Is West Hampstead due an £8 million Liddell Road windfall?

Liddell Road – a school, some office space and apartments. It was a controversial scheme when it went through planning a few years ago, with Camden acting as developer and approver. There was much talk of how the numbers added up and why there was to be virtually no affordable housing. Three years on, some of those numbers have changed – so could this mean West Hampstead is about to get a whole whack of cash?

Let us take you back to the mid 2010s. Liddell Road was a council-owned piece of land used as a light industrial estate. The council wanted to use half the site to build a school – specifically an extension to Kingsgate School – and it would pay for this largely by selling off the other half of the site for housing and office space.

Revised Liddell Road plan with 14-storey tower block (reduced to nine storeys)

The plan was for a four-form entry lower school (up to 7-year-olds) that would ultimately house up to 360 children who would then move on to Kingsgate’s main buildings over in Kilburn. The council claimed the school would cost £13.4 million.

To pay for it, Camden argued it needed to sell land with planning permission to build a nine-storey tower block plus some mansion blocks. In total, there would be 100 flats, of which just four would be “affordable”, and 3,500 m2 of office space. This would cover the cost of the school and generate an additional £1.9 million for the education department. The school was also eligible for £6.7 million of central government funding. Camden took this money but excluded it from its calculations on how to pay for the school.

In March 2015, the council’s own planning committee agreed two separate yet inseparable planning applications: one for the school and one for the development to fund it.

For reasons that were never made clear, the two sites were built separately. First the school, where construction has finished and which opened in September 2017. Next, the residential and commercial buildings where construction hasn’t even started. This second part of the site is due to be sold to an external developer this spring. When work eventually starts it will obviously cause considerable disruption and potential danger from construction traffic to children at the school. Not to mention the additional inconvenience to local residents from yet more construction. It’s hard to understand why both developments were not built simultaneously.

At the time, the Neighbourhood Development Forum and West Hampstead Life did some number crunching and argued that the development would generate a much larger surplus (or “profit” as a normal person would call it) than Camden was suggesting.

The residential and office space was supposed to generate £15.4 million (£13.4m for the cost of the school + the £1.96m surplus). This seemed low. Experts that the NDF consulted valued the land £10 million higher, which would lead to a £11.96m surplus.

From speculation to cold hard cash
It turned out that building the school was more expensive than first thought. Quite a lot more expensive. The cost rose by 38% from £13.4 million to £18.6 million when the construction contract was finally given. Camden’s press office told us that “£13.4m was the estimate quoted in the December 2013 cabinet paper,” but then argued that in the period 2014-2016, “the proposals were developed in detail while at the same time construction costs rose significantly for the industry as a whole and in Camden, resulting in this increase in cost.” It seems a very large jump in costs in two years, and it was not put on the table at the planning committee in March 2015 when the scheme was approved on the basis of the £13.4 million number.

It is still not clear whether the £6.7 million central government grant for building the school actually went towards building the school – even though it would have more than offset this £5 million increase in costs.

Was such a big school needed in the first place. Demographic modelling showed a lack of primary school places, but the four-form school opened last year with only three forms and this year’s entry will also be only three-form. Camden’s response: “The unexpected national drop in births in 2013 has had a considerable impact in Camden, and other authorities. Surrounding authorities have found themselves in a similar situation, reducing pupil admission numbers to temporarily address the falling reception numbers.” It’s true that the birth rate did fall in 2013 quite dramatically, but this was public knowledge in 2014, so again why was it not made clear in March 2015 when the decision came before the planning committee. Could the school have been slightly smaller and therefore cheaper?

Whatever the rights and wrongs of predicting school places, a school that cost £18.5 million would not be paid for by the £15.4 million raised from the homes and office development. It seemed the development had lurched from profit to loss? .

Fast forward to spring 2018 and Camden is finally planning to sell the land and has pencilled in the amount it expects to get. Turns out, surprise surprise, that it should sell the land for more than £15.4 million. It’s even going to be more than the NDF’s estimate of £25.4 million. Camden has pencilled in a net £26.8 million expected capital receipt. More than enough to cover the £18.5 million for the school, and the £1.9 million surplus (all assuming that £6.7 million was spirited away elsewhere). We are now looking at an £8.3 million surplus.

Camden’s press office again: “The original estimate of £15.3m was made back in 2012 as part of the business case for the redevelopment. Since 2012, land values in Camden have increased and more detailed work has been undertaken on the development which has resulted in this higher valuation. (This increased valuation is still very much open to market fluctuations).”

However, when the NDF made estimates using March 2015 valuations it estimated a sale value of £25.4 million which is much closer to the current valuation. Why was Camden using a 2012 valuation for a 2015 planning decision? Camden redacted all the numbers in its viability report due to ‘commercial considerations’ (this is the report used to justify the level of affordable housing) but the discrepancy in the public numbers and the final valuations suggests that decisions were made by the planning committee using out-of-date information.

Let us reflect that the argument for virtually no affordable housing at Liddell Road was that there wasn’t enough money and that the school itself was a public sector investment. Now the profit from the development looks like it’s risen from £1.96 million to £8.3 million. Does this mean more affordable housing is a possibility? The council does not rule this out, which is encouraging, though no chickens should be counted. How much of the money will pay for other improvements in the area, which are sorely needed as the population of West Hampstead continues to grow rapidly.

Camden’s rather vague answer to where the money will go is that “the extra money goes to support our continuing Community Investment Programme”. However, it accepts that “depending on the level of offers, additional affordable housing may be a point of negotiation with the shortlisted developers. Increasing the affordable housing numbers may result in a reduction in capital receipts so this can only be done if the overall programme remains viable.”

In fact, the Camden planning officer’s report in March 2015 was rather more specific. It states that “If the profit/surplus is more than £3m, this should be spent on an off-site contribution to affordable housing. This will be set out in the S106 agreement”.

Has this been set out? The other Section 106 payments (that’s money developers have to contribute to the local area to help offset the impact of their schemes) in the Liddell Road project were extremely low for a development of this size, only £47,000 and £30,000 for Maygrove Peace Park and local community facilities respectively. There was nothing more broadly for the larger growth area. It would seem that it’s time to revisit this.

Once again, the issues around this development are ones of transparency as much as of intent. As we wrote at the time, although it was a controversial development that led to a loss of jobs and useful local services, many people in the area were still broadly in favour of the school and accepted that some housing was needed to pay for it.

But when the development cost and possible income change so much from initial estimates – and in some cases these numbers could have been adjusted before the planning committee approved the project – we are left in the dark again.

When will Camden acknowledge that locals feel they have a right to a clearer understanding of how the calculations are made on affordable housing, of where exactly money in the “Community Investment Programme” will be spent locally, and on where that £6.7 million central government grant went that was specifically tied to the Kingsgate expansion.

Featured photo credit: Sue on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Raising the roof on the student housing block

The new owner of the student housing block on Blackburn Road, has put in a planning application to add 41 additional rooms (studios) to the block buy adding extra floors on top.

Blackburn Road student housing ‘as is’

The development already has 347 units and has already been given planning permission to add an extension to the internal courtyard and a new outdoor canopy to the front.

The new application is to add extra floors to the existing building(s).  Each of the constituent blocks will get additional floors. The one facing Blackburn Road will get a single storey mansard roof, the one on the corner will get a two-storey extension, the one in the middle will get one floor and the tallest will stay the same height but will have its lead roofing replaced by brick fascia to match the others.

Blackburn Road student housing ‘after’.

From an aesthetic point of view, the new design seems to bring the building more in keeping with West Hampstead Square. Unusually, the planning application explicitly criticises the ‘ugly’ lead roof – the “top single storey and a 2-storey zinc appear just dropped on the roof”. Clearly Camden didn’t feel it was too ugly first time around. One can argue the visual merits of mixed materials vs. homogeneity.

Proposal as seen from the O2 carpark.

The developers have presented the plans to the NDF (Neighbourhood Development Forum).  The NDF is quite relaxed about the extra storeys and indeed at their public meeting someone opined that the existing building was of’incredibly poor design’. Apparently, the council feels the same way as ‘the council continue to recognise the opportunity to improve the appearance of the existing building’.

The extra height will cast shadow on what could be the best location for a green space as and when the O2 car park is redeveloped, so decisions made now could influence future plans – more evidence for the need for some joined-up thinking/masterplanning.

The NDF did say that as a quid-pro-quo for development it would like to see improved landscaping at ground level. The developers have made some sensible suggestions. However, when the scheme was originally built there were improvements to the passage at the side of the building. Sadly these improvements were not maintained and the area  soon looked unkempt again. If there is no maintenance plan for the new planting, the same thing will happen again. Agreements to landscape need to come with a commitment or obligation to keep any new landscapes areas in good condition, or funding so the council can do it.

New landscaping plans, but who will maintain it?

The developers are also proposing improvements to the end section of Billy Fury Way (from West End Lane to the corner of the building). Billy Fury Way has been a problem now for some time that the council and Network Rail seem unable to resolve. No progress is being made, nor are any of the options being costed or considered on a value-for-money basis, which is surprising in an era of budget constraints.

The original landscaping in front of the building is also to be replaced having not been successful (or maintained). Planting Birches (a woodland tree) in a baking hot pavement was done by someone who didn’t know what they were doing.

Despite concerns about the impact on the area, the students don’t seem to cause anti-social behaviour (their parents are paying over £10,000 p.a. per room). Also, although it took a while, all the commercial space is now let, so overall it’s a benefit to the area. It’s just a bit odd that it is being redeveloped so soon and partly on grounds of poor design. You can add comments on the application up to the 23 January.

 

A walk up West End Lane

Following our recent walk down the Kilburn High Road, we took a similar walk up West End Lane. Joining us was John Saynor, chair of WHAT (West Hampstead Amenity and Transport), which takes a keen interest in these matters too.

We didn’t really focus on the litter situation, because – dare I say it – it seems a bit better, although we aren’t counting our chickens, or the discarded fried chicken containers.  Instead, we focused on the street clutter and particularly the A-boards that can obstruct pavements.

Without getting too technical (and with apologies for those who read the KHR piece), I’m going to introduce the word ‘curtilage’ at this point. This means the space between your property and the public highway, but which is still your land. Within reason you can do what want – deck it, put up an A-board or set out goods for sale.

However, if any of these activities take place on the public footpath then people have the right to be miffed. In fact it’s a planning infringement that must be rectified. A well maintained high street keeps the pavement clear and makes sure that it is wide enough for pedestrians (including those with buggies, or in wheelchairs) to pass in opposite directions. There are London planning standards for this – the pedestrian comfort guidance, which recommends a minimum of 3 metres width for a busy pedestrian pavement like West End Lane.

