Ahead of tonight’s public meeting about the Liddell Road redevelopment proposals, West Hampstead Life tries to cut through all the jargon and give you the bluffers’ guide to what’s going on.
What’s being proposed?
A school, some housing, some offices.
What’s there now?
It’s an industrial estate with a mix of businesses, including car repair places. It’s tucked off Maygrove Road, bordering Sidings estate and the mainline railway lines.
Who owns the land?
Do we need a new school?
Yes. It’s a primary school and the projections are that this part of Camden does need a new primary school.
Isn’t there going to be a “free school” though?
Maybe, maybe not. One free school has approval in Kilburn, another free school is waiting to hear about approval. Irrespective of that, Camden has to provide enough school places for the area.
Well, a brand new school – that’s nice?
Not quite a “new school”. It’s an expansion of Kingsgate School, which is about a mile away.
That seems odd?
Yes. Camden Labour argues that it’s simply expanding an outstanding school. Critics argue that this is the only way it can build a new school that isn’t an academy or free school.
But the new school’s a done deal?
Yes. And no. The school was approved despite a consultation process in which only three parents submitted responses and less than 40% of respondents were in favour of siting the infant school at Liddell Road. However, to pay for the school, the council needs to build (and sell) the housing and office space and that’s a separate planning decision.
What happens if that’s not passed?
Good question. Although with Labour’s enormous majority in the council it’s pretty inconceivable that it wouldn’t pass in some form.
So, the housing and offices pays for the school. I guess they’ve done the sums and that adds up exactly?
The last reckoning had them making a £3m profit from the scheme.
Three million? Where’s that being spent?
We don’t know – it’s going into the general pot of Camden money.
OK. But didn’t the government give Camden some money for a new school?
Yes, £6.7 million.
So that’s included in the calculations right?
Wrong. That’s also being spent elsewhere.
You’ve lost me now. Camden is going to build lots of houses and a school and come out of it with almost £10 million still to spend?
Yes. Clever eh? And that’s based on assumptions from last year, that number might have gone up or down in the meantime. Given the property market, up seems more likely.
Still, with such a profit, the council’s clearly got some leeway to include some much needed affordable housing, right?
There is affordable housing right? Aren’t they building 120 homes and isn’t there some law about 50% affordable housing?
It’s not a law, just a policy. As things stand, this development will have no affordable housing. Camden argues that the community benefits come from the school and employment and that the affordable housing should be at 156 West End Lane.
Wait, what? Where?
156 West End Lane – that’s the Travis Perkins building to you and me – is up for redevelopment. Camden has sold it, and is saying that the affordable housing will be there.
Well, that sounds reasonable. If that’s all affordable housing then overall West Hampstead still benefits.
It won’t be all affordable housing. The latest information is that the developers have bought the site on the condition that they submit a plan that includes 50% affordable housing. However, as there’s no planning application to look at it’s hard to know for sure. It’s possible some additional affordable housing could be paid for by the redevelopment but not be in West Hampstead.
So we could end up with two large developments that between them have approximately 20% affordable housing.
Is the Liddell Road site big enough for 120 homes, offices and a school?
Apparently so. If they build a tower block.
Another tower block? Wasn’t there a right kerfuffle over that one opposite the tube station?
West Hampstead Square. Yes – that has a 12-storey tower block. Camden is proposing a 14-storey block for Liddell Road.
Fourteen storeys? That’s, er, high?
I’m surprised Labour did so well at the local council elections if it was promising to build a 14-storey tower block in the area.
We didn’t know about the tower block then
Oh, but I thought these plans had been floating around for a while?
They have – but the plans people looked at last year didn’t show a tower block.
So, they’ve added more housing to the scheme since then, hence needing to build higher?
Funnily enough, no. It was 120 flats then and it’s 120 flats now.
It all sounds very strange to me, but no doubt the council knows what it’s doing.
Perhaps – it’s selling off a lot of land to cover the drop in funding it gets from central government. Obviously that only works once. There are lots of complicated calculations to be made, for sure, but it’s hard for residents to understand that if those calculations aren’t made readily available or digestible.
Let me check I understand. Camden wants to build 120 flats to pay for a school. There’ll be no affordable housing even though it’s received money to help build the school and plans to make a profit on the site. The nearby site won’t have enough affordable housing to offset the lack of it at Liddell Road. There’s a 14-storey tower block, which wasn’t in the original plans when the school was approved. And a load of local businesses are having to move out so we lose jobs too?
That’s pretty much it. There is going to be office space though apparently aimed at fast-growing small companies.
Is there a demand for that?
It’s not clear – office space a hundred yards down the road couldn’t be let for two years, but the economy has picked up by then, so maybe. And there are jobs for teachers being created.
And I guess the teachers can live in the new apartments!
Doubt they’ll be able to afford them.