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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.

Local planning initiative seeks strong mandate in referendum

It’s now more than three years since the Fortune Green & West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Forum (NDF) was set up to draw up a Neighbourhood Plan for our area.

The work of the NDF has been covered frequently by WHL in that time, but if you’re new to the concept of neighbourhood planning, it was introduced by the last government in the Localism Act. There’s a short explanation here.

The Fortune Green & West Hampstead Neighbourhood Plan has been drawn up by local people (all volunteers) and is a result of a great deal work – as well as extensive consultation and engagement. The plan is a long document, but the “Vision” on page 12 gives a good overview of its aims.

The Plan was approved by an independent examiner in January, and is now at the final stage: a referendum of all those living in the area.

It’s the first Neighbourhood Plan in Camden to get to the referendum stage – and only the second in London.

In advance of the referendum, we’ve delivered an information leaflet to every household in the area. This gives people the chance to see the Neighbourhood Plan and related documents on our website and to get in touch with us to answer any questions.

We’ve also had numerous campaign events in the past few weeks – and will be having more in the final few days of the campaign.

The YES campaign is being backed by nearly all the local groups in the area and has cross-party support. Our referendum campaign was launched by our new MP, Tulip Siddiq, who lives in the area covered by the Plan and is backing the YES campaign.

We are urging people to vote YES to the Fortune Green & West Hampstead Neighbourhood Plan on Thursday 9th July to:

  • Promote good design & protect the distinct character of the area
  • Improve public transport facilities
  • Support local businesses & jobs
  • Provide the services our community needs
  • Protect green & open spaces
  • Get funding for local projects from developer contributions

If you have any questions, want to be involved in the work of the NDF, and/or want to be added to our mailing list, please email: moc.l1563347080iamg@1563347080daets1563347080pmaht1563347080sewpd1563347080n1563347080

You can also follow us on twitter @WHampsteadNDF and use the hashtag #WhampVoteYes for the referendum.

We do hope as many people as possible can join us in voting YES on Thursday 9th July – to make sure the Neighbourhood Plan is approved and comes into force a legally enforceable document.
(If there’s a NO vote the Plan doesn’t come into force and Camden Council can disregard it).

Where to vote
Thanks to those who’ve already voted YES using their postal votes. For those voting on Thursday, the polling stations are open 7am to 10pm and are at these locations:

Fortune Green ward: Emmanuel School, West Hampstead Community Centre (opposite Beckford School) & Templar House social hall.
West Hampstead ward: WH Library, St James’ Church Hall & 19 Wedgewood Walk, Lymington Road.

The referendum is being run by Camden Council. All the information about the vote, including contact details for the electoral services department, can be found here.

Thanks very much to everyone for their support so far. Please do turn out to vote YES on Thursday, so we can demonstrate that there’s strong support across our community for people to have a say in the future development of our area.

James Earl
(Chair, Fortune Green & West Hampstead NDF)

“Vote Yes”: Neighbourhood Plan referendum campaign gets started

It’s now more than three years since we started work on the Fortune Green & West Hampstead Neighbourhood Plan. It’s been through eight drafts and numerous rounds of consultation.

The Plan successfully passed its independent examination in January – an important step. The examiner recommended a number of changes to the Plan, which have now been agreed between the Neighbourhood Development Forum (NDF) and Camden Council, as the local planning authority. The final version of Neighbourhood Plan has now been published and can be seen here.

The last stage of the process is a referendum on whether to adopt the Plan. All those on the electoral register in the area covered by the Plan, which is the two wards of West Hampstead and Fortune Green, will be able to vote. The referendum date has now been set for Thursday 9th July and the NDF committee is starting work on planning for the referendum campaign.

We’ve already agreed the designs for our referendum publicity, which you can see below. Thanks to our local graphic designer, Purni Gupta, for her work on this.

NDF_Referendum_poster

We’re now looking for help with the ‘Yes’ campaign, so if you would like to be involved in any way, please let us know.

We’re also looking for sponsorship for events and the cost of the campaign. If you are a business or individual who would like to help out financially, please get in touch!

We plan to hold several events in the run up to the campaign, including the next NDF meeting on Tuesday 12th May; a workshop on how to promote the Plan on Saturday 30th May; and a launch event to start the campaign (early June, date tbc). If you would like to be kept up to date about our work, please ask to be added to our mailing list. Our various contact details are below.

NDF_Referendum_sticker

Thanks to everyone for your support so far; we do hope you can join us in campaigning for a YES vote on 9th July!

James Earl
(Chair, Fortune Green & West Hampstead NDF)

moc.l1563347080iamg@1563347080daets1563347080pmaht1563347080sewpd1563347080n1563347080
www.ndpwesthampstead.org.uk
@WHampsteadNDF

Only one hurdle left for Neighbourhood Plan

The West Hampstead and Fortune Green Neighbourhood Development Forum has had two good pieces of news in the past week. Yesterday it announced a £6,000 grant from the Lottery, which will help enormously in setting up a sustainable Forum that can last beyond the delivery of the plan. Secondly, and even more importantly, the draft plan was passed by an independent examiner – a critical step in the process.

The Neighbourhood Development Forum has been featured on these pages for so long that some readers must be wondering whether the plan it has been developing is ever going to come into force. However, last week’s decision by John Parmiter, an independent planning examiner, to pass the plan means that it’s now assured of going to a referendum later this year.

The independent examination, to which all Neighbourhood plans must be sumbmitted, tests whether or not the plan [latest version] meets certain basic conditions that are in line with planning law. It is not a test of the plan itself and whether it’s “good” or not; more whether it is viable. The examination of the West Hampstead plan, rather unusually, took the form of a public hearing. These are used only when the examiner feels there are issues that need to be discussed or specific views that need to be heard – generally from people who have submitted comments in the consultation phase.

That meeting took place in December and the findings were published last week. You can read the full report here. The tone of the examiner’s remarks is notably constructive and although there is some criticism of the lack of supporting evidence for some of the plan’s policy recommendations, the report talks positively about the level of community engagement and the attempt to reflect the community’s aspirations.

The examiner has recommended (which is code for “insisted on”) some wording changes, some of which inevitably water down NDP policies that simply won’t work as they stand because they are not in line with national or local planning policy. Both building height and the protection of views are affected by this though the spirit of the NDP’s proposals stands.

For most people, the most signifcant change the examiner made is to strike out completely the policy on basements. The plan said there should be “a presumption against basement development more than one storey deep or outside the footprint of the property (excluding lightwells)”. The examiner found “no, or insufficient, evidence to support the… policy”.

Overall, however, the examiner’s report is good news for the NDP. Once the changes are made and Camden gives final approval, the plan will go to a referendum of people in the area – that’s everyone living in West Hampstead and Fortune Green wards. A simple majority of the people who vote is all that is needed to pass the plan. Although it would seem to make sense to combine the referendum with the general election on May 7th, Camden apparently does not like this idea, so the vote may now be in early July.

West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Plan map

The boundary of the area covered by the plan, which is the same as the two wards of West Hampstead and Fortune Green

 

West Hampstead’s Neighbourhood Plan enters final phase

After two and half years work, the Fortune Green & West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Forum has produced the final draft of the Neighbourhood Plan for our area – which has been formally submitted to Camden Council.

The Plan is based on extensive consultation, engagement and research – as well as the previous seven drafts of the Plan drawn up before this version.

The final document has been amended to reflect the comments submitted during the consultation period on the “pre-submission (7th) draft” during January and February, help from Camden Council planning officers and advice from independent planning consultants.

The Neighbourhood Plan – and supporting documents – can be seen in full on our website: www.ndpwesthampstead.org.uk

The Plan covers the two Camden Council wards of Fortune Green and West Hampstead (see Map 1 in the Plan). The main focus of the Plan is set out in the Vision and Objectives (see page 10). The objectives cover six areas: housing, design & character, transport, public & community facilities, economy, and natural environment.

The Plan contains 18 policies (in blue boxes) on a range of issues from housing to business, from cycling to trees. If the Plan is adopted, these policies will be used in deciding planning applications in area – so could have a direct impact on your street, as well as the wider area.

What happens next?

  • Camden Council will carry out a six week consultation on the Neighbourhood Plan from 18 September to 31 October – when further comments can be submitted.
  • The Plan, and comments received, will then be submitted to an independent examiner – who will write a report and decide if the Plan can proceed to a referendum.
  • If all goes well, the referendum on the Plan will take place in early 2015 – everyone on the electoral register in the area will get a vote.

The NDF will keep people posted as to how things progress over the coming months:

We’re also looking for people who can help with the referendum campaign – if you’re interested, please let us know.

Finally – a big thank you to everyone who’s played a part in helping the NDF and the Plan reach this important stage.

James Earl
(Chair, Fortune Green & West Hampstead NDF)

Neighbourhood Plan_final draft cover

What do locals think of West Hampstead?

Nearly 100 comments have been added to an online interactive map of West Hampstead, giving an interesting insight into the issues that matter most to local residents. You can explore the map and comments below.

 

The map outlines the “growth area” (in blue; the NDF boundary is in red), which is where the most intensive development is expected over the next 10 years, but comments are welcome anywhere in West Hampstead and Fortune Green. The “pedestrian bottleneck” at the “poorly-designed” interchange between the stations on West End Lane comes in for much criticism, as does the rubbish strewn on the footpath alongside the railway line to the O2 Centre car park. In fact rubbish – along with traffic – is one of the most widely cited complaints

However, it’s not all criticism. There is also a smattering of green-coloured pins on the map showing places about which people feel positively. The Thameslink station and Beckford School both have both been praised for their design (one modern, one Victorian) and pins around Maygrove Road refer to a “green, quiet open space”. The area outside West Hampstead Library also gets a mention as a “Little oasis on the high street”.

The mapping project was launched earlier this month by the Neighbourhood Development Forum (NDF) in conjunction with Commonplace.  Its aim is to capture a wide range of local people’s views on the area, which can feed into the final draft of the Neighbourhood Development Plan.

As someone not that familiar with the details of the Neighbourhood Plan, I found this tool was a good starting point and an easy way to engage with the process. It was interesting to see what other locals had commented on, and I felt inspired to pin a couple of my own suggestions onto the map.

It’s very straightforward – using a smartphone, tablet or desktop, simply go to westhampstead.commonplace.is, answer a couple of super simple questions to sign up and then navigate the map to pinpoint specific locations in West Hampstead and comment on how you feel about them. There’s also space to suggest improvements to the area.

There are still a few days left to add your own comments and get your voice heard. The deadline for the conusltation on the final draft of the NDF’s Plan is this Friday February 28th, so over to you!

Use your phone to comment on local issues

As part of the public consultation on the proposed final draft of our Neighbourhood Plan, we’re offering everyone in the area a way to express their opinions and needs of the neighbourhood, using Commonplace West Hampstead – an online mapping project.

Every comment is shown on a shared map of the area, and the data collected is part of the consultation process for the plan.

Commonplace_map

The beauty of Commonplace is that you can add comments whenever you think of them. From the comfort of your own home, or from your mobile phone when walking pass something you feel strongly about. It takes just a few seconds to add a comment.

commonplacephone

We would like to reach as many people as possible using Commonplace – so as well as commenting yourself, please do pass this link on to neighbours, friends and colleagues. We want to reach as diverse a group as possible, especially younger members of the community who may not have been involved in other meetings.

Please do take advantage of this offer, as it is an important part of our consultation and helps provide an even better evidence base of public opinion in the area. Commonplace have just re-launched the platform – so its even easier to use, and works on all computers and smartphones.

So please register now to take part! We look forward to your comments.

James Earl,
Chair
West Hampstead & Fortune Green Neighbourhood Development Forum
@WHampsteadNDF

The power of “shall”: Big crowd for NDF meeting

West Hampstead library was full last night as a pleasing number of less familiar faces joined the usual suspects to discuss the final draft of the Neighbourhood Development Plan (download the plan here).

NDFmeetingaudience

The plan, two years in the making, is out for consultation until the end of February, and locals’ input is literally shaping paragraphs and sentences even at this late stage.

Neighbourhood Development Forum (NDF) chair James Eark kicked off proceedings with a rapid fire overview of where we are in the process, and touched briefly on the 17 policy areas.

He handed over to Cllr Flick Rea who got off to a flying start claiming to have been a local councillor in West Hampstead for more than half a century (25 years more than her actual – impressive enough – tenure). Flick took us on a journey through local planning history, but the message behind the nostalgia was that West Hampstead was and would continue to be a fantastic place.

Kate Goodman, one of Camden’s planning officers, spoke briefly about the council’s role in this process, which boiled down to “we support it”.

Finally, Vincent Goodstadt, vice-president of the Town and Country Planning Association, and independent advisor on strategic planning, management of urban change and community engagement (phew!) talked about the particular challenges of planning in an area such as ours that includes both conservation areas and a major transport interchange earmarked for growth.

The floor was then opened up for questions. It was good to see that the level of debate was more civilised than at some other recent local meetings, and most of the questions were sensible. If one theme ran through the evening, it was a fear/suspicion that, for all its good intentions, the plan would simply be ridden over roughshod by developers.

There were two repsonses to this. First, that the plan was intended to be robust (there was some debate about the power of the word “shall”, which it turns out is a Good Word), and secondly that it would be a statutory document and therefore developers would have to take it into account. The point was also made, however, that the concept of Neighbourhood Plans is brand new and has yet to be tested in the field.

The conclusion that many people have already reached is that a plan is definitely better than no plan and the more strongly worded the plan the sharper teeth it will have. It can’t achieve everything, many issues are beyond its scope, but it can try and shape the way our area evolves.

The deadline for comments on this final draft plan is February 28th. Comments can be submitted online or in the library. The sentiment mapping tool, developed by Commonplace, has also been completely revamped and you can access it here and leave comments on specific places that will also be taken into account when the final plan is submitted to Camden.