Of course shop-owners put their A-boards out to try to grab some extra custom, a manager might change and not realise the rules (implicit or explicit) or a contractor will put out warning signs and leave them, so there needs to be regular vigilance to ensure that pavements don’t get overrun with signage or other commercial undertakings.

However, the situation is not always clear-cut. At some points the pavement is narrow and any obstruction is a potential hazard, at others it is wide and it’s not such a problem. The width of the curtilage also varies, so at some points, a shopkeeper can put out an A-board but in others, where there is no curtilage they can’t, which can seem ‘unfair’.

With all this in mind, we started our walk by the stations. For years, locals have been campaigning to ensure that the pavements around and between the stations are widened and kept clutter free to ensure easy (and safe) movement of pedestrians. There have been improvements over recent years, but the recent attempt by a phonebox company to install some phone boxes here would have undone all the hard work. Thankfully Camden turned the application down. The situation will also be improved when the Overground station is finished as it will be set much further back, removing a dangerous pinch point on the pavement.

Outside the tube station, we spotted these freebie newspaper containers. They don’t look great and cause a certain amount of disruption to pedestrians in a busy section.  In the past, they have been removed, but they seem to be creeping back. Who is responsible for sorting this out? WHAT takes an interest in these matters, but is it anyone’s responsibility to report infringements? Is it the role of the Neighbourhood Development Forum? What about the thousands of local commuters who walk past daily, or the local councillors, or street cleaners or community police officers?

We asked the local councillors about this and Cllr Lorna Russell replied that the Council do rely on members of the public to flag issues as they can’t have eyes and ears everywhere. However, many people don’t know what needs reporting and even if they do, don’t know how best to report it. Likewise, the councillors themselves report things – they are avid users of the Clean Camden app.

Sometimes an issue can be dealt with by having a quiet word. Other times official action is needed and the council has to take charge.

Here is a good example. This redundant sign (from the Overground crane works) was left there throughout the week even on the very narrowest sections of pavement. A quick call to the Overground building works team got agreement to store them during the week. Success! It’s since reappeared 🙁 and now sits off to one side.

Next up we cross the road to Banana Tree. The restaurant has just lost an appeal and will have to remove its decking. The pavement is not terribly narrow here, so some will judge this a little harsh. However, the restaurant’s A-board does narrow the pavement further.  As a rule of thumb, you’re not going to get an A-board and decking on your curtilage, you have to pick one. And it’s not clear where Banana Tree’s curtilage is, if it has it at all.

Some of you will remember that this time last year the Alice House had a similar issue with their decking. It was a bit different though, as it was clear it was on their curtilage and the issue was more about the height of the decking.

Further up West End Lane, there was a particularly egregious example of a creeping A-boards by Bobby Fitzpatrick, right in the middle of the pavement! Naughty.  You can see how Bobby’s has put chairs and tables out on their curtilage, just as its predecessor La Brocca did, but that A-board is as cheeky as a 1970s comedy.

On the other side of West End Lane, Cedar restaurant too has decked out its curtilage but sometimes puts an A-board out too.

And right at the top of West End Lane, Schnitzel has three A-boards including one which narrows the zebra crossing.

Back down West End Lane, Lola’s is a recent arrival and it has started putting out an A-board too – sometimes partly on the pavement. Even though it has a relatively wide curtilage, it still had to apply for planning permission to put out tables and chairs, but again it’s the A-board that causes the most disruption, particularly because the public pavement is relatively narrow and busy.

There is good news here though, as a quiet word with one of the managers led to the compromise of putting the board as close to the planter as possible, which makes a significant difference.

It’s not all bad news. Here’s an A-board nearly placed on a premise’s curtilage. Gold star to West End Lane Books!

Outside the library we looked at the planting and seating.  It’s sad that this has been neglected since being installed a couple of years ago. Again there is a question of who is responsible for maintaining it.  It was originally installed when the Lib-Dem/Conservatives coalition gave areas the ability to choose projects they wanted, and this was one. Indeed it was very popular in this NDF survey. So it’s shame it’s been neglected.

We also noticed that some of the bus stops and seats were very grubby with an accumulation of dirt that a good jet wash would deal with. If it hasn’t been done by early March, then maybe it’s something for the Great British Spring Clean on March 2-4, 2018.

All in all, things weren’t bad (and better than the Kilburn High Road). But there is still room for improvement, though it remains unclear who is responsible for reporting the problems that do exist.

Luxury retirement development ‘can’t afford’ to pay for affordable housing

West Hampstead is facing yet another large-scale property development. It’s the third proposal to redevelop the site at the former Gondar Gardens reservoir. The history of the previous proposals have been well documented on these pages, but what really caught our eye about this one was that it offers no affordable housing either on-site or as a payment for development elsewhere. Previous schemes have offered about 35% affordable housing. The developers claim that as a care-home they are not legally obliged – but even if they were, according to their sums they couldn’t afford it!

A quick recap

There have been three planning applications for this site over the past eight years. Gondar Gardens is designated a site of importance for nature conservation (it has Camden’s only population of slow worms). Developer Linden Homes’ first scheme proposed 16 houses built low in the cavity of the old reservoir (the ‘pit’  or ‘Teletubbies’ scheme) with an off-site affordable housing contribution of £6.8 million. The second proposal was to build along the frontage of Gondar Gardens (the ‘frontage’ scheme’), which was turned down as the design wasn’t good enough. A revised frontage scheme was submitted for 28 flats, or which 10 were affordable plus a small additional off-site contribution. This scheme was approved on appeal and thus we all expected that Linden Homes would build this scheme and that would be that.

There’s a new developer on the scene

Instead, Linden Homes sold the site to a new developer, LifeCare Residences (LCR). LCR, which started in New Zealand, builds what it terms “exceptional retirement communities”. Here in the UK, it has one in Hampshire and another in Battersea. In West Hampstead, it’s proposing to build Persephone Gardens. Classicists will know that Persephone is the Queen of the Underworld. Odd choice of reference for a retirement village.

For Gondar Gardens, LCR proposes 82 self-care retirement apartments with a total residential floor space of 7,662m2. The flats include 7 one-bedroom, 62 two-bedroom and 13 three-bedroom flats.  The total floor space of the whole development is 14,088m2 – almost double the floor space of the previous two schemes combined. Both of the previous schemes included about 35% affordable housing, although Camden’s (rarely achieved) target is 50%.

If this new scheme followed its predecessors, one would expect at least 30-40 affordable flats. But the plans show that none at all are proposed – nor is there any off-site contribution.

LCR is, however, building extra facilities for the residents on site because it is a retirement home, including a 15-bed nursing home. But it also plans ‘communal’ facilities – and what facilities: a lounge, a library, a restaurant and bar, and a café, an indoor exercise and rehabilitation pool, a gym. Wow! That’s a lot, you’re thinking. There is more: a hair salon, treatment rooms (of course), the sun lounge and, oh yes, a cinema. And of course a whole host of back-of-house areas for the staff.

The chauffeur-driven cars on site have already raised a few eyebrows. The development will be car-free, so LCR is planning to have chauffer-driven BMW i3s, like at its Battersea site, at the beck and call of residents, and for those who want to be ferried around in more comfort, a couple of Audi A8s too.

Are you beginning to notice something all the residents have in common?

If this all sounds rather luxurious, that it is the intention. Comparing the flat sizes to Mayor of London’s recommended size for new developments, LCR’s are generously proportioned. The flats are substantially bigger than the recommended size for flats in the London plan; e.g. the one-beds are 69m2 vs a recommended 50m2; the two-bed and three bedroom flats similarly generous.

The architects Robin Partington stated in the Design and Access statement: LCR’s brief requires the apartments to be larger than national space standards. Residents are typically downsizing from big family homes, and although there are only 1-2 people living in each apartment, space is appreciated to maintain their way of life and house their belongings“.

Finally, a non-white face in the promo images – he’s a waiter!

The luxury nature of the development is reflected also in the viability statement: “In the assessment of market values, which have been provided by Savills we understand that the specification of the common parts and apartments will be of a very high quality and reflective of the luxury retirement living that the scheme will deliver.

Why no affordable housing?

The first argument is a bit technical and has to do with use classes. LCR states that the flats should be designated as class C2 (hospital or nursing home) rather than C3 (housing). It’s understandable that the 15-bed nursing home would be C2, but the 82 flats? One common way to determine if a property is C2 or C3, is the ‘front door test’. If residents have their own lockable front door, then the flats should be C3, and it seems that would be the case here in these generous flats. To get around this definition, LCR will offer a couple of hours of assistance per week, whether the residents want it or not.

This approach has been tried before. Another retirement home developer, Pegasus Life, tried the same idea for the equally luxurious Hampstead Green Place on Rowland Hill in Hampstead. It argued the housing was C2 (offering 1.5 hours of care a week) but lost the argument and the 60 flats are being built as C3.

The other argument used by LCR is the standard plea of poverty – or at least too low a profit margin.

Linden Homes bought the site from Thames Water for £3 million, and those proposals allowed for £6.8 million to affordable housing in the first scheme and 10 affordable flats in the second. Linden Homes sold the site to LCR for £11 million according to the Land Registry records.

What does the viability statement say?

*Warning it’s going to get a bit complicated here, but bear with us, it’s important*

LCR commissioned property consultancy Rapleys to write a viability report to submit with the planning application. It’s hard to follow as it’s redacted, but it is possible to make some educated guesses as to what the numbers might add up to on a development of this scale, with the help of industry insiders.

To reach its conclusion, Rapleys had to calculate the “residual land value”, which is Gross Development Value (basically “revenue from the sale of flats”) minus costs, planning contributions, and profit (typically assessed at around 20%). This is then compared to an appropriate benchmark value to assess the viability of affordable housing contributions.

Let’s do the sums.

First, the gross development value. To calculate this, we need to know how much private flats like these would be worth? We have a  good benchmark with the high-end West Hampstead Square development, which also has some amenities (though nothing in the league of the proposal from LCR). Gondar Gardens is further from the stations, which makes it cheaper, but also not between two train lines. On balance it’s easy to argue Gondar Gardens would sell for more than West Hampstead Square, but WH Square will be a good benchmark. On this basis (looking at recent resales), a 69m2 one-bed flat in Gondar Gardens would be £825,000, a two-bed 90m2 flat £995,000, and a three-bed flat a cool £1.35 million.

(Interestingly, in nearby Hampstead, Pegasus Life is marketing two posh retirement schemes although with fewer amenities. Nevertheless, at one of these schemes, the cheapest two-bed flat is on for £2.95 million, so we may we wildly underestimating Gondar Gardens).

Sticking with the Ballymore equivalents, the sale of the flats would generate approximately £85 million. The fifteen extra care beds have a market value, like all care-home beds, of about £295,000 each, so are valued at £4.5 million. Adding the two together gives a total gross development value of £89 million.

