentist for possibly one unit apiece, and other businesses for the remaining units. All told that should result in another 40 full time employees. This would give a total of ~90 new full-time jobs.

156 West End Lane. Employment was a hot topic for this redevelopment given that Travis Perkins would be removed. And of course the 2,400m2 of empty council offices had employees. The new retail space (763m2 divided up into three units, provisionally two retail and one restaurant) should create ~45 jobs, with another ~70 jobs coming from the regular office (593m2) and affordable small business workspace (500m2).

Liddell Road. Liddell Road actually falls outside the Growth Area, but does that mean that its impact should be completely ignored when thinking about local infrastructure? We would argue not.

Yellow = school, blue = housing and red = offices, workshops

Yellow = school, blue = housing and red = offices, workshops

Alongside the residential units to be built there is 3,700m2 of employment space. According to the planning officers report this will create ~280-295 full-time jobs when fully let. And the new school should eventually account for ~50 jobs. 

Iverson Tyres. Also outside the Growth Area – just, as part of its planning permission the developer was required to keep 150m2 of light industrial space, however, it has since applied to convert it to B1 office or D1. This should create a further ~10 jobs.

If we add up all the jobs we know about, then we get to just over 700 new jobs in ~8,700m2 of space (including Liddell Road outside the growth area). Even if you deduct the jobs that have been lost from these sites (a hotly contested number especially on Liddell Road), there is no question that net new jobs in West Hampstead will far far exceed both the London Plan target of 100, and Camden’s revised target of ~500.

And there are still more growth area sites to be developed, such as Midland Crescent, which will add another 100 or so, and of course the O2 car park, which has the potential to dwarf every other site.

But will all the developments deliver the total jobs predicted? Is there demand for office space in West Hampstead? Only a couple of years ago, 65 & 67 Maygrove Road were predominantly office space but agents struggled to let the space and it has since been turned into 91 flats after the developer successfully argued that there was no demand for office space in the area.

Another piece of the puzzle is that much of the new employment space is labelled ‘start-up’ and ‘incubator’ space, both at 156 West End Lane and Liddell Road. Although this sounds trendy, there is no sign of anyone offering, for example, co-working space in the area. If Camden was serious about this approach, it could have tested the waters at 156 West End Lane (the upper floors of which have been empty for years now) as a ‘meanwhile’ space for start ups and creative businesses. It feels a bit like Dad dancing at a family wedding, faintly embarrassing jumping on a bandwagon.

David Matthews of local agents Dutch and Dutch, which is letting the 500m2 flexible commercial space in West Hampstead Square, is unsurprisingly upbeat about the situation. The space hasn’t officially started to be marketed yet because construction isn’t finished yet (no surprise), but he says there has been strong demand.

West Hampstead is changing, and all these new jobs around the stations will change it even more, hopefully bringing more activity during the day though also more commuters using the stations. We looked at the issue of growth area sustainability back in 2013, but nearly four years later it feels that there has been little progress in tackling the inevitable outcomes of increased employment and residential density.

Researching this article has shown how difficult it is to understand exactly how many jobs are being created.  There is no record in the planning applications of how many jobs were lost at the Ballymore site, the Mercedes Garage or even the old Council offices, so it difficult to know the net increase. Is anyone keeping track of this? Things are not helped by confusion on what the actual targets are – with different numbers  in the Camden Core Strategy, and the Camden and London plans for the West Hampstead Growth area. The same plans talk about street improvements and better environment, but when it comes to action there is similar confusion.

Discussing options

What will the redeveloped O2 carpark look like in ten years?

Anwer: “No idea”. But a Neighbourhood Development Forum/Camden Council growth area workshop held on Saturday began to think about it. A masterplan for this was one of the recommendations of the Neighbourhood Plan.

If you asked the 30 or so residents, councillors, Camden planners and others who turned out on a dull Saturday afternoon if the workshop was worth it, the answer would most likely be yes. It is easy to be cynical and it is clear that the process should have started earlier, but like it or not much of planning is governed by policies and ‘site allocations’, so having an input into those can pay dividends.

The first question to deal with is whether the growth area should have a masterplanning ‘strategy’, a ‘framework’ or ‘guidance’? Less a question of semantics, and more of pragmatism: there is a trade-off between them in terms of their degree of influence versus time taken to prepare. A strategy takes time but has more influence, guidance is quicker but has less weight.