Your comments here feed directly into the consultation process

Your comments here feed directly into the consultation process

WHL live-tweeted the whole meeting (you lucky lucky people), and if you weren’t following along in real time, here’s how the evening unfolded:

Last chance to speak up on local plan

The West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Plan is almost ready (it’s only the second such plan in London to reach this stage). The final draft is out for consultation now (i.e., the team wants your comments), then there’ll be a final revision before it goes first to Camden council for approval and then to a referendum later in the year.

If you want to read the whole draft, you can – it’s available here [pdf]. What I thought would be useful however, would be to look just at its six objectives and add a little bit of context.

The draft is ambitious in scope – perhaps too ambitious. Alongside the objectives are 17 policies and various recommendations. At times, the latter can read more like a wishlist than a planning document. These are the sections that might struggle to deliver as they lack any statutory teeth. The plan is most robust on how developments should be considered, both within and beyond the “growth area” around the stations. The plan sets out policies for development of the area between 2014 and 2031.

There’s also a public meeting next Monday, January 27th where the draft will be discussed and this would be a good opportunity to have your say and give feedback. It’s more or less your last chance before simply voting yes or no in the referendum. The deadline for feedback is February 28th.

WHNDF_Jan27

The vision

“Development in Fortune Green and West Hampstead will allow for a mixed, vibrant and successful local community. The Area has a distinct and widely appreciated village character with a variety of amenities and excellent transport links. This Plan seeks to retain and protect these positive features, while allowing for new housing, new jobs and sustainable growth in the years ahead.”

Yes, that “village feel” crops up again. Some mock it, some believe in it. It depends a bit where you live and how much you engage with the area. No-one’s pretending that West Hampstead is Ambridge, but there is a sense that the winding West End Lane and the friendly atmosphere does lend something of a village feel to the area, especially with West End Green at the end.

 

NDF_Map_Boundaries

The area covered by the plan encompasses Fortune Green and West Hampstead wards

The plan cannot, legally, be anti-development, so its role is to help shape development. The idea is that these plans -and there are many springing up around the country – form part of planning policy for the council. They should mean that locals can exercise more power. This has yet to be tested as none are fully operational yet.

Objectives

1. Housing – “Development in Fortune Green & West Hampstead will provide a range of housing and housing types, including social and affordable housing, as well as housing suitable for families, old people and young people. The West Hampstead Growth Area will be the focus for new development and will provide new housing and accompanying additional infrastructure. Development outside the Growth Area will be on a smaller scale.”

Editor’s comment: fairly straightforward, though note that this seeks to concentrate the vast majority of development to the south of the area rather than making any suggestion of spreading the burden. This is partly because there’s more land available there, and the plan must dovetail with the London Plan, which has already identified that as the growth area.

2. Design & Character – “Development will be of high-quality design and will need to fit in with the existing styles of the Area, large parts of which are covered by Conservation Areas. The height of new buildings shall fit in with the rooflines of existing buildings in their immediate vicinity. In all development there shall be a presumption in favour of preserving the distinct character and appearance of the Area, as well as the views across it.”

Editor’s comment: The issue of building height has always been contentious, with some residents wanting an absolute height limit imposed, others being more relaxed about it, and planners warning that such limits would be virtually impossible to enforce in practice. Therefore more reference is made to relative rooflines. Although the plan is not explicitly against modern architecture, the wording of the objective would suggest it is unlikely to be encouraged in many areas. It would be a shame if this precluded some more interesting designs being brought forward.

3. Transport – “Development will enhance the provision of public transport in the Area. West Hampstead’s three rail stations, and the areas around them, shall be the focus of improvements. Making better provision for pedestrian and cyclist movement through the Area – particularly around the West Hampstead Interchange – is a key priority.”

Editor’s comment: It’s interesting that the plan suggests active improvements to transport, which is typically considered a strength of the area. Today’s strength does risk becoming tomorrow’s weakness in the sense that the rapid population growth precisely around the stations could lead to quite severe pedestrian (and thus traffic) congestion. It’s good to see robust policies in this area.

4. Public & Community Facilities – “Development will contribute to public and community facilities in the Area and bring improvements to meet the needs of the growing population. Local services and community facilities – including schools, nurseries, health centres, libraries, community centres and youth facilities – are all highly important in delivering a sustainable community.”

Editor’s comment: Some of these areas (schools) are contentious, others (health centres), slightly less so. The plan recognises the changing nature of the way the NHS is both delivered and used, which means that traditional equations of people per GP may no longer be relevant. Schooling for both primary and secondary ages has been a hot topic and there is a plan policy for a new secondary school in the area by 2031 to accommodate demand. Overall though, this objective and related policies are “keep what we’ve got and give us more”.

5. Economy – “Development will promote and support a successful local economy, with thriving town and neighbourhood centres. Development shall protect and support existing jobs and employment sites – as well as providing new jobs and attracting new businesses to the Area. Such development shall also provide flexible space, particularly for small and micro-businesses.”

Editor’s comment: This is a particularly interesting topic given the differences between the various commercial zones covered by the plan and the heavy focus on housing over employment in the London Plan. To quote at length from paragraph F2 of the draft:

The Camden Core Strategy (Policy CS8) seeks to promote a successful and inclusive economy in the borough. It aims to “safeguard existing employment sites” and provide “a mix of employment facilities and types”. It also highlights the fact that Camden has a large proportion of small businesses, 75% of which employ less than five people. However, it notes (8.20) “there is a lack of high quality premises suitable for small business, particularly those less than 100 sq m”. It adds: “we will seek the provision of innovative new employment floor space in developments that will provide a range of facilities including: flexible occupancy terms, flexible layouts, studios, workshops, networking, socialising and meeting space that will meet the needs of a range of business types and sizes”. The West Hampstead Place Plan says “a mix of employment space is important to the local economy and employment opportunities” and there is “a desire for small businesses to be able to stay in the area” and a need to “develop space…affordable to their needs”. This Plan expresses concern that commercial sites in Area are being replaced with residential developments, causing damage to the local economy, reducing employment opportunities and restricting economic growth. The provision of new jobs in the Area is important to local community, the local service sector and existing businesses; it is important that the Area does not become a “commuter town” for those working in central London and the City.

The NDP’s policies match these, as they should, and it’s hoped that this gives the communit more ammunition when dealing with developers and the council itself when it comes to preserving a mixed economy. There seems to be a misguided belief that the area’s high number of freelancers/homeworkers can single-handedly keep the daytime economy alive. Almost every West Hampstead trader will tell you that simply isn’t the case. The area needs daytime workers not just daytime residents.

6. Natural Environment – “Development will protect and enhance existing green/open space and the local environment. Development shall also provide new green/open public space. Development shall promote bio-diversity and nature conservation, and allow for the planting of new trees.”

Editor’s comment: It’s hard to find anyone who argues that the minimal green space in West Hampstead shouldn’t at least be preserved, and preferably extended. The NDP is encouraging green spaces and corridors that can work within an urban context; again it’s up to planners and developers to deliver.

NDF_Map_GreenSpaces

The green spaces of West Hampstead

We’ll look in more detail at the various sections of the plan once it is finalised. In the meantime, if there’s anything about it you like, don’t like, vehemently object to… then now is the time to speak.

West Hampstead grows: Development review of the year

“Why did no-one try and fight it?”

I guarantee that when the tower blocks that will form West Hampstead Square start to go up in 2014, at least one person will express horror and shock that such a thing was allowed to go ahead uncontested.

Of course people did contest it – or at least the scale of it. Some still are. None of that matters now – the development got its planning permission more than a year ago. If you’re new to the area The best summary article of the plan is here, though scrolling through these pages will give you the full story.

The existing buildings, businesses that almost all managed to relocate locally, were knocked down the first weekend in May.

The remnants of Cafe Bon

Ballymore, the developers, launched the marketing offensive in the early summer with a website and then a promotional newspaper that seemed to suggest West Hampstead is populated by glamorous couples who swan around the stations in 1930s garb.

When sales eventually started to the general public in September (after a few existing Ballymore customers were given first dibs), there was considerable interest though most locals were a little gobsmacked by the prices (studios start at £405,000), 2-beds are in the £750,000+ range, service charge is ~£2,800 for 2-beds (and even ground rent is £750!).

The widespread belief, therefore, is that the unit are going to investors. After all, buyers have to drop a 20% deposit within a matter of months even though the flats won’t be ready until well into 2015.

As the flats went on the market, a bruhaha developed over the fate of trees on and adjacent to the site. Emma Thompson even got involved.

It’s all been of little import, though Ballymore has agreed to look at some more “greening” of parts of the site that won’t be seen by its own residents. The trees that people are now concerned about are on Network Rail land and are almost certain to be cleared when the Overground station is redeveloped in 2014.

West Hampstead Square might be the most high profile development in the area, but it’s far from the only one.

Work has finally started on the 163 Iverson Road site. This former garden centre will be turned into flats with some imaginative architecture to make the most of an odd-shaped site. Former Conservative candidate Chris Philp is now one of the investors in the development after a property fund he set up took over the site.

163 Iverson Road looking east

Next door, McGregor Homes has an application in to turn the Iverson Tyres site into a block of flats that reflect the architecture of the 163 development. It’s hard to see any major objections to these plans – already revised once after discussion with council planners. One objection might be that Iverson Tyres itself (which ows the land) isn’t able to move its offices into the one commercial unit in the development because Camden is insisting on classifying it for light industrial use.

The redevelopment of Handrail House and the building next door (63 & 65 Maygrove Road) hasn’t really got going even though developer Regal Homes has sold some of the units off plan during an Asian roadshow. The empty Handrail House was the site of a rave by squatters back in May.

The saga of Gondar Gardens is a tortuous one, but it may be entering its final stage. This time last year, the first of developer Linden Wates’ (now three) proposals had just been successfully appealed by the developer and the second was being lined up for appeal. There was some surprise that the national planning inspector rejected that second proposal.

Linden Wates has since put forward its third proposal – a tweak of the second adjusted to take the inspectors’ comments into account. GARA – the relevant residents association – will decide at its AGM in January exactly how to respond, but its initial reaction is to push to ensure that the developer puts forward as sympathetic a proposal as possible rather than to contest this third plan outright. This is, therefore, likely to be the beginning of the end of the story.

The other big development news is for a site at the very heart of West Hampstead, but progress is likely to be slow. 156 West End Lane, the red-brick building known as the “Travis Perkins building”, has been sold for redevelopment.

156West End Lane has enormous potential

However, Travis Perkins has a lease that means it can stay in the building for another three years. In the meantime the offices above – once used by the council – sit empty. It’s hoped that, given the substantial cost to Camden of simply keeping the building, some alternative uses can be found for at least some of the office space.

Hoping to play a part in all the big developments that lie ahead, the Neighbourhood Development Forum worked through various drafts of its plan and tried different ways to reach out to the broader community. Hopefully, by now most residents have at least heard of it, and many have contributed their thoughts. The final draft should be published in late January 2014 and go to consultation.

Other planning news

  • An application was submitted to turn the ground floor of Alfred Court into an extension of a private school. It was always going nowhere fast – much like the traffic it would have created.
  • The Blackburn Road student block was finished and opened on time – few people seem to object too much, despite its bulk.
  • The “Mario’s block” on Broadhurst Gardens is up for redevelopment – will it be modern or traditional?
  • The major Abbey Area redevelopment (around the Belsize Road/Abbey Road junction) has stuttered on with amendments to plans but little seems to have happened.

As always, you can keep up to date with major planning proposals and developments with the map below (do let me know if anything needs updating)


View Developments in West Hampstead in a larger map

“I like it!” Share your views on local places.

West Hampstead being the sort of switched on digital community it is, it seems only right that we’re among the very first to test a new mapping/sentiment tool.

A who with the what now?
The idea is that you can pinpoint places in West Hampstead on a map – either on your smartphone or tablet or from the comfort of your desktop computer – and say what you think about them and, specifically, how they might be improved. Before you all jump and down, outraged that this excludes those people who aren’t online, this is just one strand of engagement that’s trying to reach one (large) subset of people.

To what end? This is all part of the Neighbourhood Development Forum‘s engagement programme, so the views expressed here will help the Forum as it finalises the draft plan.

How does it work?
It’s pretty simple.

First, go to http://westhampstead.commonplace.is – the site works on whatever size screen you’re using, there’s no app to download.

You’ll need to register the first time you use it with some basic information, which helps the NDF see what type of people are using it, and whether opinions vary between different types of people. No data that can actively identify you personally is collected.

After registering, you get two options: comment on a place, or view all comments.

View all comments takes you to the overview map, where you’ll see some green, orange and red circles. Zoom into the map as you would normally for more detail. Click on any of the circles to see what people have been saying.

You’ll notice that the West Hampstead Growth Area is shaded blue. The thrust of the mapping project is to get ideas on the growth area, but you are of course very welcome to comment on anything in the wider area. One thing to stress though – this isn’t intended as a way to complain about litter, or general problems the council need to attend to. For that, use FixMyStreet, or CleanCamden. This is about broader development issues; what you’d like West Hampstead to be. As a rule of thumb, if it’s something that could theoretically be rectified in 24 hours, it’s probably not for this site.

Once you’ve had a look around, why not make your first comment. If you’re out with your smarthphone then you can either turn the GPS on and the map will automatically locate you, or you can manually drag the marker. If you’re at home, just move the marker to where you want to write about.

Click Next and you’ll be given a form to fill in with your comments. Add what you like – the only thing you have to tick is the like/don’t like/neutral option.

Click Submit and your button appears on the map in the appropriate colour. You can also tweet a link to your comment if you have a Twitter account.

You can comment as many times as you like.

That’s it – happy commenting! The NDF will be demoing the site at the farmers market on Saturday December 7th as well.

Your views on West Hampstead’s future

Those of you living in West Hampstead and Fortune Green wards will have had a leaflet through your doors this past week.

This is the latest chance (and one of the last) to give input to the Neighbourhood Development Forum, which is now on the sixth draft of the Neighbourhood Development Plan. Only one more draft is expected before it’s sent to Camden for the next round of scrutiny. Eventually, sometime next year, there will be a referendum on whether to adopt the plan or not.