Now we need to look at the costs of development. Rapleys don’t disclose the construction costs but based on this nearby scheme (which is equally modern, but a bit less posh), we estimate construction costs for a development like LCR’s would be about £2,500/m2 for the 14,088m2. This is perhaps the number with the most margin for error in our calculations given that just under half of the development is taken up with all those facilities. However, LCR is effectively arguing that building all these extra luxury facilities means it won’t have any money to build affordable housing.  By comparison, a normal housing development would have 10-15% of ancillary space (corridors, communal areas etc).

In total, we estimate build costs of around £35 million. Add to that a 5% contingency (£1.75 million), professional fees at 10% of costs (£3.5 million) and marketing fees – 2% of GDV to sell the flats (£1.6 million).

Then there are community infrastructure levy (CIL) costs (this is the money that developers pay local councils and City Hall to help offset the additional public sector costs incurred by having more people and development in the area). Normally CIL is calculated on the increase in residential floor space, as this is the driver of any additional strain on local resources. For Gondar Gardens, LCR is arguing that the increase in area is 9,242m2, not 14,088m2, using the empty and derelict reservoir space of 4,866m2 as the “existing use”. There is a clear change of use, so it’s not clear why LCR does not using the full 14,088m2 to calculate their contribution.

Under its proposal, Camden would receive a CIL contribution of £2,310,500 and City Hall would take £462,100 (if the full development area was used, there would be an additional £2 million of combined CIL due).

Revenue minus costs, therefore, is calculated as £89 million less build costs of £35 million, a contingency of £1.75 million, marketing fees of £1.6 million, professional fees of £3.5 million and a total CIL of £2.75 million. That gives a gross profit of £44.m million. The accepted 20% profit margin of the GDV is £17.7 million, which leaves a residual land value of £26.7 million. The numbers are obviously not exact but our industry insiders agree this is a good ballpark figure.

This residual land value basically translates to “extra profit”, which means that it’s where contributions to affordable housing would come from. Recall, that based on a much smaller scheme, Linden Homes was offering a contribution of more than £6 million. If LCR was to make a contribution then using the calculations from the Pegasus schemes in Hampstead (for which Rapleys also produced the viability report) it would deliver a £10.6 million contribution.

Yet below is their redacted claim that they can’t afford any affordable housing contribution.

Our estimate of the residual land value of £26.7 million is considerably more than the £11 million LCR paid for the site. Even if we deduct an affordable housing contribution of £10 million (which, LCR claims it can’t afford), that would still leave a residual value of £16.7 million – still more than the cost of buying the site. Even if our building costs are wrong, they would have to be substantial underestimations to soak up all this residual value. It is therefore hard to understand how no affordable housing contribution at all is deemed viable. Perhaps the expected sale value of the flats is far lower than comparable schemes.

LCR/Rapleys instructed Carter Jonas to carry out an independent valuation of the site to form the benchmark value. They don’t disclose this, but obviously it would be interesting to know how it compares to the £11 million that LCR paid for the site (bear in mind also, that the site comes with planning permission for the revised frontage scheme and its £6.8 million affordable housing contribution).

LCR told us that that have commissioned a further independent assessment of the assessment and were in discussion with Camden’s appointed surveyor, but had no further comment.

Conclusion

This proposal illustrates a significant flaw in the planning system that gives an advantage to developers of luxury retirement schemes. First, such developers are incentivised to claim such schemes are care home and not housing, even if they pass the front door test. Then, the more luxurious they make it and the more ancillary facilities they offer (and have to pay for), the more they can avoid making any affordable housing contribution.

This analysis has also been an interesting insight into the Alice-in-Wonderland economics of viability reporting. It’s important stuff, but too often developers deploy smoke and mirrors around the planning department and unless at least some members of the public understand what is going on developers get away with it. Why, for example, should so many of the figures be redacted? We had the same situation with Liddell Road, which was publicly owned land and being used partly for a public amenity.

Part of this is due to the merry-go-round of a developer buying a site and getting planning permission for one scheme and then selling it on to another, ratching up the base value. One reason for the planning system is to capture some of the financial gain when land is redesignated for another use. Yet it appears developers can drive a chauffer-drive BMWi3 though that objective.

Baby boomers lucky enough to have bought their houses in the 1970s and 80s and have made huge windfall gains. They now get sell them and move into luxury retirement flats that avoid the requirement to build affordable housing. A competing developer that was building ordinary flats for young people and young hard-working families would have to build affordable housing. Sorry, Generation Rent, it’s heads you lose, tails they win.

Deliveroo offers locals new food options, but at what cost?

 

West Hampstead residents are hardworking and hungry, which goes some way to explain the platoon of Deliveroo bikes we see around the neighbourhood and congregating around West End Green. We are about to see a lot more of them.

Hong Kong, Dubai … West Hampstead

In its quest for world domination, Deliveroo has been trialling a new concept called Deliver Editions. The company is setting up kitchens in low-rent areas like industrial estates and leasing them to existing restaurant operations who employ chefs to share the kitchens and prepare take-away only food. Deliveroo of course is the sole delivery service available so it gets the rent and the delivery fee, while the restaurants get access to the growing home delivery market in new areas without the time and outlay (and risk) of setting up prime retail locations. Delivery is within a 2km radius making sure food stays fresh and hot, apparently.

Having trialled this in Dubai and Hong Kong, the company is now rolling it out in London – including Swiss Cottage. When it is fully operational the Swiss Cottage unit will include nine different sections/kitchens, but initially it’s just five; Lievita, Motu, Ahi Poke, Busaba and Mezze House.

Not everyone is happy

This new concept is taking take-away into new territory and it is also pushing the boundaries of planning.

In Swiss Cottage, Deliveroo has taken over a site behind 117 Finchley Road in the Cresta House car park (where the Estancia steakhouse was). It was a already a light industrial unit (it was an old Post Office sorting office which has been empty for years) so it’s unclear whether it  needs permission for change of use, but it does need permission for the extraction fans and ducting, which it has applied for. However, the operation appears to be up and running before permission had been granted. The company had also applied for an alcohol licence from the neighbouring Estancia steakhouse but withdrew the application after concerns from the police that alcohol should be delivered only with food.

Of course more Deliveroo means more Deliveroo drivers, which not everyone (possibly noone?) is excited about. Swiss Cottage resident Elaine Bodenitz says “it’s got to the point that we are so infuriated.” In response to concerns, Deliveroo has a full-time security guard to marshall the drivers. Meanwhile, Swiss Cottage councillor Roger Freeman is taking up the planning and enforcement issues with the local planning department.

Expansion of the Farmers’ market; too much too soon?

London Farmers’ Markets has applied to Camden Council to expand the operating hours of the market that currently pops up on Iverson Road every Saturday. The existing market is popular, so this initially seems like a good idea and LFM has made it very easy for locals to show their support. However, residents who’ve looked at the smallprint have some reservations, and it is far from clear whether the demand is actually there.

We love the farmer's market, but is expansion from 4 to a potential 82 hours a week too much, too soon?

We love the farmer’s market, but is expansion from 4 to a potential 82 hours a week too much, too soon?

For years, the residents of West Hampstead clamoured for a farmers’ market, and their wish came true five years ago. Pretty much from the word go it’s been a success, as our Insight into: Brinkworth Dairy explained.

To build on this success, London Farmers’ Markets – the company that puts on not just the West Hampstead market, but most of the major once-a-week markets around the capital, including Queens Park’s Sunday market – has put in a planning application to expand the hours of operation. On Saturday, the market would potentially run until 8pm, rather than 2pm as it is now. There could be a Sunday market from 10am to 5pm and on Mondays to Fridays it is asking for permission to trade from 7am to 8pm. Add it all up and it’s a potential expansion from 4 to 82 hours a week.

Local residents in Maygrove and Iverson Road, who already are under severe parking ‘stress’ are obviously concerned about the impact on parking, and there are also concerns about rush-hour passenger and traffic flows.

Nor does it seem that the traders themselves are unanimously in favour. Many of the regular stallholders have to drive a couple of hours to get here, which would mean 5am starts (or earlier) if they were to be opening for busines at 7am (not allowing for setup time). Once they finish and pack up there’s another two hour drive home – or more in the afternoon traffic. If the Saturday market didn’t close until 8pm they wouldn’t be home until 11pm, having got up at 5am. And then get up the next day at 5am for the next farmers market? All seems rather implausible.

Other locals have raised concerns about the impact on our local greengrocers, butchers and cafés? Businesses at the farmer’s market don’t have to pay the high rent or rates that businesses with premises have to face, so would this amount to unfair competition.

Postcode survey of farmers' market users source: LFM

Postcode survey of farmers’ market users. Source: LFM

LFM says that the mid-week market would be a different animal to the weekend market. There would be fewer stalls and more food outlets. But this has been tried before, admittedly not by LFM, and was not a great success given the lack of footfall. As we all know, West Hampstead is a busy interchange so there are morning and evening rush hours but not much in-between. Traders who were involved with that market thought that, if at all, just running it on Thursday and Friday night might be a better option.

It does rather feel as if LFM is attempting to get permission for as many hours as it possibly can, and will then work out when it will actually choose to trade, with the flexibility to adjust based on demand and the seasons. The idea of more than 80 hours of trading every week is surely unrealistic.

Even those with reservations – locals and traders – think that an expansion of the hours of trading is worth exploring -perhaps a market on Sunday with similar hours to Saturday but a slightly different focus. During the week perhaps one evening to test the market. In essence let’s not kill the farmer’s market goose that lays the organic golden egg.

Planners at Camden Council are reviewing the application and have acknowledged support for it. However, they are also considering the impact on neighbourhood amenity, local traffic and highway safety plus implications for the viability of the town centre. If you want to comment, you have until the 6th of July and can do so here.

New captains take the helm of local planning group

The NDF has a new head – or rather heads. After five years of steering the Neighbourhood Development Forum, chairman James Earl stepped down at last night’s AGM.

A memory of West Hampstead to take away!

A memory of West Hampstead to take away!

James is leaving West Hampstead for pastures new. His replacement(s): NDF treasurer Nick Jackson and former Lib Dem local councillor Keith Moffitt.

In the end, the whole handover process was remarkably smooth. When James asked for nominations, Lib Dem cllr Flick Rea nominated Nick Jackson, Nick nominated Keith Moffitt and at this point Keith confessed that they has discussed it in advance and had agreed to share the role. The rest of the committee agreed to stand again, with Nick retaining his treasurer role. All rather uncontroversial. Nick has been a core member of the NDF ever since it was established, and Keith knows his way round the corridors of Camden better than anyone as former leader of the council.