David Morrissey from Camden’s urban regeneration and place team gave a really useful presentation of background information. The growth area is, according to the London plan, due to provide 800 new homes and 100 jobs; the Camden plan has similar but slightly higher targets of 1,000 homes and 7,000 m2 of business space (which would be more than 100 jobs).  Development at Ballymore (198 units) and potentially 156 West End ( 164 units), plus the student housing on Blackburn Road already takes us a long way towards meeting these targets.

Analysis of the existing area

Analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of West End Lane by the stations and down towards Blackburn Road

Camden’s population is forecast to grow from 241,000 to 261,000 from 2010 to 2030 (an 8% increase) which will need 16,000+ new homes. There five growth in Camden, the largest is round Kings Cross, within the five Camden need to develop at least 7,200 homes by 2030, although they project they estimate they will develop slightly more than that, at around 8,000.

More than 5,000 of the 16,000 homes are supposed to be ‘affordable’ and there was a good discussion on what this actually means. Apparently Barrett has stopped work on its nearby Kidderpore Green scheme because it isn’t making sales, so even expensive private housing doesn’t seem to be affordable!

As for other parameters, David talked about how transport was a key factor, but was convincing that Camden was at least considering this. The much debated school capacity is predicted to be broadly ok, although a crunch for secondary places could hit in the early 2020s. Health facility provision seems to be more uncertain due to changes in the NHS, which takes a less strategic approach than it did.

We then looked at the issue of density and the London plan matrix (link). Developments close to the tube station are ‘supposed’ to be up to 700 habitable rooms per hectare. Ballymore, Liddell Road and 156 West End Lane are all just above that, but the recently approved 317 Finchley Road (ten storeys) is over 900!

Within the growth area, there is scope for development along Blackburn Road (the Builders Depot site and the Accurist building) but the most significant remaining development site in the growth is the O2 centre car park. Between the two are the Audi and VW showrooms, sites not currently ‘allocated’ but within the growth area.

Groups around four tables then looked at options for the sites; improvements that could happen even if nothing was developed, development of ‘allocated sites’, development of those plus the car showrooms and finally the previous option with additional decking over the railway lines.

Let’s be clear – it will not be an easy site to develop, the O2 carpark will have to remain open for customers of Sainsbury’s and other users of the O2 centre and there are at least three landowners involved. But, development is not impossible either.

Discussing options

Discussing options

Each group came up with interesting suggestions and perspectives. The “zero development” group  suggested that a landscape architect/urban designer could be commissioned to develop a plan for between the West Hampstead stations, incorporating both big and small improvements, e.g., better planting on the platforms would be a small difference but one that affects the day-to-day experience of local residents. Improved access to the tube station(s) was a consistent theme, as was improving the pedestrian experience to the O2 as it was uninviting by Homebase and peters out into the O2 carpark.

The next group noted that the O2 offers only a “backdoor entrance” to West Hampstead, and suggested the whole site could be ‘greened’ up.  The third group suggested that including the car showrooms in the development would allow the path/open spaces to come down the middle. The final group was not convinced that the over-track decking would be viable.

Thoughtful discussions

Thoughtful discussions

Assuming development was to happen, the groups then discussed how it could be laid out, what density it might be, what facilities and open space it might have, etc. The groups came up with three options which could be explored/combined in future workshops: one central open space, a series of smaller linear open spaces, or raising the open space on a platform (with parking underneath). The development would probably be higher on the north side and lower on the south to allow more light and to relate better to the existing surrounding buildings.  Back-of-the-envelope calculations estimated it at about 4 hectares in total, with ‘mid-rise’ development giving plenty of scope for new housing and development.

There was huge amount to cover and in some ways the workshop only scratched the surface.  Yet it was a start, the comments were thoughtful, and having contact with Camden planners was also helpful (for them and us). There is also quite a lot of useful knowledge that came out in discussions. Getting people together and first explaining the parameters before allowing them to explore options does allow good ideas (and maybe some not so good ones) to float to the surface.  There were no developers at this stage, but when they do get involved at least there will be some embryonic ideas and suggestions to show, rather than a blank slate.  The next step is to summarise the ideas and comments.  The NDF will send out copies of all the presentations and a summary, which will be publicly available.

To find out how effective the session really was? Ask again in ten years.