Regular readers won’t need the background to this concept, but for everyone else the leaflet sets out what the Neighbourhood Development Forum is trying to do, and highlights the particular challenge of the growth area around the stations. If you didn’t get one (or live outside the wards, but are interested), you can see it here.

The leaflet includes a very short survey, and the NDF team would be astonishingly grateful if you could take two minutes to fill it in. If it’s easier, then you can fill it in online instead: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/35CBQPC.

Please don’t forget to fill in the “about you” section – this helps ensure that the views collected are as representative as possible, both geographically and demographically within the area.

Look out very soon for the launch of the mobile tool that will let you record your thoughts about the area on your smartphones as you walk around.

NDF: Three ways to have your say

It’s never too late to get involved. The Neighbourhood Development Plan is merrily bowling its way along, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t scope for you to help shape it.

First up, tomorrow there are two workshops you can join. One in the morning, one in the afternoon. They’re identical, so just pick whichever is more convenient. The morning session starts runs 11am-1.30pm, the afternoon 2pm-4.30pm. Here’s the more detailed agenda.

This would be a great way both of getting up to speed with what the team have been working on for the past few months, understanding the scope of the plan, and of course giving your input and feedback to the latest draft.

The plan must take into account as broad a range of views as possible, so if you feel that any one group might be dominating the document that will help shape the future of West Hampstead, now’s the time to stand up and get involved (I think sitting down is also allowed).

Second, everyone in the West Hampstead and Fortune Green wards will soon be receiving a leaflet through their door with an update on the NDF. Obviously avid readers of this website won’t need the background info (!), but you will also be asked to fill in a very brief questionnaire (there are five questions, everyone can do that right?) about things you do / don’t like about the area. You’ll even be able to do it online.

Finally, later this year, West Hampstead will be a pilot area for a new mapping tool that will let you record your thoughts about the area on your smartphones as you toddle around using a very simple mobile-friendly website. I can’t say too much more at this stage, because this is still being developed, but we’ll be only the second place in the country to get to try this. Not only should it bring another set of views into the NDF process, but it should also highlight some more specific issues, especially around the interchange area, including the development potential of the O2 car park. Watch this space!

Growth area plans: Clear guidelines or muddy waters?

West Hampstead is growing – that’s blindingly obvious to anyone who’s walked past the marketing suite promoting West Hampstead Square since the paper came down from the windows. How, therefore, do we keep some sort of oversight of all the plans and proposals so that the end result isn’t some hideous mish-mash of buildings that are under-supported by local services.

“Surely that’s what the Neighbourhood Development Plan is about?”, you ask, sensibly.

You’d think so, but Camden seems to want to something more formal on top of that, looking specifically at the “growth area”, which is around the stations. What role is left for the NDF then when it comes to policies in that growth area? It already has to dovetail with the borough plan, the London plan, and national planning policies.

It is not at all clear how Camden’s Growth Area planning guidelines would fit in with existing plans for the area. Is this going to play into the hands of developers who’ll find the inevitable loopholes between the various documents and push through proposals that may not serve West Hampstead well.

At the last Neighbourhood Development Forum meeting, Richard Mileham from Camden planning, presented a few slides on Camden’s latest thinking. Judging by the the slides and the questions that followed, it wasn’t as illuminating as many had hoped.

The London Plan has identified this area as suitable for 800 new homes and 100 new jobs. Already, it’s expected that West Hampstead will deliver more than this – certainly in terms of homes. “Future change needs to be coordinated and allow stakeholders to be involved.” Er, yes.

There was one slide titled “Draft urban design principles”, which gives some insight into the sort of planning decisions at stake. Click the map below for a larger picture, but it includes a “major new public park” where the Audi garage is now. It also suggests moving Homebase nearer to the O2, and generally improving pedestrian access around the area. Clearly it is just a draft idea, but it suggests that the plans could involve some quite major reshaping, including of course the anticipated development of the O2 car park itself.

Specifically on green spaces, council officers said they would very much like to have residents’ views regarding a preference for many small spaces or fewer large spaces.

At the whampforum I held a couple of months ago the majority view was that large-scale development of the area was broadly welcomed with the important proviso that it wasn’t just cookie cutter blocks of flats, and that these were well designed spaces at ground level.

There is a set of objectives for this new growth area plan, each of which ties in with both the place plan and objectives of the current draft of the NDP, which makes one wonder what exactly this new initiative is adding.

Growth and uses

  • Growth to exceed London Plan targets and to be in the region of 1,000 homes and 7,000 sq m of business floorspace (along with some other uses)
  • A mix of uses, including substantial new housing, town centre, employment and community uses, and open space

Street environment

  • Improved street environment and interchange around transport facilities, including improved crossing and wider pavements by ensuring that developments are set back adequately
  • Upgrade routes and community safety along Blackburn Road to the O2 Centre, Billy Fury Way, Black Path and Potteries footpaths
  • Investigate long term opportunities for improving the movement routes around the area including north to south across the railways
  • Improved bicycle movement and routes and deliver improvements to cycle safety, ease of movement and cycle parking

Public open space

  • On-site public open space and improve existing parks and open spaces and identify potential new sites
  • Address the missing green habitat link along the railway lands and enhance biodiversity

Design

  • Sustainable and safe design of the highest quality that respects the character and heritage value of West Hampstead

The next steps apparently are to undertake initial feasibility and urban design work, then to engage the public on the options in the autumn. Once the option has been decided (and it’s really not at all clear what sort of options we’re talking about), then it could either feed into the NDP or be a separate, council-led Supplementary Planning Document, which seeks to clarify issues for a particular site or topic within a larger planning framework.

At the NDF meeting, there were a lot of questions asked, and answers given where possible.

  • What did “sustainability” mean in this context? It refers to modifying energy efficiency and use of renewable materials.
  • Is design quality written in as a standard? There are general objectives pertaining to this and the current work/consultation will look at them in more detail. New council criteria is ‘building for life’.
  • What about community facilities (GPs/schools/parking etc.): When plans are considered, infrastructure requirements are taken into account.
  • Would developments start before the NDP came into force? This is unlikely to be a problem as the timescale of both are similar.
  • What about the pressure on transport? TfL considers the area a strategic interchange. With regards to lifts at stations – accessibility is a TfL priority [also see this article].
  • What about environment and space – would the same foresight be applied as was around Swiss Cottage? Will it be safe along the railway tracks? The paths are being widened and turned into a public area.
  • Would there be a masterplan for the area, like the Olympic site has? This is difficult due to the various different owners. Can only develop objectives rather than a masterplan.
  • Will there be height restrictions to preserve traditional views in area? A plan of views needs to be prepared for consideration. High walls could be ‘greened’ and green roofs could be a possibility.
  • Do trees have to be replaced? If they are protected, or if planners oblige developers to care for trees.
  • Will infrastructure, e.g., new surgery/medical centre and even sewerage be adequate? The planning document will take about a year and will tie in with NDP.

What can we deduce from all this? The positive angle is that Camden is conscious of the pace and scale of change in West Hampstead and wants to be sure that firm guidelines and planning principles are in place. A less positive spin on it suggests that this is duplicating the work of the NDP, potentially undermining it. Actively incorporating ideas developed by Camden in this process into the NDP would lead to less confusion for residents and developers alike. Why muddy the waters?

Think you know your neighbourhood?

Tomorrow (yes, short notice, sorry), the Neighbourhood Development Forum is hosting two walks in the area. The idea is to get people’s reaction to the variation in our built environment. They are free to join – just come along.

The first one covers Fortune Green ward and kicks off at 10am outside the Tesco on Fortune Green Road. It is due to finish at 11.45 at Emmanuel School… which gives you a 15 minute break to grab a coffee before the West Hampstead ward walk, which starts at midday at West End Green. That finishes at 1.45pm at the farmers market (giving you 15 minutes to buy your organic beetroot and wild widgeon pie for dinner).

The route is below, so if you miss us you can always catch up. Do come along and find out a bit more about the area, and give some input to the draft plan.

Click for larger version

Whampforum: The people speak

On May 21st, more than 30 locals gathered to discuss a range of issues along with James Earl, chair of the Neighbourhood Development Forum (NDF), Cllr Flick Rea, and me. Parking, development, shops; all came under scrutiny. The topics are ones we are used to hearing about but the audience wasn’t the usual suspects. This was #whampforum and pretty much everyone was under 45, with a healthy smattering still in their 20s.

Some comments on the website before the event captured a view I hear too frequently among some of West Hampstead’s older and longer-standing citizens: young people aren’t invested in the area emotionally or financially because they don’t own property, so why would they care.

Apart from the staggering prejudice against long-term renters, either from the council or in the private sector, it also misses an important point: there are twice as many people in West Hampstead under 40 as over 40, and 5,000 more in the 20-40 age-group. Are they consigned to live according to the attitudes of their elders (and, the implication always seems to be, betters). Or perhaps the very fact that many of these people can’t afford to buy property here is something we might want to think about. Do we want West Hampstead to be perpetually occupied by the old and rich and the young and transient? Maybe we do, but we will then be beset by the same issues we have today and the age-divide will remain.

Perhaps the single most interesting question we asked at the forum was how many people saw themselves still living in the area in five years’ time. A majority of hands went up. Maybe this population isn’t so transient after all. Of course, many in the room were themselves younger home owners – I wouldn’t deny that this has an impact on engagement, but it’s naive to think it’s the sole driver.

The meeting was lively, and I think (hope) most people had the chance to speak if they wanted to. There were business owners, a property developer, the inevitable politicos and plenty of ordinary residents who were interested to hear more about local developments and to find out how they could have some input without having to sit through the interminable (and at times depressing) local meetings that seem to be the norm in any community.

We touched on three big topics: amenities and transport, business mix, and housing, development and architecture. I’ve tried to summarise the key points below as well as discussing how to feed your thoughts and ideas to the decision makers. At the bottom of the page is a factsheet.

Amenities and Transport
Camden’s policy of car-free developments struck many as odd, unrealistic, and potentially adding to  traffic problems as car-owners tried to find somewhere to park. About a third of the audience owned cars already, more than I would have expected. Car clubs were popular, though people said there weren’t enough car club cars in the area and not enough different types of vehicles.

People commented on the street clutter, the rubbish that accumulated on the streets, especially from local businesses, the seemingly bizarre phasing of the traffic lights, delivery lorries and even the location of the bus stop by the post office.

Schools also came onto the agenda, with the idea of a free primary school being mooted (there are also murmurings about launching a free secondary school in the neighbourhood).

The major lobbying group for all these topics is WHAT (West Hampstead Amenities & Transport). It has a good track record of working with the various bodies responsible for many of these topics, especially transport. You can find out more about them at whatnw6.org.uk. Don’t be put off by the relatively basic website, this group is very active and lobbies effectively. You may not agree with its policies on everything, but it is a great starting point for finding out more about transport issues.

Business mix
The issue of whether charity shops are a good or bad thing for the high street and the local economy came up. The perennially thorny topic of Tesco came up though for this audience, even though there was general support for independent shops and restaurants, the convenience of metro format supermarkets generally overcame the idea of corporate behemoths invading the high street. We discussed the challenge of finding out who landlords are in some units, and how this makes it hard to develop the “pop-up shop” culture when units sit empty.

There was a feeling that “destination” shops would do well, and the challenge faced by Mill Lane in attracting people to walk along was discussed. Yet again, people proposed better signage for Mill Lane shops and the idea of having a street festival there was mooted. These are ideas that Mill Lane traders have had themselves, but the group seems to find it hard to come together and act as one group. The council, however, is always going to be more responsive if it’s dealing with a collective body than with one or two individual traders. The onus here is on the traders.

Most people understood that the council had no control over what types of shops or restaurants moved into spaces already designated for that use. We explained that it was only when a business applied for a change of use or a chance of licence that it was possible to object. This is a planning topic with lots of grey areas, however. Cafés that don’t cook anything on the premises (microwaves and panini grills don’t count) can take retail premises, for example, without a change of use. There is also a push by central government to make it easy to convert shops and offices into residential units, although Camden is one of the boroughs exempt from this.

(from the BBC) “At the same time, a two-year freeze is also being introduced on the need for planning applications for temporary change of use for a range of High Street premises, including hairdressers, banks, bars, cafes, post offices, takeaways, libraries and cinemas. This would allow units not exceeding 150 sq m to spring up at short notice and trade for a limited period as long as long as they meet the criteria of being either shops, restaurants, business offices and financial or professional services. Multiple changes will be permitted within the two-year period but retailers will need to notify councils what they intend to use the building for, and for how long, in advance of setting up.”

There wasn’t much discussion of the business-to-business economy, although with plans to develop the Liddell Road industrial site, this may become more of an issue. The questions here are about local employment, a change in the local weekday economy, and general business mix of the area.

This remains an area where the biggest impact locals can have is by voting with their wallets. If there are shops and businesses you like, then use them. If you want to object to a licence or change of use application, then it’s good to be familiar with Camden’s “town centre” plans and guidelines (see the factsheet for details of Camden’s Core Strategy).

Housing, development and architecture
The cost of property was clearly an issue for many who wanted to stay here. We explained about the affordable housing quota that developers are obliged to meet in any new development, and how more often than not they are able to prove that meeting the quota would render the whole development unprofitable. There are complicated rules about how much money they then have to pay so that affordable housing can be built in lower-cost locations by Camden.

People expressed an interest in shared housing schemes. I don’t know a lot about these – though there are some in the area (Fairhazel Gardens has one). This is more popular in North America, but there’s no reason why it can’t work here.

There seemed to be a sense that with property prices rising so quickly at the moment, the area was at risk of becoming even more homogeneous in terms of the social mix, with pockets of social housing becoming less and less integrated. The housing conversation also took us back to the issues of schools and other services, such as GP surgeries. With so much housing planned in the area by City Hall (West Hampstead is designated an “area for intensification”), people were concerned to know whether service provision would keep pace.