Nick Jackson (L) and Keith Moffitt (R) - the new co-chairs of the NDF

Nick Jackson (L) and Keith Moffitt (R) – the new co-chairs of the NDF

In James’ final report as chair he said that in the five years since the NDF was set up it has reached 500 members, written an Neighbourhood Development Plan  that will last until 2031! and is making traction with its priorities.

In his new role as co-chair Keith thanked James for the huge amount of work he has done for West Hampstead and Nick presented him with a couple of memories of the area.

Ever since the Neighbourhood Development Plan was approved by referendum, the role of the NDF has been a little hazy. Is it there to ensure the plan is adhered to? Should it take a more proactive role in continuing to shape the development of the area? How should membership be defined? These are all questions that Keith and Nick will need to answer in the coming months.

Nick’s first thoughts were that “the role of the NDF now is to ensure that the Neighbourhood Plan is applied and enforced on all significant schemes in the Fortune Green and West Hampstead wards. We are also looking at the future of the designated Growth Area around the stations and we need to continue to press for master-planning for all the significant potential sites in the Growth Area to avoid uncoordinated development, and to maximise the value to the community of any development there”.

He added, “The immediate big challenge is to maintain the high standard of evaluation and comment on proposed schemes in the area, a process which has been very effectively led by James over the past five years, and that has won some substantial improvements to the proposals. There are likely to be several big developments coming forward soon that will need close scrutiny and robust comment. For instance, the developers of the very large and dense scheme for upmarket retirement housing on the Gondar Gardens reservoir green space say an application will be submitted this year. We will be supporting the local community in seeking a satisfactory outcome”.

James’s parting advice for the NDF going forward? “The main lesson is you do have to sit down and discuss with developers, you have to be involved. Make sure you have a seat at the table.”

Gondar Gardens: Chauffeur-driven retirees vs the slowworm

Gondar Gardens – the old reservoir site in the northern reaches of West Hampstead – has had more than its fair share of development proposals over the past few years. Some have been rejected – even on appeal – and some have been accepted. Yet nothing has actually been built.

The most recent decision was in 2014, when a scheme by developer Linden Wates to build 28 homes along the street side of the open space was approved on appeal.

The "frontage" scheme, approved in 2014

The “frontage” scheme, approved in 2014

Last year, LifeCare Residences bought the site from LindenWates. LifeCare Residences builds luxury retirement homes.

Late Sunday night, the local residents association, GARA, sent an email with more details on what was happening:

  • LifeCare wants to build 108 luxury flats on Gondar Gardens reservoir, together with a restaurant, swimming pool, nursing facilities and various offices to service their ‘retirement community’108? Not a joke? And nursing facilities too?
  • They would make their scheme “car free” by providing a chauffeur service to their residentshardly a model of sustainable transport or encouraging integration with the rest of us!
  • They would pay Camden a large sum in lieu of providing any affordable housing
  • LifeCare and their professional advisers appeared surprised to learn that the Open Space and Site of Nature Conservation Importance cover the whole site except for a small strip on the street frontagewe sent them away to look at the plans!

We already knew that LifeCare builds luxury retirement homes – hardly an amenity for local residents as we are simply not in their target market. Compare that to the currently approved frontage-only scheme for 28 homes that delivers both affordable housing and protection of the Open Space, with 93% of the land gifted to the London Wildlife Trust in perpetuity. Click here for a brief summary of previous schemes.

In case you’re wondering what creatures inhabit this space to justify its importance as a wildlife sanctuary – the answer is slow worms. Before you mock, this is one of the few habitats for them in urban areas, and the species is protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Does West Hampstead need to sacrifice a green space for some chauffeur-driven wealthy retirees?

Housing targets 90 percent fulfilled with 14 years to go!

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

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

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

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

WH Growth area2

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

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

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

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

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

And 198 new flats at West Hampstead Square

And 198 new flats at West Hampstead Square

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is anyone counting West Hampstead’s job growth?

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

WH Growth area2

Growth Area is outlined in black

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

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

Inside Ink at Blackburn House Image: Ink Global/Sidetrade

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

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

But of course it doesn’t stop there,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

156 West End Lane proposal gets green light

156 West End Lane latest plans. Image via Design and Access Statement

156 West End Lane latest plans. Image via Design and Access Statement

After a lengthy debate in the council chamber on Thursday, the Labour-dominated planning committee voted 11-2 in favour of the proposed development of 156 West End Lane – the Travis Perkins building. The plan is for 164 residential units along with some retail, office and community space.

Four of our local councillors sit on the committee: Labour’s Phil Rosenberg and James Yarde from West Hampstead, and Richard Olszewski (Lab) and Flick Rea (LibDem) from Fortune Green. Flick had already stood down from the committee for this decision so that she could speak against it. The other three stated before the meeting that they were going in with “an open mind”.  In the end, Phil voted against, the other two in favour.

Camden’s planning department and the planning committee clearly have difficult decisions to make. However, when Camden is both judge and jury for applications on its own sites, as in this case, it is always hard to shake the belief that more transparency, more frankness and less spin would help get better outcomes. The full planning officer’s report is here (PDF, 15Mb download). The recommendation was to accept the proposal.

The meeting began with statements for and against the development and in a rare development, the three opposing speakers were given two minutes each rather than the five minutes collectively that is usually allowed. Yes, a whole extra minute to fight their corner!

First was Joseph Black of does-what-it-says-on-the-tin ‘Stop the Blocks’ campaign. Unfortunately, he ran out of time partly due to a technical problem with his presentation. Their objections covered a wide range of issues, from the height and mass of the buildings and resulting overshadowing, to the segregation of the development, to potential danger from the new access road. He was followed by Larry Trachtenberg, chair of the Crediton Hill residents association, who talked about the negative impact on the conservation area. Finally there was an employee from Travis Perkins who saw her job in jeopardy.

Cllr Flick Rea went next – as a councillor she is exempt from the two minute rule. She has extensive planning experience and knows West Hampstead very well. In a passionate speech she pointed out that there were more than 600 written objections to the plans, which is exceptionally high for any application. She objected to the proposed development’s impact on the conservation area, to its blockiness, to the possible danger from the access road and to the detrimental impact on the village atmosphere of West Hampstead. Finally, she got one of the few laughs of the evening by saying it ‘looks like one of the worst excesses of East Croydon town centre’. Commitee chair, Cllr Heather Johnson tried to cut off but, being made of sterner stuff, Flick managed to get her conclusion in.

These statements were followed by questions from councillors on different aspects of the proposal;

  • Jobs: The development will include 1093m2 of employment space (half affordable for start-up units and half normal office space) and 793m2 of retail space. Planning officers argued this would create 108 new jobs overall.
  • Design: Cllr Andrew Marshall raised concerns on the brick colour (and he’s right to worry).  Cllr Sue Vincent asked why the building height didn’t fall in line with the sloping land.
  • Density: Cllr Richard Cotton asked how this proposal compared to the London guidelines, and was told that at 788 habitable rooms/hectare it exceeded the 700/ha. guidelines, although this is commonly the case.
  • Overshadowing: Yes, councillors were told, the outdoor games area will be in shadow on summer afternoons, but not enough to breach any guidelines.
  • Vehicle access: The planning and transport officers argued there would be fewer entrances/exits than there are with the current builders’ yard and that it would be safe.
  • Impact on local transport: Cllr Rosenberg asked about the impact of additional users of local transport.  The officer said that the effect would be small, and they couldn’t allocate any money directly from the development to help.
  • Community space: The development will have a 63m2 room available to the community, “because there is a shortage in West Hampstead.” As our recent article showed there are nearly 30 other community spaces for hire in the area. The new room could work well but, the costs will have to be covered and these have not been specified.

Perhaps the most contentious issue is that of affordable housing. This was discussed, though some councillors seemed to have a shaky grasp of this key but undoubtedly complicated topic. Since April last year, Camden’s strategy has been for so-called “affordable housing” to be affordable-rented and not shared-ownership. Yet this application still includes ‘shared ownership’ units in order to meet the 50% affordable housing target that the council had set itself. How rich must you be to afford shared ownership? We explore this more in this related article.

After so much discussion – two hours, your slightly stiff-necked correspondent can confirm – the vote came and went in a matter of seconds. The result was not a surprise. Ten councillors in favour, including Yarde and Olszewski, and two against – Rosenberg and Cotton. Although local Tory activists were noisily opposed to the scheme, the two Conservative councillors on the committee, Cllr Marshall and Cllr Roger Freeman voted to approve the scheme. You can watch the whole glorious event unfold here or in the video embedded at the end of this article.

Vote on 156 West End Lane

Vote on 156 West End Lane. Cllrs Rosenberg, bottom left, and Cotton (2nd row right) voted against. Chair Heather Johnson (not pictured) voted in favour. 

Despite the lengthy debate, there was little mention of how to spend the community infrastructure levy (CIL) that the developers will pay in order to help West Hampstead cope with the impact of the development. There is a curious disconnect between the political push to impose yet another another development on West Hampstead, and the lack of any similar push to ensure there is masterplanning and spending of CIL to make day-to-day improvements so these developments can be absorbed successfully.

There was also little mention of the NDF, despite this being the first major development to be tested since the neighbourhood plan was approved. And the NDF was behind much of the push to improve the development, though the group still opposed the final version of the plan. Perhaps, the council could turn to the NDF to help with a significant role in masterplanning and that CIL spending.

Now we wait for the timetable for demolition and building, and yet more works traffic on West End Lane.

How rich must you be to afford “affordable” housing?

After many people – including West Hampstead Life – made a fuss about the lack of affordable housing provision in the Liddell Road scheme, Camden promised that the 156 West End Lane scheme would meet the 50% affordable housing quota by floorspace.

The development, which was given the go-ahead by the planning committee on Thursday, ended up with 79 affordable flats, or 49.8% of floorspace. Except, you could argue it’s not even that.

Take a deep breath as we dive into the murky waters of what is and isn’t affordable housing – and quite how much money you need to get some for yourself.

First, the good news.

Of those 79 affordable flats, 44 are “affordable rented” (and equate to 30% of total floorspace). According to the planning officer’s report, the rents have been set at Camden’s target social rented rate. In 2014/15, the average cost of Camden council’s housing rent was £475 per month. To give you an idea of how that relates to the local private rental market, one-bed flats in the area on Rightmove start from about £1,250 per month.

You can therefore argue that these rented properties are indeed affordable.

Now the bad news.

The remaining 35 units (20% of total floorspace) are ‘shared ownership’ properties. This still nominally falls under so-called “intermediate” affordable housing. Intermediate includes both affordable rented and shared-ownership but excludes social housing (aka “council houses”), which is a separate category. There is no social housing planned for 156 West End Lane.

How affordable is shared ownership? We looked at the nearby Central development on Iverson Road where a one-bed shared-ownership flat is being marketed.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of shared ownership – as at least a couple of councillors on Thursday night were clearly not – then here’s the primer:

Shared ownership means you take a stake (often 25%) in the property and any mortgage you need is based on that value. You then pay rent on the remaining share (say, 75%) to the housing association that manages the property. There are also service charges. Over time, most people try to increase their stake. The scheme is supposed to be a way to get ownership with much lower financial requirements. Typically a deposit of only 5% is required.

Let’s go back to this Iverson Road property to see what it would cost.

The full market price of the flat is £550,000. A 25% share is £137,500. There’s a required 5% deposit of £6,875.

An "affordable" shared ownership flat on Iverson Road.

An “affordable” shared ownership flat on Iverson Road.

Critically, the details specify a minimum household income of £65,000. Shared ownership schemes in London are available to anyone with a household income below £90,000. For this one, you must also be a Camden resident and almost certainly a first-time buyer (the rules here are not black & white).

The median gross income in Camden is £39,610 (higher than the London average of £33,203) [Source].

Therefore, a Camden couple who both earned the average income would have a combined gross income of £79,220, and would be eligible to buy this property. Note that the average London-wide income would only just make them eligible.

They have got their deposit together and need to borrow £130,625. Shared ownership mortgages are a specific product. We have used the Leeds Building Society shared ownership mortgages to calculate the costs.

At current rates, a 3-yr fixed over a 25-year period, reverting to the standard-variable rate after 3 years and with no fees, works out at an overall rate of 5.3%. According to the Moneysavingexpert site, this leads to an average monthly payment of £787.

But remember, that’s just on the 25% you own. Our average Camden couple have then got to pay rent on the remaining 75% and Origin tells us that this is £688/month, plus a £150 monthly service charge.

Total monthly payment: £1,625.

That’s a high monthly payment for a quarter of a flat. There are standard 25-year mortgages available at the moment with representative APRs of 1.5% (they require 20% deposits). Take one of those and you could borrow £400,000 and end up with the same monthly payment of ~£1,600. The cheapest 1-bed flat (not studio) in the area is on for £279,950, but if you wanted that nice Iverson Road flat at market value you’d still need to find a £150,000 deposit on top of your £400k mortgage. The system works therefore at one level – it makes property affordable for people who otherwise couldn’t possibly afford it.

Nevertheless, to get that “affordable” flat in Iverson Road under the shared-ownership scheme, you still need to have a household income equal to two median Camden incomes, and pay out £1,625 a month. For 25% of it. And if you’re wondering, a joint income of £65,000 (assuming you both earned £32,500 each and had no dependents) would place your household in the top 11% of household incomes in the country according to the IFS. Our average Camden couple would be in the top 7%.

The red bar on the right shows your household income relative

The red bar on the right shows a gross household income of £65,000 (net £50,000) relative to national household incomes (based on two adults each earning £32,500).

Is there a solution?
Camden seems to already recognise that affordable renting is far more affordable than shared ownership. According to the 156 report, in April 2016, the council’s cabinet stated that it would “seek to secure affordable intermediate housing… by encouraging all developers and housing associations to provide intermediate rent rather than shared ownership units as the intermediate housing element of their affordable housing contribution to developments’ [our emphasis].

This development was a test of this new strategy but clearly it’s not working.

Indeed, the report for 156 West End Lane suggests that our calculations above could wildly underestimate what a shared ownership flat might cost: “[The] increase in property values has meant that it is no longer possible to deliver shared ownership at a price that is affordable to the council’s target income groups earning £30,000 to £40,000 per year.”

Back to 156 West End Lane. On the basis of what is called “affordable housing”, yes, Camden has delivered 50%. In terms of what a reasonable person might consider to be affordable – perhaps not.

We welcome comments from council officers, or housing associations to correct any assumptions we’ve made here.

Developments pile pressure on street parking

Some residents of Maygrove and Iverson Roads are fed up with the increasingly difficult parking situation they face in light of all the new developments on these roads.

The local residents association, MILAM, wants to see a review of parking hours and is suggesting a sub-zone that has different rules to the CA-Q zone in which these streets sit. Specifically, it would like to see controls extending past 6.30pm.

CA-Q is a large zone that runs along Kilburn High Road from Quex Road all the way up to Cricklewood. It has controlled parking between 8.30am and 6.30pm. Camden is reluctant to sub-divide the zone although subdivisions are not unusual – there are already two within CA-Q. However, any change to zone rules inevitably has knock-on effects and therefore not everyone is automatically in favour of change.

CA-Q parking zone runs from Cricklewood to Kilburn

CA-Q parking zone runs from Cricklewood to Kilburn

Camden has said that for any review of parking it needs a petition signed by 800 residents of the affected parking zone. As it happens, a petition has already been set up by a resident of Maygrove Road. She was fed up of not being able to park as she used to before the recent developments opened. If you want to sign it (and you live or work in the CA-Q area) click here.

What’s the problem?
The new developments on Iverson and Maygrove – The Residence (91 units, Maygrove Rd), The Central (33 units, Iverson) and The Ivery (19 units, Iverson) – are designated “car free”, like every other new development in Camden. This creates a ‘carparteid’ between residents of new developments and existing residents.

“Car free” means no parking spaces for residents (although The Residence does offer some underground parking for disabled drivers) and in theory, these residents are also not allowed parking permits for street parking. However, as MILAM residents are finding, theory and reality are two different things. Some new residents appear able to get round controls; of course they can legally park outside the controlled hours, some can get hold of a blue badge for disabled drivers, it’s possible to get a local friend to register the car to get a permit, or to hire a local garage space, displacing another car onto the road that can legally obtain a permit, or use visitors’ permits.

Anecdotal evidence from longer-term residents such as Monica Regli, chair of MILAM, suggests that while there used to be spare parking spaces, these have filled up and people have started to park on single yellow lines.

@NW6_residents: Once again no parking for residents! Instead more arguments as not one-way!

@NW6_residents: Once again no parking for residents! Instead more arguments as not one-way!

Now the single yellow lines are filling up, which creates additional problems. Cars parking on the single yellow lines mean that traffic can no longer pull over on Maygrove Road to allow oncoming cars to pass. The result: cars getting stuck head-to-head and road rage incidents. According to Monica, there are now calls for Maygrove to become a one-way street.

@NW6_residents "Another horrendous morning in Maygrove road! Screaming arguments, reversing full length of road! Wake up @camdentalking #congestion #help!"

@NW6_residents “Another horrendous morning in Maygrove Road! Screaming arguments, reversing full length of road!”

Will it get worse?
Yes. Almost certainly. The new school on Liddell Road opens this September. At first it will be year one pupils only; but each year a new class will join. The head teacher won’t have to worry though, she gets her own parking space.

The problem is set to get worse still with phase two of Liddell Road (the flats and business space) as Camden seems to have ignored the GLA guidelines on parking. This development will have 106 residential units and 3700m2 of business space, which is approximately enough for 40-50 people. All served by two and a half disabled parking spaces.

Let’s not forget that West Hampstead Square is about to open with 196 new flats, and some employment space, and Camden will decide shortly on  156 West End Lane with most likely another 164 units and 1,800m2 of employment space. It’s true that many residents won’t have cars – car ownership in this part of London is very low, but it isn’t zero. The excellent transport links mean that employees can probably get to and from work on tube, train or bus, but firms have clients, deliveries and disabled employees.

It also seems unrealistic to think that none of these residents will have cars already, or may need a car for work (doctors, midwives, plumbers, etc.). Are more car club spaces the answer? Possibly, though demand is lower than you might think – West Hamsptead Square actually removed some car club spaces.

What are the objections to parking changes?
James Earl, chair of the Fordwych Road residents association (and of the Neighbourhood Development Forum) is not in favour of wholesale changes to the parking zone rules because of the possible knock on impact to other streets outside any sub-zone. A new resident of the Residence on Maygrove Road has also objected to any changes. She said that she was aware of the existing hours of parking control when she moved in, and that was fine, but any changes to hours now would be very problematic as her husband could no longer park!

MILAM is getting support from local councillors, Phil Rosenberg and James Yarde. Monica had hoped to put the issue as a deputation to the council, but was instead offered a chance to put the issue to a scrutiny committee.

Overground redevelopment starts in earnest

Just as West Hampstead Square is entering the home stretch to completion, building work is starting on the redevelopment of the Overground station right next door. Expect some noisy work during the days, and the occasional bit of nighttime work when they need access to the track.

Work has indeed started on redevelopment of the Overground

Work has indeed started on redevelopment of the Overground

The reason for the works is that, as you are aware, the Overground has seen a dramatic rise in passenger numbers. Last year nearly 5 million passengers used West Hampstead Overground, compared to 1.5 million in 2008/09.

The station will be kept operational during construction, so the work is being done in phases. Buckingham Group, the contractors, started on-site works in November 2016. For the first half of this year, it will build foundations, and conduct ground and drainage works. In the second half of the year, it will install the new footbridge, which should open by the end of 2017.

In 2018, lifts will be installed (making the station fully accessible, like the Thameslink), and the planned* opening of the the new station building in August 2018. Then the old station will be dismantled (and a new retail space built in its place) and – hallelujah – the footway will be widened. Finally landscaping will be completed by the end of 2018. Some way to go then.

Buckingham is trying to keep inevitable disruption to a minimum and the line will not be closed during the work. Working hours are expected to be Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm and 8am to 1pm on Saturdays when necessary. There will be some work outside these hours.  Last Sunday in the early hours, for example, the surveyor did some track inspection works and this coming Sunday morning (15th) there will be hoarding adjustment works again in the early hours, though Buckingham claims this will not be noisy. No-one’s moved into West Hampstead Square yet, so there should not be too many people affected anyway yet.

When the work is all completed the new station should look like this.

New Overground station, view from platform. Image via TfL

New Overground station, view from platform. Image via TfL

And like this on West End Lane:

Overground station new entrance. Image via TfL

Overground station new entrance. Image via TfL

*already works are running a couple of months behind schedule.

New light is shone on 156 West End Lane’s shadows

Camden has received new daylight and light impact studies for 156 West End Lane. ‘Hang on’, you’re thinking – didn’t it already have them?

Well, yes. But, no. But, yes. Daylight studies were originally submitted with the planning application last November for the building itself and another set on its impact on neighbouring properties, plus another set in December 2015. After the design was revised slightly in June there was yet another set. These were produced by the imaginatively named ‘Right to Light consultants’ on behalf of John Rowan and partners, advisors to A2Dominion.

The reports concluded that impact on daylighyt of the development was acceptable. However, local campaign group Stop the Blocks pointed out discrepancies in the light studies and the impact on buildings/windows that could affect the ‘right to light’ of neighbouring residents. The group asked Camden to request independent advisors to report and check. Another firm – Anstey Horne was commissioned to review the figures.