Health centres are typically less of a problem locally, and very few people in the room had had any issues finding medical treatment when they needed it. Schools are a different proposition, requiring much more investment either from the public sector or private providers. Of course, the demand for schools depends on the existing and proposed housing stock – a dearth of affordable family houses would mean relatively low demand for additional school places.

There’s not a lot you can do about house prices of course, but housing is a topic where your political vote has an impact at both the borough, city and national level. If this is an issue of concern then make sure you read the housing policies of various parties next time you’re heading to the ballot box. Camden council elections are next year, and the political leaning of the council does have an impact on housing policy. The NDF is also concerned with housing, so providing input into its policies as they are finalised would be a good way of shaping the direction of the area – more on this in the next section.

There’s clearly a large overlap between housing and development but also a clear difference of opinion between age groups over the scale and type of development in the area. When prompted by Flick, there was an agreement that the views from the area looking up to Hampstead were part of West Hampstead’s character but there was also broad consensus that it wasn’t the height and scale of new developments that mattered, it was design and planning. We discussed the O2 car park, which we all assume will be built over at some point, and the view was that a large-scale, fairly high-rise development here would be ok, as long as the area was well planned, attractively landscaped, and it wasn’t a “high density at any cost” proposal. People didn’t want to feel hemmed in, but accepted that it was possible to have high(er) rise living in an area like West Hampstead.

Modern buildings in the area, such a the Thameslink station, the Mill Apartments and even the more controversial Emmanuel school were generally seen as good buildings.

We also explained about the ever-mysterious “Section 106” money that gets discussed a lot. In a nutshell, it’s money that developers pay to allow the council to offset the cost of the influx of new residents, as well as to contribute to amenity in the area. The detail gets very confusing and there’s a very strong push at the moment for much more transparency over how it is allocated, where exactly it is spent, and who makes the decisions. To add to the confusion, many of the things funded by Section 106 will, from next year, be funded instead by the Community Infrastructure Levy. The affordable housing offset payments, however, will still be paid for by Section 106 agreements so you’ll still be hearing about it.

Engaging with the West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Plan is by far the best way to influence these matters. I have talked about it many times on this site already, but as the Plan starts to move into the final stages (and we’re talking months here, not weeks), there will be more information about specific policies. You can contact James directly (moc.l1563347080iamg@1563347080daets1563347080pmaht1563347080sewpd1563347080n1563347080) with any specific thoughts; a PDF of the latest draft of the plan is available here (this is very much a draft) so do have a read. Look out for NDF stalls around West Hampstead over the coming weekends. Stop by and give your feedback in person. 

Remember that underpinning the very idea of these local development forums is the rule that they cannot be “anti-development”. They are about shaping what happens, not standing in its way, so they are by definition not a NIMBY-organisation.

* * *

One of the reasons I convened this meeting is that the main contributors to the NDP thus far have been the usual suspects. They are well-meaning and in many cases the same issues arise, however priorities do vary between different segments of the population and it’s important that the silent majority have their say. Rest assured that by coming to the meeting, you have already helped shape some of the thinking around these topics. Nevertheless, it will do no harm to reinforce that feedback in person at the stalls, or via e-mail and those of you that couldn’t make it should also feel free to get involved. As well as street stalls, there will also be “street walks”, one of which I might even lead myself!

For me, it was important that this meeting wasn’t just a talking shop but that it had some impact. Hopefully you will see some of the views expressed here filtering into the Plan, but also into council thinking. They also help me when I am asked in formal and informal interactions with council officers and councillors what “younger people” think.

We may well hold another, more focused meeting later in the year on one or two specific topics and will probably have one to discuss the final NDP policies before they are set in stone. They will of course be heavily trailered on the site and on Twitter. In the meantime, thank you to everyone who came and to the Alice House for hosting.

Factsheet

You can also download the factsheet here.

Logo competition: Local forum seeks identity

The local Neighbourhood Development Forum should get the all-clear from Camden council next month, which means it can go full steam ahead with drafting the actual plan.

The experience of other Neighbourhood Development Plans is that strong visual imagery helps people understand what the NDF is all about, and having a unifying logo for all communications is A Good Idea.

To that end (and because while the government is all for localism it doesn’t want to actually give any money to help), the NDF is holding a competition to design its logo. The winning entry will get glory, fame and a meal for two at The Kitchen Table.

Naturally, the NDF would love any local graphic designers to get involved in this community project, despite the lack of funds for payment – though any non-professional budding artists are also very welcome to enter. There may also be the opportunity for some follow-up paid work, as a small amount of funding may come available in a few months, but no promises on that score.

Here’s the brief, which as you’ll see, leaves plenty of room for artistic interpretation.

  • The name of the organisation is “Fortune Green and West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Forum” although it’s likely to be referred to as just the “West Hampstead NDF”
  • The logo will be used on all communications: e-mail, twitter, leaflets, posters, banners etc – so it needs to be fairly flexible and work on a small and large scale.
  • There’s no set colour or font, but again, the font and colour scheme are likely to be used widely.
  • The committee feels that it should reflect both the traditional and modern aspects of the area, especially given the developments being built around the stations and the fact that the development plan may not be “anti-development” per se.

The deadline for submissions is Monday 13th May, please mail your entry to the committee at moc.l1563347080iamg@1563347080daets1563347080pmaht1563347080sewpd1563347080n1563347080 and contact them for any more details.

To find out more about what the forum is trying to achieve, check out its website or read more of my articles on its evolution over the past few months.

Neighbourhood plan: consultation time

Regular readers will have followed the progress of the Neighbourhood Development Forum; while even sporadic readers may have spotted the signs that have gone up around the area about the consultation stage the NDF is in now. I thought I’d let NDF Chair James Earl tell you more about it so you can get involved and make sure your views are counted.

“The Fortune Green & West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Forum (NDF) was established in January 2012 in response to the government’s Localism Act. This gives communities the power to draw up Plans for their area and to outline how the area should develop in future. It’s a very new concept and it’s pretty much untried and untested, but with a positive outlook it’s hoped drawing up a plan for our area will have benefits.

As some people know, the part of West Hampstead around the stations is classified as a ‘Growth Area’ in the London Plan. The stated aim is that this area should provide a minimum of 800 new homes and 100 new jobs between 2010-2031. Obviously, this will bring big changes to the area and have a large effect on it. A Neighbourhood Plan can’t change these figures, but can try to be more specific about where the homes are located and what other measures are needed in the area to accommodate this growth. It’s also important to note that the Plan can’t call for less development, and also has to fit in with the existing policies in the national, London and Camden plans.

To find out what people living and working in the area want from Fortune Green & West Hampstead in the future, we spent part of last year seeking views. Some of you may have seen our stall at the Jester Festival – which had pictures of local buildings and asked people what they thought of them – and/or filled out our survey. The results of this – along with lots of other information about the NDF – are on our website: www.ndpwesthampstead.org.uk.

In order to have the legal authority to write a plan, we have to apply to Camden Council to recognise the Forum and the Area we cover. The Council is consulting on our application and comments have to be made by 15th March. You can find details about the consultation here.

To demonstrate to the Council that we have wide support, we are urging as many people as possible to respond. All you have to do is email ku.vo1563347080g.ned1563347080mac@f1563347080dl1563347080 to say you support the application and the area we cover (see map).

If our application is approved by the Council, we will be able to write a Plan. Once it’s finalised there has to be a further period of consultation, it has to be submitted to a planning inspector and then – finally – there is a referendum of all those living in the area. If a majority of those voting approve the Plan, it becomes a statutory planning document for the area.

The Forum welcomes anyone living or working in the area to get involved with our work and come to our meetings. You don’t have to have any expertise in planning issues – just a view about the area and what it should look like in future.

If you want to get in touch you can email: moc.l1563347080iamg@1563347080daets1563347080pmaht1563347080sewpd1563347080n1563347080 or follow us on twitter: @WHampsteadNDF.”

NDP: Tall buildings and affordable business premises

It was a relatively small group that assembled in the creche room of Emmanuel Church last night. Thankfully a heater was blasting away (the church is apparently investing in underfloor heating at some point – very fancy), keeping the cold at bay.

Under discussion was the second draft of the Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP), and I was pleasantly surprised that progress through the agenda points was relatively brisk.

In light of the overwhelming vote from WHGARA residents to be part of the NDP area, it was quickly decided that the boundary would match the West Hampstead and Fortune Green ward boundaries. Having cleared this hurdle, the application for formal recognition of the NDP can be submitted to Camden. There is unlikely to be any objection from Camden – planning officers have been involved with the process from the outset – so once accepted there will then be a six-week consultation process. This is all before the plan itself is finalised.

James Earl, chair of the Neighbourhood Development Forum, threw the discussion open to the floor (all 9 of us) regarding the core policies (recapped below) for comment.

Building height
One topic dominated the discussion. At the moment, the draft plan has blanks for the proposed maximum building height inside and outside the intensification area (roughly the area around the three stations).

John Eastwood, from WHGARA, put forward the idea that the maximum height should be the same across both wards, with no differentiation for the intensification area. He mooted four or five stories as the limit. This would seem to be too low to be enforceable. West End Lane already has plenty of five storey buildings and given the housing demands we face, it’s impossible to imagine that a sympathetically designed six-storey building wouldn’t be looked at favourably.

A couple of us also pointed out that developments such as the student block on Blackburn Road and indeed the Ballymore 187-199 West End Lane proposals were using the fact that the ground slopes away from the road to increase building height with less impact on the roofline. In other words, site context is an important component of determining maximum heights.

The sloping land means the Ballymore 12-storey tower block won’t have
quite as much impact as it would on West End Lane

I know that there are readers of this site who look more favourably on high rise than others. The NDF’s survey on this did, however, show a sizeable majority of residents are opposed to high-rise. Finding the right balance between housing need and height will take some careful wording of the plan. The view was put forward that the “errors of planning” that led to Ballymore’s 12-storey block, or the much older Ellerton building on Mill Lane, should not be taken as a new benchmark height for the area.

There is a secondary point here in that the NDP also takes a stance on the type of housing that is needed – specifically recommending a housing mix that includes more 3- and 4-bed flats. For developers to deliver that sort of housing profitably, they will need to build high. The plan needs to ensure it’s not pushing contradictory agendas that would allow developers to exploit loopholes.

The issue of uniformity across the ward is a more interesting debate – again, I can’t see that this would be workable. However, there is a sense among some in the south that the north of the area will feel very little of the direct impact of the growth in population and housing density, even though the rhetoric is one of a larger community that spans the two wards. It is too late to change the growth area, but those in the northern reaches may need to accept that there will be development across the wards that requires an increase in housing density along some of the side streets as well as around the stations and railway tracks. Otherwise the sense of divide between the south and north of West Hampstead is only going to intensify.

Affordable business premises
The council beats the housing drum very loudly, but economic development is also a vital part of a successful community. However, it feels as if West Hampstead is losing jobs rather than creating them – especially if the Liddell Road school is built, which will mean the loss of several businesses on that industrial estate.

One of the NDP’s draft core policies is that development should also be focused on providing new jobs and attracting new businesses. Existing businesses, and the land they occupy, should be protected and encouraged. Sounds very laudable but, as Brigid Shaughnessy pointed out in the meeting, the council has no provision for “affordable business” in the same way it does for “affordable housing.” This struck everyone as rather a good point. Planning officers can encourage developers of mixed-use developments to have smaller retail or office units, which encourages independent businesses but there’s not a lot it can do about the rents charged, even if it can offer rates holidays. It seems like a point worth exploring – if a development needs to have a certain share of affordable housing to be approved by Camden, then why not also insist on a share of affordable business premises. These would clearly need some covenants to ensure that they didn’t just mean that a national chain could operate with an even bigger profit margin.

Any other business
Aside from these two issues, a few other topics came up. Basement excavations was one (apparently there are eight happening in Kylemore Road alone), although it’s not clear what sway the NDP might have here as the issue seems to be one of Camden enforcement.

Clarity is also needed on what exactly Camden’s West Hampstead Interchange Planning Framework is going to involve. This catchy sounding concept popped up out of nowhere recently, but no-one seems to have a sense of what it is trying to achieve, how it will fit in with the NDP, or indeed whether it’s necessary in the first place given all the other planning frameworks that apply to the area.

Recap of core policies (draft)

  1. New development should be focused on providing a range of housing and housing types, including social and affordable housing and 3-4 bedroom homes for families. The vast majority of new housing and development should be located in the ‘West Hampstead growth area’.
  2. Outside the growth area, new development should be on a much smaller scale.
  3. New buildings in the growth area should be no higher than xx storeys; outside this area new buildings should be no higher than xx storeys.
  4. New developments should promote high quality design which fit in with their surroundings, especially in terms of height, appearance and design.
  5. Conservation areas should promote high design standards and have policies which are strongly enforced.
  6. Development in the Area should also be focused on providing new jobs and attracting new businesses to the Area. Existing businesses, and the land they occupy, should be protected and encouraged.
  7. There is an urgent need for ongoing improvements to public transport in the Area, particularly the three rail stations.
  8. Future development should protect, preserve and enhance existing green/open space and provide new green/open space in new developments.
  9. Provide as much space as possible for pedestrians and promote ease of movement through the Area.
  10. Protect the existing public services and community facilities in the Area and provide new services/facilities as the population of the Area grows.
  11. Provide an environment that is suitable for a mixed community, including young people, old people, families and those from a range of social backgrounds.
  12. In all developments, there should be a presumption in favour of preserving the look, feel and views of the Area.

Ambitious scope for local development plan

We’re inching nearer to a final Neighbourhood Development Plan. There’s a meeting this Thursday to discuss the second draft plan.

At the time of writing the draft, the issue of the southern boundary had not been resolved. Since then, however, the results of the WHGARA (West Hamsptead Gardens Area Residents Association) vote on the matter have been released and 75% of people were in favour of being part of the plan area rather than sitting outside it. This is almost certain to mean that the area covered will exactly match the ward boundaries of West Hampstead and Fortune Green.

156 West End Lane – one of the sites up for development

The draft plan is very much a work in progress, and still has some gaps. Nevertheless, two things are worth looking at even at this early stage. The first is the overall scope of the plan, the second is the introduction of the core policies.

Scope
If you read the write-up of the public meeting back at the end of October, you’ll know that Neighbourhood Development Plans can vary enormously in scope from all-encompassing town plans to single-issue plans. The West Hampstead & Fortune Green plan certainly drifts closer to the first idea. Broadly, it seeks to influence building development (location, form, use of Section 106 money), business and economic development (retail mix, high street feel), street environment (roads, parking, cycling, pedestrians), public transport, environment (green space, trees), community, and public services (schools, healthcare). Some of these area are easier to influence than others – some lie firmly within Camden’s remit, other are the purview of larger bodies such as TfL or City Hall. But it would be hard to argue that the plan lacks ambition.

Policies
The draft plan outlines 12 core policies. Many of these are not especially controversial and only the hard core members of the “flatten everything to build more houses” brigade are likely to object to limitations on building height, or a presumption that green space is a good thing.

It is worth reiterating the message of policies 1 and 2 – namely that the bulk of dense housing development should be in the designated growth area (that is broadly the area between and around the stations and railway tracks), while the rest of West Hampstead is allowed to retain its current feel. Whether this will lead to two very distinctive town centres developing – one to the south and one to the north end of West End Lane – and whether this is desirable is up for debate. I can well imagine the good burghers of Fortune Green grumbling about how busy it is around the interchange while they enjoy the peace and quiet of the leafy suburbs the rest of the time.

  1. New development should be focused on providing a range of housing and housing types, including social and affordable housing and 3-4 bedroom homes for families. The vast majority of new housing and development should be located in the ‘West Hampstead growth area’.
  2. Outside the growth area, new development should be on a much smaller scale.
  3. New buildings in the growth area should be no higher than xx storeys; outside this area new buildings should be no higher than xx storeys.
  4. New developments should promote high quality design which fit in with their surroundings, especially in terms of height, appearance and design.
  5. Conservation areas should promote high design standards and have policies which are strongly enforced.
  6. Development in the Area should also be focused on providing new jobs and attracting new businesses to the Area. Existing businesses, and the land they occupy, should be protected and encouraged.
  7. There is an urgent need for ongoing improvements to public transport in the Area, particularly the three rail stations.
  8. Future development should protect, preserve and enhance existing green/open space and provide new green/open space in new developments.
  9. Provide as much space as possible for pedestrians and promote ease of movement through the Area.
  10. Protect the existing public services and community facilities in the Area and provide new services/facilities as the population of the Area grows.
  11. Provide an environment that is suitable for a mixed community, including young people, old people, families and those from a range of social backgrounds.
  12. In all developments, there should be a presumption in favour of preserving the look, feel and views of the Area.

The next meeting of the Neighbourhood Development Forum is at 7.30pm at Emmanuel Church on Thursday. It’s open to all, so why not come along and find out more.

Neighbourhood Plan gets nearer

There was a great turnout last Monday for the West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Forum meeting, chaired by WHAT. There were slides, there were speeches, there was a bit of heckling – but was there any fruitful outcome?

This was a chance for the NDF to present its progress to the public, and for the public to get a better understanding from not just the NDF but also Camden and Urban Design London, a training and networking organisation, about what all this might mean. There was plenty of time for questions, and plenty of questions were asked!

I’m not going to recap the genesis of the NDF, as I’ve covered it at length before. The group has spent the past few months trying to find out what locals think about the area, and how they’d like to see it develop. It is perhaps worth reiterating that the resulting plans from NDFs cannot be anti-development per se.

There has been a survey into people’s views on architecture in the area, and a much more involved survey of locals’ thoughts, which is worth looking at to get a sense of the mood of the population.

All these findings, together with issues highlighted at meetings such as this one, will go into the draft plan. James Earl, chairman, wouldn’t be drawn on when that first plan might be ready – but we’re talking months rather than weeks down the track. Even then, there are plenty of hurdles to jump through, not least a referendum in which everyone living in the affected area can vote. A majority is needed for the plan to become a proper planning document.

The presentation from Urban Design London‘s Paul Lavelle was, for me, the most interesting of the night (it’s at the end of this article). Paul explained how NDPs could work. They are very new and although there are many plans being drafted throughout the country, none has yet come to fruition. He showed a few case studies of those that were relatively advanced to demonstrate their variety in scope. Some plans are effectively mini local plans, that cover everything a council would consider. Others are single-issue plans designed with one objective in mind.

It will be interesting to see where the scope of the West Hampstead & Fortune Green plan ends up. The major issues that people raise are the interchange area between the three stations (the streetscape, the development plans, and the physical interchange of people), and the preservation of West Hampstead’s “village feel”, along with the desire for more green spaces. Architecture also looms large in people’s consciousness. So, the plan could decide to focus very heavily on architecture and far less on service provision, for example. Perhaps at its heart this idea comes down to whether it’s a plan focusing on issues, or on sites. Or, ambitiously, both.

The final speaker was Virginia Berridge, chair of WHAT, who made a couple of excellent points. The first was that the plan had to look ahead – this is a plan that may well not be ready in time to tackle the immediate wave of development proposals for the area. She pointed out that demographic projections suggested that the area would see an increase in the proportion of over-65s and in the number of parents with teenage children. Ensuring that these groups were adequately catered for could, therefore, be a key part of a plan. This might take the form of guiding how Section 106 money (the money developers pay to the council to help offset the cost of more residents) was spent – e.g., on sheltered housing or youth centres.

Virginia also raised the question of whether West Hampstead wanted to be a “posh suburb” or a “mixed community”, and that the answer to this question might also guide the direction the plan took.

With that the floor was open. I won’t attempt to capture all the questions / statements that came up. Many of them were issues that have been voiced before and won’t be resolved by a plan like this. Perhaps the most predictable, and understandable, reaction was from those who questioned whether such a plan would have any impact whatsoever. “Wouldn’t Camden just carry on doing what it wanted”, was the gist of a few people’s arguments. Certainly, some of those who’ve been around the block a few times are somewhat cynical about what this plan could achieve.

James took the angle that it was better to be positive and try and have some influence than just sit back and say that everything was Camden’s fault. Not surprisngly, the councillors present (most of the WH and FG councillors seemed to be there), agreed. Flick Rea even saying that this if we didn’t take this step now we might look back in 10 years time and wonder why on earth we didn’t as West Hamsptead changed irrevocably around us.

Sue Measures, who runs Sidings Community Centre, and who’s certainly been involved in enough of these initiatives to be cynical, also argued passionately that this was an opportunity to build a “shared social vision”. I forget now whether it was Sue at a later point, or someone else, who said that we should “protect what made people come here in the first place”, which seems to me a good sentiment that does not have to be at odds with the inevitable intensification that the area is undergoing.

The issue of the borders came up (raised partly by me), notably the southern border, which is the contentious one. To briefly recap: the NDF is proposing that the southern West Hampstead ward boundary should be the southern boundary of the plan area. WHGARA, the residents assocation for the streets south of the tube line and west of West End Lane, which are within West Hampstead ward, has been saying that its members will have to vote on whether they want to be included or not. This vote was supposed to take place earlier this month, but didn’t. I had originally understood that Camden strongly encouraged NDFs to bring the residents associations on board. At the meeting however, the representative from Camden planning told us that the borders were up to residents to decide. So, it’s not entirely clear to me why a residents association gets to decide on this, unless it can genuinely claim to represent a majority of households within its area.

James pointed out, when he wasn’t being heckled, that no two people he’d spoken to could agree on where the southern boundary of the plan should lie. I can well believe that. My view is that the members of the forum should forget the ward boundaries, which do change over time, and simply agree on what to them seems a logical boundary based on the input they’ve received from all relevant groups. For me, the ward boundary is peculiarly arbitrary – based I assume on balancing ward populations rather than on any sense of where people identify with or any particular planning considerations.

The southern border of West Hampstead ward

In what became a slightly farcical attempt to gauge the mood of the room, we were first asked whether we felt that this area south-west of the tube lines was part of West Hampstead – overwhelmingly people thought it was – and then whether we thought it should be part of the local plan – a slightly smaller majority thought it should be.

Given that the interchange is perhaps the number one planning issue in the area it seems perverse for the area of the plan to be centred so far north. Those living immediately to the south (yes, that includes me), will be at least if not more affected by changes here as the good people of Fortune Green. We already know that the “area for intensification” is not “West Hampstead” as we tend to think of it, but specifically the land along the railway lines. This area has, to be blunt, been sacrificed by Camden to preserve the red brick houses and land to the north. Not that people living outside the plan area are disenfranchised in terms of having their say when planning applications are made that would still affect them, but they would not be given a vote in the referendum on the plan. 

What now? The NDF will press ahead with the application to Camden to recognise the Forum and the area (with an agreed boundary), and then start drafting the plan. Hopefully, to echo several voices in the room last week, quibbles over boundaries do not delay the overall process.

West Hampstead & Fortune Green Neighbourhood Development Forum presentation

Misty-eyed or hungry for change? West Hampstead speaks

Are West Hampstead locals “misty-eyed” about the past, or driving for progressive change?

Depends who you ask. A few months ago, the Neighbourhood Development Forum ran a survey1 to gauge people’s views on development in West Hampstead. It is interesting to see what common themes emerged, and where there were areas of discord. Interesting, and relevant, because it is responses to these surveys that will help inform the development plan that the Forum will draft.

First up, the tickbox questions (just the most interesting ones). Two answers stand out: the relative popularity of today’s mix of chains and independent shops (which shows a healthy streak of realism among whampers), and the fairly even split between housing, employment and shops when it comes to development priorities in the area. There seems to be an understanding of the need for housing, as long as it doesn’t involve high-rise.

Do you think West Hampstead has a “village feel”? Yes: 85%
No: 15%
Do you think West Hampstead has the right balance
of shops, restaurants and cafés?
Yes: 42%
No: 58%
Which are the most valuable on the high street? Independent shops: 56%
Chains: 1%
Both: 43%
Do you think that West Hampstead has the right balance
between old and new buildings?
Yes: 75%
No: 25%
What do you think should have the greatest priority
in developing our area?
Housing: 36%
Employment: 31%
Shops: 31%
Are you willing to accept more high-rise buildings to increase
the amount of housing in the area?
Yes: 25%
No: 75%

Why is housing such a big deal? The housing crisis is fairly well understood,but behind all the statistics are real people such as the person who wrote this in the survey:

I am renting. In the future I will likely move out of London as I can’t afford to buy here. Local and city-wide population is growing. More well designed mid-rises make sense! If you look at the area – it is dominated by beautiful mid-high density housing – the Edwardian mansion flats. Lets have our version of these now. That might be high rise but well done tower blocks, it might be something along the lines of modern mansion flats but on new pieces of land. There is a reasonable block on Kingdon road like this. New housing would not spoil the village atmosphere.

The qualitative research is also enlightening. There’s a lot of emphasis on preserving green space, but the reactions to housing are mixed with some dead against, some seeking infill, and others who argue that change is a good thing, even if that means high-rises. The divide is perhaps strongest between those who are against all development (which is like trying to stop the tide), and those who have a more realistic outlook to how development should proceed:

Organically in conjunction with local residents, but with an emphasis on progress and not a misty-eyed past.

Overall, responses to the six open-ended questions ranged from the insightful to the banal to the hilarious. And one person just wasn’t sure about anything at all. Some people listed the types of shops they wanted, others used the opportunity to rant at the council.

Someone very kindly said that they really liked what I did for the community, while someone else alluded to the “prejudices and hobby-horses of self-appointed busybodies and bloggers”, which I guess refers at least in part to me, though I’m not quite sure which prejudices I’m guilty of spreading.

I’ve included an edited selection of answers below to try and give you a sense of the issues raised. These aren’t all the responses, and even those that are included have sometimes been edited for brevity, clarity and to avoid too much repetition. Nor have I included answers that reference things that have since happened, such as the farmers’ market.

As always, your comments overall would be interesting to hear. I’ll be writing more in the next day or so about the progress of the NDF and the recent public meeting about it.

Q1. What would you like to see included in a Neighbourhood Development Plan for Fortune Green & West Hampstead?

  • More parks and green space (e.g. pocket parks, access to the land with trees along the railway lines along the O2 Centre) or improving existing spaces. More employment space (to support the weekday economy). Small rise office/workshop/studios.
  • Education re: litter, manners and neighbourliness.
  • New buildings are a good thing, as they reflect the changing nature of the area. They need to be sympathetic and well designed though.
  • Ideally, plan for building more houses owned by co-operatives / Peabody [Peabody Trust] etc../ shared ownership / as well as standard private buyers.
  • More trees and grass.
  • Width restriction for large articulated lorries that use west end lane like a motorway.
  • Building in keeping in colour of visible materials. Buildings not to exceed current height in area. New buildings not to encroach on busy pavements that are narrow. Not to obscure light and pedestrian space near train stations. Not to increase density any MORE – turning the village into urban sprawl.
  • Better community facilities such as a hall for meetings that does not cost a lot.
  • Maintaining and improving the area as a good place to do business, improve quality of life for residents but also ensure the area plays its part in providing more housing for the borough and London as a whole. In particular this means a progressive approach to promoting good-quality developments (including ‘high rise’ buildings); a more mainstream high street with a better mix of shops, restaurants and other business space – accessible by car as well as public transport;
  • The provision of allotments – ideally on Gondar Gardens reservoir site.
  • More shops – mostly idependent but a Boots would be great.
  • Restictions on refurbishment of Victorian houses including the introduction of new basements, loft extensions and paving over front gardens. Prioritize the building of affordable housing on existing brownfield sites. Stopping people selling off their back gardens to developers. Retaining Gondar Gardens reservoir as a protected open space.
  • More flexible shortterm parking to allow small local shopkeepers to be more successful. Daytime parking restrictions affect shops but not restaurants whose main business is in the evenings. Traffic controls through West Hampstead to slow down traffic and to encourage them to consider pedestrians. (20mph?) More play facilities for over 5s. Better street cleaning. Our side streets are filthy and much of it comes from overflowing bins outside properties. (Enforcement?).
  • Reduction in street signage.
  • High quality modern design and architecture should be promoted but should be in sympathy with neighbouring buildings. The promotion of public transport and pedestrian movement is important.
  • A coherent plan for street trees.
  • Allow more people to convert their front gardens to driveways. Create more parking spaces. Develop underground car parks. Reduce the parking limitation zones. Make it easier for people to drive to our area to support our shops without fear of parking limits or fines.
  • A small pond.
  • A limit to the height of buildings. A higher proportion of social housing than is usually offered currently by developers. Linked Section 106 agreements which would contribute towards extra school places.
  • Space/units for small businesses and start-ups. there are no spaces like this anywhere this side of London. especially for people who want to create/make; carpenters, mechanics, crafts etc. building plans for housing around West Hampstead are too large. If you accommodate these people, where do you think they will park cars – even if its just for unloading/taxis, etc. west end lane will be grid-locked. school: another school on the c11 route is not a good idea. have any of you ever tried to get on a c11 when children need to get to school? bigger bus and more of them pls.
  • More youth clubs, or whatever the modern equivalent is.
  • Not sure.