Anstey Horne made a few observations, including that the existing site is underdeveloped and has higher light levels than one would expect for an urban site; that the western side matches surrounding developments so its impact should be accepted ‘flexibly’ but this holds less true for the impact of the eastern building. Despite also wondering why there was no 3D study, which would have helped explain the impact, the conclusion was that the impact of the proposed development was acceptable.

People who work in the field say that Anstey Horne has a good reputation and has to provide unbiased and factually correct information – otherwise it would be liable to a lawsuit.

Want to know more about right to light? Read on…

In effect, the owner of a building with windows that have had natural daylight for 20 years or more is entitled to object to any building that would deprive him or her of that illumination. To objectively measure any loss of light, developers use two measures from BRE (Buildings Research Establishment) guidelines: the vertical sky component (VSC) and, as a backup, the average daylight factor (ADF).

If the VSC with the new development in place, is both less than 27% and less than 0.8 times its former value, the occupants of the existing building will notice the reduction in the amount of skylight”.

Likewise, the ADF “should be 5% for a well-lit daylight space but at a minimum 2% for a partly-lit daylight space”.

According to Right to Light, who did the original studies for 156, 93% of the 391 windows studied passed the VSC test. Of the 29 windows that failed, 11 were secondary windows (i.e. there was another window in the same room, so overall there was enough light. Of the 18 windows that were the sole windows to rooms facing the development, it depends what the room is used for as to how critical it is. Bedrooms have lower light requirements than living rooms or kitchens. Having guessed at the use of most rooms, where it was not clear, Right to Light maintains that most of these will meet the ADF requirement.

From a ‘right to light’ perspective, although there will be an impact, “It is therefore considered, that when applying the BRE Guidelines the proposed development will not have a material impact to the light amenity of this property”.

Stop the Blocks also raised concerns about the impact on the MUGA (sports pitch). The reports accept that there would be an impact but “we […] remain of the opinion that the proposed development creates an acceptable level of overshadowing on the adjacent MUGA space”.

Shadow analysis of the MUGA between 156 WEL and Crown Close play area

Shadow analysis of the MUGA between 156 WEL and Crown Close play area

Liddell Road school to open with spare capacity

Liddell Road has a new name. After much careful thought and consideration it has been renamed, wait for it…, “Liddell Place”. Someone suggested an alternative, but for some reason Camden didn’t like it.

Where’s Liddell Road? It’s the former council-owned light industrial estate just off Maygrove Road that’s being redeveloped to house an infants school that will be part of Kilburn’s Kingsgate School, alongside a large residential tower block, some modern mansion blocks and some office space that will be privately developed. Was big news. You should have been there.

Anyway, work is underway on site, so time for an update.

The whole reason a new school… sorry, a new building for Kingsgate School, was needed was because of a projected dramatic shortage in primary places in this part of the borough. The new school was planned to opened in September 2016 with four-form entry. That’s 120 places.

Strange then that just a year later  (clearing the site had taken much longer than expected), the school is now to be a three-form entry with 90 kids starting instead of 120. Where did those 30 kids go?

Camden’s cabinet member for schools, Angela Mason, explained in a written response, “The proposed change is in response to our latest school place-planning data, which now suggests a slower growth in demand. If we left the admissions number at 120, the school would have to employ enough staff to cover these extra places. As school funding is linked to the actual number of pupils on roll, it would be a strain on the school’s budget if the places were not filled. This is why we’ve applied to the Schools Adjudicator to vary the arrangements for the September 2017 intake, though we expect demand to rise again in future years.”

Too few kids, too much money?

The development is taking place in two phases; first the school and second the housing and workspace. The school is on track to be finished in July 2017, ready for the new school year next September. The deadline for applying for reception and nursery places is 15th January.

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

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

However, Camden has been taking a long time to market the site for phase two. It is now due to be marketed next year.

It will be interesting to see what the asking price is. Camden refused to disclose the viability figures at the time of the planning application in 2014/15, but what we know is that Camden wanted to cover the £13.4 million cost of the new school and make a surplus of £1.9 million. Therefore if the site is sold for anything more than £15.3 million, Camden will receive more money than planned. Chances of the value of the land having gone up over two to three years?

Any additional surplus could have helped increase the amount of affordable housing in 156 West End Lane (the council justified the lack of affordable housing at Liddell Road by saying that 156 would get 50%, which it has). But Liddell Road won’t be put up for sale until after the 156 West End Lane planning decision is decided. So will additional surplus flow out of West Hampstead again?

Classrooms and construction

It may be simpler to build the school first and the residential units afterwards, but it does mean the entire construction period will be very long, and there’ll be enormous disruption for local residents, and of course for the schoolchildren on site. Construction of the second phase is anticipated to take 18 months.

Recent view of Liddell Rd. Image: West Hampstead NDF

Recent view of Liddell Rd. Image: West Hampstead NDF

Maygrove Road residents are very concerned about the impact the new school, flats and offices will have on parking in the area. They have already been affected by the adjacent Regal Homes development, called ‘The Residence’, which is now complete and occupied. Although that development is nominally ‘car-free’ , Monica Regli, chair of MILAM, the local residents association says, “We have noticed that parking has become significantly worse now that the new flats are built despite it being a “carless” development. We assume it’s because new residents are using cars to commute and parking on Maygrove outside of restricted hours. In fact, parking is becoming such an issue that a petition has been started”.  

Finally, five of the nine trees with preservation orders on the Liddell Road site were fatally damaged in Storm Katie last year.  This may be because they no longer had the shelter provided by the old buildings. Local residents have pressed Camden to replace them, after having been unclear, they have now said they will be replaced as part of the landscaping for the school playground.

We’ll keep you updated on Liddell Road’s progress and especially on how much the development rights are sold for next year.

Frustrated buyers face more delays at Ballymore

West Hampstead Square still isn’t finished. As you will have noticed.

Progress is being made as recent tweets show but it’s well overdue, and while it’s annoying for locals as the roads clog up with lorries delivering materials, for those who’ve bought apartments (some of whom are existing West Hampstead residents), the delays are going from frustrating to potentially financially damaging.

West Hampstead Square - when will it be finished?

West Hampstead Square – when will it be finished?

The original completion date was June 2015. But, in June this year, with development already a year behind, Ballymore ditched the original construction company, O’Hare McGovern, and took over itself. After taking stock of the situation, it predicted completion by the end of this year. However, since then the company has ‘encountered further obstacles’, according to a letter sent to anxious buyers, which have now set the completion date back another three months. The latest is that no-one will move in until the start of next year and some flats won’t be ready until March. Anger is starting to bubble up.

“Ballymore has taken me and other buyers for granted,” says one local buyer who wants to remain anonymous. “The delay is frustrating, but what’s unacceptable is the manner with which they have drip-fed delays this year, rather than giving a realistic estimate from the start.”

Another buyer felt “it has been very poorly dealt with and has been very stressful” but now he just “wants to get it done to stop spending unnecessary money”.

The problem buyers face is that as soon as the actual completion date is announced, they have just 10 days to provide the balance of the money. Anyone tempted by a premature completion date announcement might find themselves having given notice or sold their existing property only to end up being told to hold on – again.

One buyer, for example, was initially told he could move in by June, but was then told that completion was expected in September, then October, then late October, then early November, then late November. By the end of October it was going to be completing in early December, but just a few days later that was pushed back to the end of January.

Aside from the practicalities of knowing when to move out, these flats were sold pre-Brexit and the uncertainty in the run-up to that vote and in the aftermath has dampened the property market somewhat. Private buyers are probably OK, according to Jon Hughes at local estate agent Benham & Reeves. Overall, the market has softened though underlying prices remain stable, but transaction volume is down.

Buy-to-let investors, who will surely make up a significant percentage of West Hampstead Square owners, will find things a little more difficult. Before construction started, the predicted rental price for a two-bed at West Hampstead Square was £650-£700 per week according to one local agent. In today’s market, he suggested sub-£600 seems more realistic. In addition, mortgage criteria have tightened (though rates are still low) and there is additional 3% stamp duty to pay on second homes.

Any off-plan purchase comes with an element of risk – economic circumstances and personal finances can change unexpectedly over the course of 12 to 18 months – but when a build is running more than 18 months late that risk is exacerbated. We know of some buyers who are have had issues with the sale of their previous properties, others who have sold to release the funds and now need to ask landlords to extend their leases. For anyone not in the super-rich or professional property investor category, these delays are both expensive and upsetting.

It is not just residents who have been affected. Businesses had been hoping to move in before the bouyant Christmas trading period. The latest news is that they will be able to start their shop fit-outs in December, but they won’t be able to open until January at the earliest. Apparently, Marks & Spencer may not open until February.

It seems that buyers have no legal recourse to compensation for the delays despite being strung along for months and possibly well over a year. In fact, in the small print of the contract, Ballymore can complete as late as 2018! All in all it is stressful situation for the buyers, several of whom have expressed their frustration to WHL. If you have experienced these problems or others, drop us a line. We asked Ballymore for a comment, but no-one has returned our calls.

Alice House decked by planning decision

Popular West Hampstead bar, The Alice House, has fallen foul of Camden’s planners who have refused retrospective planning permission for its outside decking. The Alice House bookends a run of outside seating spaces along that stretch of West End Lane, which includes One Bourbon and The Black Lion. Together, many locals feel they make an attractive ‘active frontage’ that brings life to West End Lane.

Decking appears to be within the frontage.

Decking in question, it appears to be within the frontage.

Cllr Flick Rea, who has long experience of planning issues in the area, was surprised at the decision, particularly when there have been so many other blatant breaches of planning policy elsewhere in our area. However, many other similiar decking areas have been in place for more than four years, which means they become automatically approved.

For example, The Petit Corée at 98 West End Lane has a raised platform that is more than four years old (pre-dating the existing business) and is therefore immune from prosecution. It also has a boundary fence that was lowered to below 1 metre, which is the maximum height allowed before permission is required. At the other end of West End Lane, Schnitzel has also had decking in place for more than four years and again no enforcement action was taken. Its fence is marginally higher than 1 metre, but it was not deemed expedient to pursue the matter. GBK, The Black Lion and Thunderbird (when it was La Smorfia) all applied for permission to retain or alter their outside decking areas and all were granted.

Hang on, you may be saying, the decking at The Alice House has been there for more than four years. True. There has been a decked space outside the building for many years, certainly before ULG, the current owners, took over the site back in 2008. However, it is the improvements made over the past couple of years that have caused the problem.

Alice and her problematic timber perimeter!

Alice and her problematic timber perimeter!