Q2. What are the things you like about the area?

  • Good transport links. Proximity to central London
  • The location – and community feel.
  • The trees. The cafés (even though there isn’t one that is truly great). The green. How you can walk down the street at 9pm any night and it feels relaxed, with people sitting outside, it feels safe and it feels authentic… The sense that it could change and new, interesting, friendly shops/cafés/bars/art places or anything could open at anytime.
  • The openness with few high rise buildings, the safety, the numerous facilities for children.
  • Village feel, transport, not pretentious, good mix of people.
  • The traditional architecture.
  • I like the fact that there is a good balance between long, mid and short term locals and age groups. It provides a balanced feel to the area and maintains the village-y feel without it becoming too cliquey.
  • I like the village feel which is rapidly disappearing. It used to be an area of artisans and that feeling has gone.
  • The self-contained village feel – the wonderful local police – good community relations – huge effort made by existing residents to welcome new residents. The little bits of green space – the good rail connections. The family homes and the fact that families and young children still come to this area to make a home and keep it vibrant. Our good schools.
  • The transport facilities. The village feel of Mill Lane, independent shops, diversity of people in the area.
  • I love the feel of West Hampstead (apart from the West End Lane ‘parking lot’).
  • People used to be friendly and neighbours used to know one another. This has changed with property being rented and the resulting moving population.  West Hampstead still has a village atmosphere but, parking is a problem here. Travel is excellent with the new and attractive station.
  • It has a quieter feel, not busy like Kilburn.

Q3. What are the things you like about your street?

  • It’s a main road with continuous traffic and a bus route, frequently snarled up with jams so there is not much to like.
  • People are friendly and helpful.
  • The trees The mansion blocks – high density housing done well! The synagogue building (though I’ve never been inside – would like to). Its proximity to West End Lane, but relative quiet. The style of houses. Its safety – I can walk along it and feel safe mostly.
  • It is very quiet and I can nearly always find a parking space.
  • I don’t as I live on Fortune Green Road and it’s like a motorway for huge lorries. I suppose I love the large trees the most as they so beautiful.
  • The cemetery, Nautilus.
  • A lot of people I have known for 45 years +
  • It is changing for the better.
  • I like a) the attractive and symmetric architecture and the relative absence of front dormers; b) the lack of people parking in their front gardens.
  • In my humble opinion one of the most attractive streets in London – and I love that it is a street you would be hard pushed to find outside of the capital!
  • The people. I hate the narrow, old and tatty pavements. There should NOT be any trees on Weech Road. Fortune Green is moments away and provides ample trees. The pavements are too narrow. REMOVE the trees. They’re not wanted and not needed.
  • Having a park and a Tescos!

Q4. What things would like to protect in your area?

  • Parks and open spaces. Independent shops. Employment.small businesses
  • Trees. A few years ago new trees were planted. Unfortunately they were the wrong type and some have now been replaced others have disappeared and the spaced filled with a concrete slab.
  • The independent shops/cafés/bars that are left… The trees / the green. Cafés and bars that allow people to sit on the street. The public transport.
  • Trees, fewer pointless duplicate lampposts.
  • Architecture and the property frontage, stopping estate agents signs, extend conservation areas. Improve and maintain green spaces including West End Green and Kilburn Grange.
  • Green spaces, such as they are.
  • The 2 red old BT phone boxes by fortune green and have them freshly painted.
  • The look and feel of the streets. Not allowing houses to lose their original design integrity.
  • Change is part of growth and development. Parks and open spaces should be protected.
  • More police.
  • I’m happy for some development but a more open discussion about the costs and benefits.
  • The tree lined roads. No more housing.
  • The park and all nearby beautiful architecture. Replace the cheap shoddy lamps with traditional lighting fitting for the Hampstead area, Repair/replace all pavements. This is not trivial. It makes walking for the elderly more dangerous. It also makes it dangerous for walking with babies in a pushchair. The uneven surfaces cause people to trip and hurt themselves.
  • Views. There are too many big trees. I’d like to see them pruned more strongly, and more often. I’m talking both Council street trees and huge trees at the bottoms of virtually all adjoining gardens in Parsifal Road. (It’s a problem now we’re in the West End Green conservation area.). And light, again the trees’ fault. I’d pass a law saying no tree branch should ever obscure the light from a street lamp.
  • Not sure.

Q5. How do you think the area should develop in the future?

  • It would be good if the area could be developed to encourage settling rather than transience by strengthening the sense of community, identity and belonging. There will always be movement but the loss of family homes in favour of studios/bedsits, cafés/ low quality food outlets replacing shops selling quality products is turning the area into a dormitory town with a clone high street.
  • West Hampstead is great, but shows its heritage. It needs to develop infrastructure and shops/restaurants: – a couple more pubs (better quality than the current dives) – why not a Wetherspoons? – decent sit-down ociali/thai restaurants – a proper fish and chip shop more central than Nautilus.
  • More houses / flats (not just for buy to let). I am renting. In the future I will likely move out of London as I can’t afford to buy here. Local and city-wide population is growing. More well designed midrises make sense! If you look at the area – it is dominated by beautiful mid-high density housing – the Edwardian mansion flats. Lets have our version of these now. That might be high rise but well done tower blocks, it might be something along the lines of modern mansion flats but on new pieces of land. There is a reasonable block on Kingdon road like this. New housing would not spoil the village atmosphere.
  • It should be more cycling friendly.
  • I think there should be a focus on developing small businesses within the area, both so that the immediate community is better served and feels less need to go outside of the area and also so that people from other areas are encouraged to visit and spend their money. Currently parking is a problem for visitors though and any removal of resident’s parking to facilitate visitor parking would be unwelcome as it would cause issues for the residents.
  • Tricky, it feels fairly dense already.
  • I think the area should look to develop and preserve its past and not rush into putting in more and more dwellings in every spare space. I’m not unaware of the problems of housing generally. However, if we increase dwellings and developments in the future, I believe we are building in social problems for the future.
  • A big notice board in the high street to keep everyone up to date.
  • Stop cramming thousands around the station. Have a thought for quality of life and safely of those using station.
  • It should evolve from the present with the emphasis on small scale housing renewal.
  • Better use needs to be made of the commercial areas we have in the area – parts of Fortune Green, Mill Lane and Broadhurst Gardens are having a difficult time sustaining local businesses.
  • Mixed developments including housing, shops, bars and public spaces. Better interchange between stations.
  • Very very slowly and not at all until all the isuess with schoosls, water, transport, cars, noise, power and healthcare have been resolved with the council.
  • Stop too many expensive private housing projects, introduce rent controls for private landlords, stop the selling off of the few remaining council owned properties and make the location accessible to ordinary people – we are being overwhelmed by rich people from the City who have no commitment to the area or social services.
  • There should be sensitive development to ensure that intensification of accommodation does not exacerbate problems with rubbish, parking and noise. The existing style of building should be maintained.
  • Give more prominence to the needs of children and young people who are not well provided for.
  • Organically in conjunction with local residents, but with an emphasis on progress and not a misty-eyed past.
  • I don’t think West Hampstead should be a museum. It has to make a contribution towards providing additonal housing but the focus should be on affordable housing not on piedàterres for the rich. I would like something about improving the traffic flow through the areas around the West Hampstead stations and would support a major development there provided the quality was appropriate.
  • I think we need to put housing on the agenda as it is only if more housing is built that prices will come down relatively and young people will have a chance to get their feet on the housing ladder.
  • The interchange area should be a gateway to the area that we could be proud of. That area provides an opportunity for high quality, high density housing which could take West Hampstead as a whole up a level. Planners should be relaxed about the possible amalgamation of retail units to attract more A1 multiples.
  • Yes, new housing but not so high to overwhelm present buildings. More space for short term parking for shops and more space for pedestrians. Awareness on how much sign/street furniture there is in the main streets.
  • Put railings in front of the West Hampstead Thameslink, People come off the train mobile in hand and walk straight out in front of cars and cyclist.
  • Less crime (robberies).
  • More emphasis on people’s gardens, some are left trashy.
  • Less cars – the pollution, dirt and smell from them is very off-putting and very un-villagey.
  • The area, especially along the high street has started to look run down over the past 4 years. Investment needs to be concentrated into reviving the high streets of West End Lane and Mill lane and creating a vibrant community for shopping, socialising and relaxing.

Q6. Where should new development in the area be located?

  • Wherever there is space. Its a pity that one-fifth of West Hampstead ward is currently a car park (O2 Centre). Maybe development could be built over the railway lines so they are all underground!
  • The area around the stations should be tidied up and redeveloped with commercial units. The triangular area between the railway lines should be conservatively redeveloped.
  • I don’t know if i’m honest, i’m not a town planner / have access to all the data. Depends what the new development is too but: Possibly… by the transport hubs. In South Hampstead as walking up to the tube seems less busy than down West End Lane. The overground there is dead, but its a great line. Wherever there is land that is not being loved. Not just new – how about using properties that are empty? There are a lot of them. Iverson road? Back of Homebase?
  • There are patches of poorly maintained housing, especially in Sumatra Road that could be redeveloped in an appealing way.
  • In Cricklewood!
  • I don’t know where or if any new development should be permitted.
  • Around the train tracks and on Blackburn Road perhaps, but I really don’t know where they will find the space for new development…
  • In car park of O2 centre or possibly in Barnet where they have more space.
  • Where there is poorly used space such as along Maygrove Road.
  • The areas around the railway lines are obviously underutilized and should be the focus of sensible development. The whole of Blackburn road could be better utilized with a redevelopment incorporating both residential and commercial facilities. I don’t think there should be too many restrictions in terms of redevelopment. The example of the new Emmanuel school and residential development on Fortune Green are good examples of what can be achieved on existing sites.
  • It shouldn’t. Unless rundown properties need to be pulled down. You have to be realistic when the best thing is no more major development otherwise the area becomes soulless and loses appeal.
  • That manky area near the station.
  • Somewhere in London that has the space and infrastructure.
  • Renovation and conversion of old buildings should be prioritised instead of new build. One exception is that I would love to see the Sagar Building [Alfred Court on Fortune Green] demolished as it has ruined everyone’s view and looks like a prison. It could be replaced with an attractive building that was in tune with the surroundings.
  • I think encouragement, possibly financial, could be given to home-owners under-occupying their own property to release part of their homes for letting/conversion.
  • The reservoir is the last remaining undeveloped green site and would be an ideal place for open space for children but has sat empty for years. There was a small play area there in the early 80s which was closed down. If agreement is given to residential development there then the planning gain needs to be better open space facilities for local people. Please no more gated communities.
  • The development area should be constrained to the interchange.
  • High quality architecture should be welcomed all over the area.
  • Spaced evenly – everywhere. Society develops. That’s life!
  • Not sure.

1There were 180 responses from people spread across the area, with a slight bias to the northern half. Some basic demographic questions helped assess how representative the sample was, and it turned out to be moderately in line with the data from the 2001 census 2001, although with a strong bias towards responses from owner-occupiers, older people and long-term residents, who probably are largely the same group.

Each dot marks approximate address of a respondent.
The border is that of West Hampstead and Fortune Green wards

Public meeting Oct 22nd

I know normally I’m exhorting you to go to Kilburn for comedy on a Monday night, but on October 22nd I suggest you head down a bit later. Why? Because there’s a public meeting that is really worth turning up to if you want to understand and contribute to the shaping of West Hampstead over the years to come.

WHAT (the local action group) in conjunction with the West Hampsead Neighbourhood Development Forum, is holding a public meeting to bring everyone up to speed with how the NDF is evolving and, more crucially, to set the boundaries of the area to be covered.

This is a subject I’ve touched on recently (read the comments on that link to get up to speed with the latest), and nothing has yet been finalised, especially in terms of where the southern boundary of the Neighbourhood Development Plan should be. You might believe, as I do, that as the area around the stations is likely to see the greatest development pressures the people who live both north and south of the train lines should very much be included. However, as things stand, the cutoff point for the plan could well be the tube line itself, so those living within spitting distance of the O2 car park, for example, may have little influence on plans to redevelop it, while people living the best part of a mile to the north may be far more involved.

You don’t need to do any background reading to come along – all will be explained. Help me lower the average age of attendees, find out what’s happening in West Hampstead, and have your say.The “other speakers” mentioned below are from Urban Design, Planning Aid and Camden’s planning department.

Democratic paradox south of the tube line

The local Neighbourhood Development Forum (which is now on Twitter by the way), held its latest meeting last week. I just perused the minutes and was intrigued by a paradox of democracy.

Walk with me.

The NDF has to determine the precise boundaries for its local plan. Ward boundaries are not necessarily the solution, but at the moment they’re the easiest option and the NDF covers West Hampstead and Fortune Green wards. This means that, for example, Broadhurst Gardens is not covered because it’s in Swiss Cottage ward.