Originally, the decking was separated from the pavement by just a rope barrier. Then, when the decking needed some repair work, the company though it would be a good opportunity to replace the rope barrier with something more fixed and incorporate some built-in seating. This has proved popular with customers, but not with Camden. The Alice House saw these as minor changes to existing decking so it didn’t occur to the owners to seek planning permission.

However, when a local resident alerted Camden to a string of planning breaches on West End Lane, including The Alice House, the planners suggested that the bar submit a retrospective planning application, which it did. Only one person objected during the consultation, arguing that the decking made the pavement too narrow – specifically for two buggies to pass each other. It is true that the pavement is narrow at this spot, though no narrower than elsewhere along this stretch.

In fact, the precise boundaries of the public highway are not clear: the planning officer’s report states that the decking is on the public highway according to the Land Registry, but it actually seems to be within the line of the pavement along that stretch of West End Lane (as the photo below, taken from the application, shows), and ULG has a map from 1999 that implies the forecourt area is part of the property.

The decking appears to follow the line of the forecourt of the residential block to the north

The decking appears to follow the line of the forecourt of the residential block to the north

Camden’s objections to the decked area are that “by virtue of their siting on the public highway, [it] reduces the width and function of the pavement” and that “by reason of their size, siting and design, create a dominant and incongruous feature in a prominent corner location resulting in harm to the character and appearance of the host building”.

Camden has described the distinctive corner building as “an important site, identified as a positive contributor in the West End Lane Conservation Area”. In its more detailed report, it is the timber walls that appear to be the major issue:

“The [surrounding perimeter timber enclosures] form a solid boundary which, in terms of overall bulk, extent and materials, are considered to overwhelm the host property and streetscene and are not sympathetic to the general character of the Conservation Area. At 4.8 metres at its deepest point, it protrudes well beyond the front elevation and is perceived as an obtrusive, out of scale addition to the property. It is accepted that the decking in itself is similar to many others in the locality, it extends no further than adjoining boundary walls, and it adjoins to the north a series of front gardens enclosed by low walls and retail forecourts with decking. However the combination of both the raised decking and the surrounding wall-like enclosures form a bulky and overbearing structure and cumulatively cause harm to the streetscene, particularly at this prominent corner location.”

Camden proposed that the bar remove the planters (which are more than 1 metre high), and reduce both the height and depth of the decking, though offered no guarantees that this would result in permission being granted. Camden also wants to charge The Alice House a substantial sum, believed to run to thousands of pounds, as a table and chair fee, again claiming the decking is on the public highway. The Alice House in turn has proposed turning the clock back and reinstating the rope-barrier arrangement, which would have been automatically allowed under the four-year rule.

Should ULG have been aware of the planning regulations on this? Camden’s planning website lists common issues for which businesses need planning permission, which include change of use, shop fronts and canopies but nothing about decking.

The Alice House is at pains to point out that it is trying to work with Camden to resolve this, and as a long-standing business in the area it wants to do the best for West Hampstead. Its advisors have suggested that it appeals the decision, which it intends to do. It would seem that much hinges on whether the space is or is not part of the public highway.

And on Twitter, people have been voicing their support for The Alice House.

What do you think? Is The Alice House being made an example of compared to some other less popular and possibly more egregious flouting of planning guidelines? Or is it right that planners try and uphold their own policies wherever possible?

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.

Have your say on the future of West Hampstead

You can’t have failed to notice that a large amount of development is going on in the area of West Hampstead around the three stations.

Since it was set up in early 2012, the Fortune Green & West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Forum (NDF) has been lobbying for a ‘masterplan’ to be drawn up for the area – to set out how the area could be developed in future and how the needs of the area (particularly the increasing pressure on local infrastructure) are taken into account.

Camden Council has now agreed to work with the NDF to begin this work.

Good masterplanning creates better places and requires expertise in urban design, strategic planning, architecture, landscape architecture and community engagement.

The first step is a workshop (organised jointly by the NDF & Camden Council) on Saturday 12th November from 10am-4pm at Emmanuel School Hall on Mill Lane (includes a free lunch and tea/coffee). Everyone is welcome, so come and have your say.

What is your opinion? Have your say.

What is your opinion? Have your say.

We will be joined by Camden Council officers, local councillors, and planning professionals to assist in our work. Local residents with knowledge of planning/architectural issues are particularly welcome to advise and give their input on these issues.

The area has been classified as a ‘Growth Area’ by the Mayor of London – and while lots of development has already happened, more will come. The London Plan sets a target of a minimum of 800 new homes and 100 jobs between 2010 and 2031.

The area contains three main sites for development. The first (West Hampstead Square aka Ballymore) is due to be completed by the end of this year with 198 new homes. The second (156 West End Lane aka Travis Perkins site) is being sold by Camden Council to a developer and a re-consultation on the planning application is currently underway for a scheme with 164 new homes. The third remaining site is the 02 Centre car park, which is owned by the large property and development company, Land Securities.

While there are no plans for the third site at the moment, it’s clear something will happen here in the future and it won’t be a small development. There’s also the suggestion that the car park site could encompass Homebase and the neighbouring car showrooms. Such a development would also have an impact on Blackburn Road, which has a number of smaller development sites.

The Neighbourhood Plan (which was approved in a local referendum last year) sets out policy for the West Hampstead Growth Area (Policy 4) and also includes Recommendation C, which calls on Camden Council to draw up a masterplan for this area.

If you would like to know more (and/or be added to the NDF mailing list), please contact:

You can find out more about the NDF on our website and follow our work on Twitter

Judgement day approaches for 156 West End Lane

The proposals for 156 West End Lane (aka Travis Perkins) roll on. Two(?), three(?) years after it was first announced, are we into the final stretch? The latest planning application has opened for comments and the deadline is 10th November.

To recap

The development is for 164 flats of which 79 are affordable (44 social rented and 35 shared ownership) and 85 are for private sale. Although less than half the flats are “affordable”, they are on average larger and thus 50% of the floorspace is deemed “affordable” (which is how the quota works). The proposal also includes 1,919m2 of employment space; 763m2 retail space, 500m2 of ‘start-up space, 63m2 of community space and 593m2 of office space.

156 West End Lane latest plans. Image via Design and Access Statement

156 West End Lane latest plans. Image via Design and Access Statement

There are copies of the latest summary of the proposals on Camden’s planning website and at the library, though the easiest way to read it is on developer’s A2Dominion website. Unfortunately, this latest summary focuses on the changes made to previous proposals, but doesn’t recap some basic issues. To understand the last round of plans, our July article may help.

Why a new proposal? The original application was submitted last November, but was put on hold because both Camden’s planning officer and the GLA (Greater London Authority) had concerns. Developer A2D has since tweaked (‘improved’) the plans and thus submitted a new application for consultation.

Three local groups have studied the application in depth. The Neighbourhood Development Forum and Stop the Blocks both oppose the proposal (click the links to read their submissions, although these relate to the original proposal. Doubtless they will comment again). WHAT, the third local amenity group, is becoming less active and has focussed its efforts on ensuring that affordable rents really are affordable (it seems they will be set at 40% of market rents). As you have may have read in the CNJ’s letter pages and on its own website, Stop the Blocks  is critical of the other two groups’ approach to the scheme.

More background information, as if wasn’t complicated enough already, is that the site is part of the West Hampstead ‘Growth Area’. This means that it is deemed capable of large scale development, primarily housing. However, the site is also adjacent to a conservation area, which any development is supposed to take into account.

How big is too big?

The single biggest issue with the proposed development is its scale. The original sales brochure for the site sums it up neatly: “The site offers the greatest potential for higher scaled development to the western frontage [West End Lane] and to the south towards the railway lines, with a transition in scale towards the more sensitive residential interface to the north [Lymington Road]”.

In other words, it’s a big plot of land that the agents felt could take a large building. It’s worth remembering that in a local survey a few years ago, the existing building was the second most unpopular in West Hampstead – a failed attempt by Camden in the 1970s to build an iconic building.

As it stands, the proposed building occupies the full frontage along West End Lane at six storeys (but the top one set back), reducing in height as it moves back from West End Lane along the railway tracks. Following the initial consultation, A2D has reduced the visual impact on West End Lane, arguing that the new design fits better with the adjacent Canterbury Mansions, although the corner tower in the final proposal looks a bit odd and is visually jarring.

A 3D view from a slightly earlier scheme as A2D haven't supplied a new one. Main difference is that east building is one storey lower.

A 3D view from a slightly earlier scheme as A2D hasn’t supplied a new one. Main difference is that east building is now one storey lower.

In the latest proposal, the developers have lowered the height of the east building by one storey to help reduce the impact from Crediton Hill and the conservation area. These are slight improvements from the first proposal, but at least one person with local experience of assessing these applications still feels the development is too ‘blocky’ along the railway tracks. Will the reduction by one floor be enough to appease the critics?

The new proposals (left) show the far eastern end is one-storey lower than the original plans (right)

The new proposals (left) show the far eastern end is one-storey lower than the original plans (right)

One way to judge whether the proposals are too dense is to benchmark the scheme against the London Plan’s guidelines. This considers the type of neighbourhood (West Hampstead qualifies as ‘urban’) and level of public transport (‘very good’). These criteria suggest a maximum density of 700 habitable rooms per hectare and up to 260 units per hectare. The current plans for 156 West End Lane have 786 habitable rooms and 288 units per hectare, suggesting that the development may be too dense.

Where did the sun go?

There is a “right to light” in planning law that often comes into play when tall buildings are being planned. In the earlier application, Stop the Blocks picked up on some discrepencies in the sunlight reports and were concerned that the outdoor games area would be overshadowed. Camden asked A2D to clarify: A2D’s consultants, John Rowan and Partners, maintain that sufficient light would still reach the buildings on Lymington Road after redevelopment. Different consultants ‘Right to Light’ Surveyors, asked specifically about the multi-use games area (MUGA), agree that although there would be increased shadows, the impact would be acceptable.

There is also an independent assessment by Anstey Horne which states both that “we consider that the overall level of adherence is good and where there are reductions beyond the BRE guidelines, the retained levels of daylight and sunlight are in-keeping for an urban setting“. And for the MUGA that “although there is some overshadowing in the afternoon by the proposed development, the MUGA area will meet/exceed the BRE guideline recommendations for sunlight availability“.

The jobs equation

Camden’s policies appear ambiguous on the issue of employment space. On the one hand the council wants to protect employment space and developments need to provide an equivalent amount of employment space to any that would be lost. On the other hand, the council wants to prioritise housing. As happened at Liddell Road, where the industrial estate was wiped out for a new school, flats and some office space, the idea of “equivalence” is vague. Camden does generally seem to be stricter with private developers (e.g., forcing the Iverson Tyres site to keep light industrial space, which has only now just been reclassified as office space after no tenants appeared), but more flexible when redeveloping its  own sites.