According to the minutes of September’s NDF meeting, WHGARA – the residents association for the streets between Lowfield Road, West End Lane, Hemstal and Sherriff Roads – has not yet decided whether to support the Forum, but would make its decision on October 9th. I have discussed before the psychological and physical divide felt by some, but not all, residents who live south of the tube line between them and the rest of West Hampstead.

NDF members said they thought it would be hard for WHGARA to express its views on the development of the area, particularly the Interchange, if they excluded themselves from the Forum; WHGARA’s representative said she “thought the Forum was pro-development and didn’t have much support in the south of the West Hampstead area.”

James Earl, the NDF chair, said that if WHGARA decided not to support the Forum, the southern boundary would probably move north to be the railway line.

This raises a couple of issues. First, I’d like to see the evidence of the support or lack of for the Forum in the WHGARA area. My unproven hunch is that most people have probably never heard of it, let alone have a view on it. Second, although I accept that residents assocations generally represent their area, they are not necessarily representative of an area, so to my mind it seems odd that if an RA chooses not to support an initiative, this automatically means that area is excluded.

But this is not the paradox.

Keep walking with me.

Later, the minutes explain that the October 22nd NDF meeting will be open to the public and run in conjunction with WHAT. “Members said it was important to invite and involve more people than ‘the usual suspects’. There was a desire for publicity to be at the new farmers’ market; in shops and local businesses; and at other public events. Suggestions for poster locations also included on trees; doctors’ surgeries; schools; nurseries; community centres; parks; and cafes.”

Excellent – I wholeheartedly approve, and you can be sure I’ll mention it on here too. Now we come to the paradox. You live in the WHGARA area, but have never heard of it- or it’s not your thing perhaps. You’re browing the cauliflowers at the farmers’ market when you notice a flyer for a public meeting about shaping the future of West Hampstead. This sounds more interesting. You toddle along, but then find all too quickly that it will have no bearing on your immediate streetscape because some people you don’t know have decided not to support it.

Moving beyond the usual suspects is surely the right thing to do – the process should be open to as many people as are interested. So why then, is something as important as the boundaries for the whole plan dependent on the powers that be at WHGARA? More bluntly: what sort of majority off what sort of turnout is needed at a WHGARA meeting to determine whether it’s a yay or a nay? Do leave a comment if you know the answer to this question.

I would urge the NDF to stick to its guns and use the two ward boundaries as the basis for the plan. Even though I don’t think it’s perfect, I remain unconvinved that the lack of support of a residents association (should that be the eventual outcome) is enough reason to shrink the size of the area.

And there’s the paradox. Democracy should be about opening up decision making to the people, but it’s also pragmatically about electing decision-makers and abiding by their rules. Yet at this hyperlocal scale, the two seem to have the potential to clash.

You can stop walking now.

Love it or loathe it?

At the Jester Festival a couple of weeks back arguably the most interesting stall was a rather low-key affair. When I walked past it was manned by James Earl, chair of the Neighbourhood Development Forum. On his table were a set of photos of local building and spaces and a sheet against each one for a “love it” “hate it ” or “no comment” tick. West Hampstead being West Hampstead, some people of course wanted to write a few words as well – even in the “no comment” box.

The idea of all this was to get a sense of what sort of developments people felt were appropriate for the area as James and the rest of the NDF begin to draw up the Neighbourhood Development Plan.

The results are interesting, not least because they don’t always show a consensus, which is both encouraging (diversity of opinions is generally good) and worrying (how will locals ever agree on what we want). I’ve ranked them below are in descending order of “love” votes (which does not correlate exactly with the number of “hate” votes – Emmanuel School’s new building in particular was vehemently despised by many, but still attracted a fair number of “love” votes).

I’ve included most of the comments. I’m not sure how I feel about the vitriol with which some people want to pull down buildings in which other people live. Overall, there’s a clear sense that everyone likes the traditional architecture of the area, while the rather monolithic structures such as the Travis Perkins building are almost universally loathed. This building is owned by Camden and is up for redevelopment in the not too distant future, so you shouldn’t have to look at it for too much longer – nevertheless, I await the outcry over the proposed redevelopment.

People are much more divided over the smaller-scale modern buildings – some appreciating their design aesthetic, others seeming to claim that anything with a more bauhaus feel is automatically ugly. Of course many modern buildings, although offering less living space, are often far more environmentally friendly than the large high-ceilinged Victorian and Edwardian mansion blocks and homes that dominate the area.

James decided not to include the artist’s impressions of the 187-199 West End Lane development, with its set of tower blocks or the student accommodation that’s under construction down Blackburn Road at the moment. I think everyone who cared has probably expressed their view on the former, while the latter seemed to pass relatively unnoticed, despite being of a similar height.

There are still a couple of days left to fill in James’s survey about the local area, and it’s well worth doing as this will help inform the Development Plan, which is being drafted as we speak.

Ok, on with the results…. I’m sure you’ll have your own comments to add at the end.

Mill Lane Shops
Love: 118 Need more; Hooray, lovely, more like this on Fortune Green Rd please
No comment: 3
Hate: 0
Library seating
Love: 101 Good but should have been 3 or 4 separate benches; nice; very nice; excellent
No comment: 9 No cleaning provided, now a rubbish dump, but an improvement; waste of money during a recession; Money donated by private donor; waste of money improvement
Hate: 1 Should have spent it on books
New Thameslink station
Love: 86 Very nice; great design; modern – nice; great new street scene; need benches please; longer to get to but looks nice; we should use the space for a weekly market
No comment: 3Could have been more creative in using the space inside and outside; how about some seats; looks ok; need benches
Hate: 4 Lighting not good at night
View down Hillfield Road
Love: 79 Gorgeous
No comment: 8 Beautiful; shame about the estate agent’s board; ok
Hate: 2
West End Green area
Love: 76 Gorgeous
No comment: 3 A mess, should be improved for the community; dull paving; too much dog poo; the green needs doing up
Hate: 4 pigeons
Leafy Solent Road
Love: 73 Gorgeous
No comment: 2 OK
Hate: 3 too many cars
New houses on Mill Lane
Love: 66 Very nice; sustainable
No comment: 10 Ok; great; clean design; nice design but extortionate for the size of the houses; very small, very expensive
Hate: 37 Should have had front gardens not drives; ugly; does not fit in with environment
Extra floor added to mansion block
Love: 51 Blends; ok; well done; very good
No comment: 21 Didn’t know it had been done; didn’t notice; it goes with existing building
Hate: 3
Mill Apartments (under construction)
Love: 39 Blends in well
No comment: 13 Ok; not sure; average
Hate: 11 too tall
Infill house on Ravenshaw St.
Love: 36 Love it; great; lovely; very good
No comment: 17 not bad; half-good half-bad; brick fits in, windows ok, maybe juts out too much; why white?
Hate: 18 poor; not in keeping; too modern for the street
Zero-carbon house on Ranulf Rd
Love: 25
No comment: 18 Nice, but how sustainable is the wood? Interesting
Hate: 24 ugly; took up too much road and pavement on a blind corner
Emmanuel School
Love: 35 Colour of bricks will stand test of time; needed regardless of appearance; well proportioned, well detailed; not bad; not love but it’s pretty good; very good; great design
No comment: 16 Not sure about purple bricks; brickwork rather dark; brickwork wrong, design ok; why were red bricks not used; great it’s extended but bad design
Hate: 51 Don’t like dismal grey brick; no red bricks; too near street; ugly; grey; frontage too far out, too high; out of character; disgusting brickwork; looks like architect’s office in Berlin; shame on you Camden; industrial building
Flats on Kingdon Rd
Love: 19
No comment: 17 Does not go with red brick
Hate: 57 Too high
New houses on Gondar Gardens
Love: 16 Ok here; quite nice look and good-sized windows; successful infill
No comment: 11Ok some issues with brick; wrong design does not match the surroundings
Hate: 64 looks like an industrial building not a home; ugly; too much grey
New house on Mill Lane
Love: 10
No comment: 8
Hate: 54 Awful; ugly; not in keeping; poor; urgh; terrible eyesore
Office conversion on Sumatra Rd
Love: 9
No comment: 18 Ok
Hate: 29 ugly; more trees; shockingly ugly and cheap looking
Ellerton Tower on Mill Lane
Love: 7 Classic Sydney Cook era architecture; looks like a giant snail but it is monumental; love it, from the inside top floor
No comment: 7 Don’t like it; monster ugly
Hate: 78 Hideous knock it down please; vile; demolish now!
Paved-over gardens
Love: 6 who cares; none of our business
No comment: 28 Ok; nice garden to sit in
Hate: 34 environmentally unsound; shame!; ok; bad for foundations; awful; nasty; too much run off
New building in Maygrove Rd
Love: 5 
No comment: 8 good functionality; very poor exterior design; low brick wall is security risk for residents
Hate: 33 needs trees; front looks life office building
Buldings on Maygrove Rd
Love: 2
No comment: 13 Ok
Hate: 32
Travis Perkins building
Love: 2
No comment: 8 Rather indifferent
Hate: 74 Demolish; horrible desing; height

Have your say on local planning

If youv’e been following the birth of the Neighbourhood Development Forum, then you’ll know that the next step is to start putting together the actual plan. This is a document that will, unlike Camden’s Place Shaping document, have actual statutory powers. It must, however, be coherent will all other planning frameworks, which is basically a posh way of saying that it can’t be anti-development.

If you were at the Jester Festival, you may have seen the NDF stall, where chair James Earl was asking people to say what they thought of various developments and buildings. When I swung by on Sunday afternoon it was noticeable that views were very mixed. Such diversity is good, I would argue, but it also means that if you don’t take an active role in helping to shape West Hampstead’s future, then you risk leaving it to people with diametrically opposed views to your own.

To this end, can I suggest you fill in this survey https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BQNWN5B about the area, and have a think about what to say in the open questions section so that when the plan is being devised it can truly reflect the viewpoints of the community and not just the few people who always fill in such forms.

Neighbourhood Development Forum gets own website

I’ve mentioned the newly formed Neighbourhood Development Forum a few times before – it’s being set up so that locals can have a little bit more say into local planning issues.

The group has just launched a website, so I no longer feel the need to post the full minutes of meetings, but I will certainly continue to link to them when they are published and will keep West Hampstead Life readers up to speed with developments.

The minutes of April’s meeting aren’t quite up yet, but I have had a sneak preview, and below is an abridged version of item no.3, which is worth reading as it sets out what the Forum and the Plan can and can’t do based on a presentation by Camden planning officer Jennifer Walsh and answers she gave to questions. (For much more about the general concept, I’d suggest exploring the NDP website in more detail).

  • NDPs have to fit in with Camden planning policy, the London Plan, the national planning framework, plus some aspects of EU legislation.
  • Once the Plan is submitted to Camden Council, it then goes to an independent planning inspector for approval. If it is found to be sound there is then a referendum in the area covered by a plan; approval is by simple majority of those who vote. The government has yet to publish the rules about the referenda, so the process is not currently clear.
  • If the NDP is approved in a referendum, it becomes at statutory planning document, sitting alongside the Camden plan.
  • The NDF can make comments on any current planning application, just like any other local group.
    The NDP has to fit into the national planning policy of ‘pro-growth’. Questions were asked about the growth predicted in both wards; it’s not clear if the Camden plan goes into this much detail for the two wards.
  • Once the NDP is approved, it will be used as a framework for development by developers.
    There were questions about how specific the NDP can be – it can’t have a blanket ban on basement conversions; it can mention a general height limit and require new developments are in keeping with existing buildings (the example given was red/grey bricks); it is difficult to be too prescriptive in architectural terms.
  • The NDF will need to liaise with Conservation Areas in our area.
  • Questions were asked about high streets/shops – we can’t regulate who occupies each shop (eg we can’t have a ban on new Tescos); we can have design guidance (eg for shop frontages); we can seek to promote diversification of shops & facilities.
  • Questions were asked about how we express social provisions – eg for schools, health facilities. We need to get the opinions of schools and health centres/surgeries. We are still awaiting data from the 2011 census; information from the 2001 census will be circulated, although this may be significantly out of date.
  • The NDP needs to consider where future S106 payments [Ed: that’s the extra money developers pay to the council in theory to mitigate any financial impact the development has on public services/public realm] should be directed; into what services & facilities we would like to see more of.
  • A new Camden council initiative is seeking to produce a ‘Local List’ for the borough. This is a list of undesignated (ie not currently listed) ‘heritage assets’ – this can be buildings, monuments, sites, places, areas or landscapes – which merit consideration in the planning process. These can be listed in the NDP. It might be possible to protect certain views.
  • The NDP can be used to raise issues like the need for a permanent area available for markets.
    In terms of the number of licensed premises, licensing is generally separate from planning, but there is some overlap.

It will be interesting to see how much influence these Plans really do have when it comes to larger planning decisions. The whole process is obviously brand new and although such groups are springing up around the country now, even the pilot schemes haven’t been in place long enough to give a clear indication of how it works in practice. Lets hope it’s not just a talking shop, nor that the people giving up their time to put all this together end up being frustrated. A few early successes in driving positive change would help enormously in generating support for the idea.

Neighbourhood Development Forum moves forward

Following the first meeting in January, and enthusiasm for a Neighbourhood Development Plan for West Hampstead, a second meeting of the Forum was held at the end of February. The minutes are below.

Personally (and I haven’t been able to attend the meetings, so can’t blame anyone for this), I think it’s a shame that the southern boundary of West Hampstead ward delineates the edge of the area being considered (see point 6 below). There are pockets of both Swiss Cottage and Kilburn wards that could be considered part of West Hampstead (certainly in comparison to parts of Fortune Green ward, which abut Cricklewood Broadway).

I like the fact, however, that the emphasis is on making this process open to individuals rather than just the residents associations and community groups (see point 7). Although these groups often work tirelessly on various campaigns, they don’t necessarily reflect the area’s true demographics. If you’re interested in being involved with the NDP then do join in – it is early days for the whole concept nationally, so it’s hard to say now whether the impact will be substantive but, in my view, it presents a good opportunity in my view to help shape the area you live in.

1. Welcome & Introductions:
James welcomed everyone to the second meeting of the Forum.

2. Minutes of the last meeting – 25th January:
There were no corrections.

3. Further questions on NDPs:
Michael asked what NDPs would look like. James said it wasn’t clear as there are no final examples to look at; some are being drawn up in pilot areas. Sue said research online can give an idea of what people in different places are aiming at. James said the finalised regulations, which will set out how NDPs work and need to be established, won’t be published until early April.

4. Initial work – recent developments:
James said he was aware that some people were keen to start work on the plan; there were complaints that the first meeting focussed too much on process. He said he wanted to take up a suggestion from Mark Stonebanks to start work on an initial project, which will aim to form the basis of the Plan. It will focus on looking at existing and recent developments in WH&FG. James asked for volunteers to come forward and offer to get involved. It’s hoped this work will be reported back to the Forum in March or April.

John said such a project needed to set out what is/isn’t acceptable and give examples. Sue said the work could reflect the recently published draft Place Shaping document eg the desire to protect the ‘village feel’ of the area.

5. Place shaping workshop – 8th February:
This was held to discuss Camden Council’s draft Place Shaping Plan (PSP) for West Hampstead. The PSP aims to reflect the views of local residents in terms of what they want the future shape of WH to be. It will be given to developers planning to build new developments in the area. It was questioned whether developers would pay any attention to the PSP or the NDP – unlike PSPs, NDPs will have a statutory role in the planning process. Cllr Bryant said the PSP would also be used in the development of council owned and private development sites. It was pointed out the PSP is a very generalise document setting out ‘an outline vision’ for the area. There was a feeling that the PSP should mention a future NDP – James said he would feedback this comment. Sue said the final version of the PSP would be useful when it comes to writing the NDP; she said we should aim to make the two documents mutually supportive.

6. Agreement on area to be covered by the NDP:
Following on from the discussions at the last meeting, it was agreed to largely stick to the existing ward boundaries of FG&WH. In the east, it was agreed to keep the boundary as Finchley Road. In the north, it was agreed to keep to the northern boundary of Camden borough. In the West, there was discussion about Cricklewood and Kilburn – James said he would find out about any plans for a Cricklewood NDP; John proposed excluding the Kilburn High Road from our area. In the south, it was agreed to stick to the current southern boundary of WH ward. A final decision on the NDP boundaries will need to be made at the next Forum meeting, so that our application can be made to Camden Council in early April.

7. Constitution:
A draft constitution had been circulated to members ahead of the meeting. There was discussion about membership of the Forum and whether it should be for individuals and/or groups. A number of speakers said they did not want the Forum to be a federation of associations, arguing it should be open to all residents regardless of whether or not they are members of a local group. The majority view was that membership should be for individuals, with groups invited to support/donate to the Forum. There was also discussion about a membership fee and how this would be imposed, and whether donations should be requested instead. James said money was needed for room hire and printing. There was also discussion about voting and how to prevent one particular group or part of the area dominating the Forum.  There were questions about how meetings would work and whether there was a need for steering committee.

James said he had noted the views expressed and would rewrite sections of the draft. A second draft will be circulated with the minutes and further comments invited. A final version will be put to a vote and adopted at the next meeting.

8. Funding:
A number of residents associations have offered to contribute the £50 suggested at the previous meeting. Funds will be collected once a Treasurer is elected and a bank account opened. One group had asked to see a budget; James said it was too early to be able to draw up a financial plan for the Forum. Nancy suggested bidding for additional funding. Money might also be available from S106 agreements with developers.

9. Future plans – March/April meetings:
James said the March meeting would vote to adopt the constitution and elect officers. An officer from Camden Council’s Place Shaping team would be invited. In April, a Planning officer will be invited to discuss the NDP rules and regulations.

10. Do we continue?:
It was agreed to continue with the Forum and go ahead with the NDP.

11. Any other business:
Camden Council’s Development Control Committee will consider the 187-199 West End Lane proposed development at a meeting on Thursday 1st March.
Gillian said WH councillors were canvassing views on the proposed development at 163 Iverson Road (the site of the former garden centre).
There are plans for an 18 day music festival on Kilburn Grange at the same time as the Olympic Games; Camden Council is asking for comments.
There is a London Civic Forum event to discuss NDPs on Saturday 3rd March.
Details were circulated about proposals to redevelop the King’s College site on Kidderpore Avenue.

12. Next meeting:
The next meeting will be on Monday 26th March at 7.30pm – venue tbc.

First meeting for West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Plan

Under the Localism Act, communities can form a Neighbourhood Development Plan. Given the extent of potential development in West Hampstead, James Earl from Fordwych Residents Association has proposed that we form one. The first meeting to get the ball rolling on this took place on January 25th. James forwarded me the minutes.

1. Welcome & Introductions:
James thanked everyone for coming & thanked the Sidings Community Centre for hosting the first meeting of the Forum.

2. Election of interim chair:
James was elected with no objections; there were no other candidates.

3. Membership, future elections & constitution:
It was agreed to keep the Forum as inclusive as possible. Anyone living or working in the area should be able to attend meetings and contribute to the Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP).

James said a future meeting would elect a chair, vice-chair, secretary & treasurer. There was a discussion about sharing or revolving posts and the Forum not being hierarchical, but it was agreed that permanent officers would be needed to lead the work of the Forum.

As part of the requirements set down for NDPs any group drawing up a plan needs a constitution. A group in Kentish Town has already drawn up a document for their group. James said he would draft a constitution for the next meeting & circulate to those interested beforehand.

4. Introduction to Neighbourhood Development Plans:
James outlined the basic idea behind NDPs, which are set out in the Localism Act, which comes into force in April 2012. A number of points were raised:

  • It was pointed that it was a resident led process, not a council-led or top down process.
  • Any NDP needs to fit in with the Camden Council Local Development Framework (LDF) & the Mayor of London’s London Plan (LP).
  • An NDP can’t propose less development – but can set out where future development should be located.
  • Residents can list things they don’t want – eg very high buildings.
  • There was concern that an NDP wouldn’t carry much weight & would not affect new developments.
  • An NDP is a chance to be more locally focussed than the LDF.
  • An NDP could link in with the Camden Council ‘Place Shaping Plan’ for WH & the Area Action forums.
  • If we don’t draw up a plan, someone else (eg a developer) could.
  • The area around the railway stations marked as an area of intensification in the LP can’t be overturned.
  • The NDP could be an opportunity for developers to give more back to the community – there were complaints that the current Section 106 agreements are a closed process.
  • The NDP will not stop current developments but will be able to shape future developments.
  • The NDP needs to be a forward thinking document that considers infrastructure too – such as transport, schools, health services etc.
  • The Forum has the chance to create a positive document that has a strong and lasting effect on our area.
  • The Forum can usefully bring together people and RAs from different parts of the local area and give residents a stronger and unified voice.

5. Camden Council workshop – 24th January:
Those who attended said there were both positive and negative voices about NDPs – there is a need to be realistic about what a NDP can achieve. People should go into the process with their eyes open.

When NDPs come into force they will have a formal role in the planning process and can be referred to when commenting on/objecting to planning applications. The Council are keen for Forums to work with them and engage in a dialogue. Forums need to be clear about what they want to achieve and be aware of the other changes to the planning system. The Council will have to approve the proposed NDP area; there can’t be overlapping plans. The Plan will need to be approved in a referendum, so will need to attract wide support.

It was pointed out that NDPs were originally designed for villages wanting more development.

There is a surprising amount of land in our area that could be developed in the future – although new developments can also take place when existing buildings are knocked down.

6. Issues to be covered by the Plan:
James set out a range of different issues that could be covered by the NDP. As well as future development, it could include – traffic/street issues; businesses; green space; community facilities; local services etc.

Residents are keen to focus on the ‘village feel’ of the area and in particular the shops & businesses on West End Lane & Mill Lane.

The Forum will need to identify the priorities for the area and its residents/businesses.

It was suggested that the Forum could look at recent development in the area and what does & doesn’t work.

It was agreed to ask a Camden Council planning officer to a future meeting to ask questions.

7. Area to be covered by the Plan:
James said the original proposal for the area used the current ward boundaries for Fortune Green and West Hampstead. In the East, this is Finchley Road; in the North, the northern boundary of Camden Council; in West, Cricklewood Broadway/Shoot-up Hill/Kllburn High Road; & in the South, part railway line, part streets in South Hampstead.

There was a discussion about excluding Cricklewood/Kilburn areas, in case they wanted to come up with their own NDP for the high streets.

In the NW, some of the streets might want to tie in with Barnet.

It was suggested consulting with CRASH on the southern boundary.

There was a suggestion to keep the Plan focussed on the area around the interchange, as this is the area affected by big developments. Others felt it would be more useful to bring the wider community together, and people living away from the interchange area were affected by it.

On a show of hands, a clear majority agreed to proceed by including the full area covered by the two wards.

8. Proposed timescale:
James said that because of the number of developments being proposed in the area, it was best to get on with the Plan as soon as possible. He said he thought it was realistic to have the Plan drawn up within the next year, with a referendum in spring 2013. Those present agreed that it would be wise to move quickly and start work on the Plan sooner rather than later.

9. Funding:
The Forum will need money to pay for meeting venues, printing, administration etc. There might also be a need to employ professional help with the plan. There is no money at present and no money from the Council. It was suggested local RAs could each contribute £50 to get the Forum going. S106 funding could be sought from the current developments. Local businesses could be asked to contribute.

10. Other issues:
There is a Camden Council West Hampstead Place Shaping workshop on February 8th. Those attending can report back to the next Forum meeting. [Ed: my report on that workshop]

There was a call to continue to oppose the current proposed developments in the area; if they are rejected, the sites could be covered by the Plan when it comes into force.

11. Future meetings:
James said he would like to have monthly meetings to help get the Forum and the process established.

The next meeting will look to agree on the area & constitution – plus initial work on the Plan.

The next meeting will be on Tuesday 28th February at 7.30pm – venue tbc.

Planning for the future of West Hampstead

We are entering a new phase in the evolution of West Hampstead. Does that sound like hyperbole? Well, there are so many large-scale plans waiting to be submitted that if they were all to be implemented as they stand, the look and feel of the area would change substantially.

On Monday there was a meeting chaired by Cllrs Keith Moffitt (West Hampstead) and Flick Rea (Fortune Green) at the behest of James Earl from the Fordwych Road Residents Association. James’s idea is to bring together all the local RAs, and other community groups such as WHAT, to form a Neighbourhood Development Plan.

I’m not going to go into all the details of what an NDP is here, partly because there are many issues still to be clarified (there’s a bit more here), but it’s part of the Localism Bill that’s going through parliament at the moment. The general idea is to give people more power over local developments, although almost certainly not as much as many people would like: the plan must fit in with the borough’s plan, the London plan (which has already earmarked West Hampstead for intensification and 800 new homes) and national planning strategy, and it cannot propose less development, only more or a redistribution of sites.

Nor is this going to happen overnight – it will be spring 2012 before NDPs can be submitted. Which is a problem in terms of mobilising to address the more imminent plans for the 187-199 West End Lane site (see next blog).

The meeting was reasonably productive, although inevitably people have differing views about development, which might make it hard producing a plan that pleases everyone. The idea of RAs joining forces was broadly welcomed, and the topic will be discussed at the next West Hampstead & Fortune Green Area Action Group, which is provisionally scheduled for December 6th.

There was some criticism about the lack of impact the place shaping workshops had seemed to have, although the outcomes of those will more guide what happens to council-owned sites that will be developed, such as the Wickes/Travis Perkins building.

Even if the NDP may not have much impact on sites where plans are being drawn up now, it could be very influential on land that might come up for development over the next few years – such as the O2 car park (long talked about as ripe for development), or swathes of Iverson Road.

There are some issues to resolve about the boundaries of any plan, and who should be involved. People living on the western fringes of Swiss Cottage ward, for example, are very much part of West Hampstead and would certainly be affected by developments around the tube/Overground interchange area (yet bizarrely aren’t included in the consulation area for the 187-199 West End Lane site).

Anne Heymann, chair of the Local Consultation Group (set up some years ago to address the large-scale interchange project that would have merged all three stations and was then shelved) argued that sitting down with architects and developers and putting in the legwork was what really made a difference to  plans.

It’ll be interesting to see what the perspective from the broader community is when the idea is discussed at the AAG, but it’s encouraging that groups from across the area want to come together to discuss proposals that might not have an impact on their immediate street.

Coordinating West Hampstead planning?

Last week, the Fordwych Residents Association discussed concerns about the number of large developments being proposed in the area. James Earl, vice-chair, told me that the meeting came up with this list of 10 developments that have been recently built, are under construction, or have been proposed:

NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN WEST HAMPSTEAD & FORTUNE GREEN
Sager development (FortuneGreen ) Residential block – built
Mill Lane Residential block – under construction
Maygrove Road One Housing Group/residential block – under construction
Handrail House (+car park), 65 Maygrove Road Possible demolition & new residential block
Liddell Road Proposed new school [pdf p39] & possible residential development
Iverson Road (old garden centre) Likely development of hotel or flats
156 West End Lane (council building) Likely demolition & new residential development [pdf p38]
Blackburn Road 9 storey student block approved & to be built
187 West End Lane Proposed 9-11 storey residential development
O2 Centre car park Possible future housing development

The meeting concluded that there seemed to be no over-arching plan to deal with these developments, which are all very close to each other, and which have the potential to change the character of West Hampstead and Fortune Green for ever.

At the recent placeshaping events, residents have expressed a desire to preserve the ‘village’ feel of the area; to reduce traffic and to create more green/open spaces. These developments, argue the residents association, appear to be focused on the complete opposite.

The FRA is proposing that a coalition of local residents associations use the powers of the Localism Bill (now going through Parliament) to create a “Neighbourhood Development Plan” for West Hampstead and Fortune Green. It is proposing that this issue to be on the agenda of the next Area Action Forum – with the aim of having a draft document in place by the end of the year.