Currently there is 4,019m2 of employment space on site; the former council office space of 2,401m2 and retail showroom/builders merchants of 1,618m2. This will be replaced by 1,919m2 of employment space; 763m2 retail space, 500m2 of ‘start-up space, 63m2 community space and 593m2 office space.

Travis Perkins (TP), the existing employer on site, is arguing strongly that it should be allowed to remain. However, it is only a leaseholder from Camden, which has now given it notice, so it’s not clear on what legal grounds TP could insist on staying. TP also had the option to purchase the site and  redevelop it themselves, but chose not to.

There’s also some disagreement about what constitutes employment space. Camden argues that the Wickes showroom, the TP shop, and the old council offices all constitute employment space; TP wants to include the whole yard area, which would mean the current proposal falls short of maintaining the same employment space.

TP has pointed out that when it redeveloped its yard at Euston (which now has student housing on top) Camden insisted TP retained the same amount of employment space; but now Camden is redeveloping its own site it is allowing/arguing for more flexibility. Funny that.

The thorny affordable housing question

Camden required A2Dominion to ensure that 50% of the housing area was for ‘affordable’ units. We have discussed the issue of what “affordable” means before. From a developer’s perspective, A2D has to make the numbers add up. It has to pay Camden a reported £25 million for the site, build 50% affordable housing that is less profitable, and still make a normal development profit.

Overall, 79 of the 164 units are designated “affordable”: 44 social rented (at a to-be-confirmed 40% of market rent) and 35 shared ownership. Whether shared ownership truly constitutes affordable housing is another debate.

Different types of ownership proposed for 156 West End Lane (original plan)

Different types of ownership proposed for 156 West End Lane. Source: Design and Access Statement

What does it mean for West End Lane?

Sometimes, a focus on design and other issues can be at the expense of practicalities, for example the Sager building (Alfred Court) by Fortune Green was approved with an internal courtyard for commercial deliveries— but the entrance is too low for delivery trucks to enter. Yes really!

Deliveries could be an issue for 156 West End Lane too. The original plans claimed that the proposal met Department of Transport delivery criteria and would allow refuse collection and ‘small’ articulated lorries to back into the internal loading bay, but it seems tight. If, as with Alfred Court, it turns out to be impossible, then lorries would park on West End Lane and we’d have an escalation of the problems caused by Tesco lorries and more traffic chaos on West End Lane. No thank you.

As we discovered with Tesco, once deliveries start, it is nigh impossible to change them, so it is really important that this addressed at the planning approval stage and not left to be finalised later. There is also the practicalities of vehicles crossing the pavement onto West End Lane.

A serious issue hanging over 156 West End Lane is the size of the retail units. The focus on TP and employment space has led to less scrutiny of what the new commercial space will actually be. One reason the current building is so unpopular is that it is ‘dead’ frontage on West End Lane. To be successful it needs to be ‘active’ frontage, but another large unit on the scale of Wickes would not be much better.

Dull frontage on West End Lane - new development can, and must - do better than this.

Dull frontage on West End Lane – new development can, and must – do better than this.

Of course, planning has little control over this; it can specify only that the space should be retail, it cannot dictate the size of the units. The latest plans propose a flexible retail space potentially up to 678m2. That’s supermarket size. Yet would replacing the current frontage, which is rather dull compared to the variety on the rest of West End Lane, with another uniform frontage be any improvement? Even the option of three retail units would still see three sizeable units, but this is perhaps the least worse option.

A2D has promised that as site owners, it will be a good neighbour. Yet it is probably in its financial interest to lease the retail space as one site. With three —soon to be four—supermarkets on West End Lane, does West Hampstead really need another one?

What is the impact on local amenity?

What even is “amenity”? In this case it’s both the useful facilities of a building and the impact on the “pleasantness” of an area. The proposed development will affect amenity in both good and bad ways.

Firstly, your personal taste will dictate whether you think the building itself will enhance the area. Few would argue that it is replacing an unloved building. But as we’ve seen, the impact on views and sunlight is more contentious.

The development will create a new public open space and improve the rundown Potteries path, both positive impacts. A2D is also building a new community room, though it is not clear who will bear the cost of managing it.

Finally, A2D will be required to pay CIL (the community infrastructure levy that replaces the old Section 106 money) although it is not clear exactly how much it will have to pay but the most likely scenario is that it will have to pay £250 per m2 on the 7,657m2 of market housing, which comes to £1.9 million (25% of which stays in the area) plus £25 per m2 of the commercial space. This would allow improvements to other local facilities though tracking how this money is spent is a whole other issue.

Conclusion

The plans for 156 West End Lane show, yet again, that the planning system doesn’t work effectively. London is desperately short of housing and this scheme provides both private and social housing. It is being put forward by a housing association (which is using private development profits to build more social housing). And all that seems to have got lost.

No wonder; go to Camden’s planning portal and there are now more than 400 relevant documents online for this one plan. It’s overwhelming and nigh on impossible to get a handle on them all. This is not to say that the proposals are bad, just that it’s extremely difficult to judge them in an objective way. In fact, the latest plans are an improvement on the original versions – the design is better and they are quite a bit lower. A cynic might wonder whether A2D chose to start off with the worst-case scenario and then be seen to reflect local feedback to end up with what it had in mind all along.

The situation is complicated further by the fact that the fate of this Camden-owned site will be judged by… Camden councillors. Camden’s planners do seem to have influence on the proposal – their reservations (along with those of the GLA), were why the scheme was put on ice last year. Nevertheless, there is an annoying – if understandable – lack of transparency on their discussions so we don’t know exactly what issues concerned them. Once the planning officer reaches his decision – which will be a recommendation to approve or not approve, the decision goes to a vote. Given Labour’s dominance in Camden, and this redevelopment helping fund the new council offices at Kings Cross, there seems little doubt that if the recommendation is to approve, the same verdict will follow.

There is one significant issue that could derail it. The issue of employment space that we set out above is being challenged by deep-pocketed Travis Perkins. It’s a technical planning issue, and not top of the list of local concerns, but it could still have an influence as a legal technicality.

West Hampstead is having to cope with a lot of new development, and 156 will add to that; but are we getting our fair share of the benefits? Camden’s other growth areas – which it needs to meet its housing targets – have had money spent on masterplanning, but West Hampstead has not. This means that there are a series of disjointed developments that lack coherence.

Are revised plans for Mario’s super or not?

Today was the final official day for comments on 153-163 Broadhurst Gardens a.k.a. “Mario’s block” for those of you can remember the Greek restaurant that used to be there.  As West Hampstead Life reported nearly three years ago during the first consultation for this site there were two options on offer: traditional or modern.

The site is in the South Hampstead conservation area, although not of significant architectural merit (it’s not listed).  It is not in the West Hampstead Growth Area but close enough and big enough to warrant interest.

At the initial presentation there was a high turnout – offering design options to local people is a recommended strategy for getting buy-in to a proposed development. It wasn’t clear what happened after that presentation as things went quiet. But in the background, the owners continued to consult with Camden planners (as they are allowed to do – and have to pay handsomely for).  The new Design and Access statement says that “there was a clear local preference at the local community consultation for the traditional building that reflected the immediate surrounding area” (although they don’t say by what percentage) and a preference for red brick over the yellower London stock.

At the consultation there was also concern about the bulkiness of the building, which has been addressed during design development. For example originally there were 19 flats in the building, the initial proposals raised this to 39 (which seemed squeezing a quart into a pint pot). This has been scaled back to 30 units. This reduction has come about by scaling back the rear of the building (originally the building was going to incorporate 23 West Hampstead Mews). The western side of the building has also been reduced to four storeys to match the height of the ENO building next door.

Design development for 153 to 163 Broadhurst Gardens ('modern' version)

Design development for 153 to 163 Broadhurst Gardens (‘modern’ version)

Final proposal for 153-163 Broadhurst Gardens (traditional version)

Final proposal for 153-163 Broadhurst Gardens (traditional version)

What hasn’t changed much is that the development includes two large (ish) retail units with storage space underground.  The West Hampstead NDF objected to the scale of the units and the Council’s own policies suggest it should ‘ensure that West Hampstead continues to provide a mix of units to serve the local area, but which will avoid the loss of ground floor units’. Is replacing the existing four or five units with two large ones, one of which may be a restaurant again, in accordance with these policies? This will also be an issue for 156 West End Lane.

The site has amazing transport links – you could almost fall out of your bed into the C11 and not much further onto the tube –  which has an impact on the density of development. It’s rated “6a” for transport accessibility, which means in practice 175- 405 units per ha. This latest plan works out at 344 units/ha, so within the range but at the upper end.

Both the NDF and CRASH (South Hampstead residents association) have challenged the lack of affordable housing, but no viability assessments have been disclosed yet. The development should generate more than £500,000 in community infrastructre levy thought – and 25% of that must be spent in the local area).

Sadly, the sole tree on the site (behind 159) would be removed and not replaced. If developments are supposed to be sustainable, perhaps Camden and the developers could look at options for replacing trees on or around the site. Broadhurst Gardens is a quirky retail area, could it be enhanced by some greenery (something a mini-masterplan could include)?

153-156 Broadhurst Gardens is a significant site in our area, which hasn’t received much scrutiny after the initial consultation. Still, it is good that local opinion has fed into the design development, which has led to a better building. It is super, no. Is it good enough? We will have to see what the planning committee decide.

Things already look brighter on the Black Path

A fortnight ago WHL asked, How can you help lighten the Black Path?, ending with an invitation to come and help start sorting it out. Those of you who use the Black Path will have seen the difference, for the rest of you, here’s what happened next.

A group of West Hampstead residents, fed up with having to duck under overgrown foliage every time they used the Black Path, turned out on Bank Holiday Monday with secateurs, shears and loppers in hand to tackle the problem. They started at the worst section, a proliferation of ivy towards the Thameslink station. After two hours of hard labour we turned this:

Before ...

Before …

into this:

... after!

… after!

Aside from the satisfaction of sorting out a local problem, highlighting the issue has generated other benefits. Former councillor John Bryant got in touch to say that the path is in fact the joint responsibility of Camden Council and Network Rail, and that they tackled the issue a few years ago. It seems that the institutional memory had been lost. Someone from Network Rail also got in contact to offer help reaching the right person.

Many hands did indeed make light work

Many hands did indeed make light work

While we were working, many passers-by were delighted this was being sorted out, and in fact most helped too. Each was asked if they wouldn’t mind carrying a bag (or two) of green waste to the collection point at the Bloomsleigh Street end. They did, and by the end there was 43 bags of the stuff!

43 bags full, sir.

43 bags full, sir. Image: Penny Liechti

There is still more to be done, so a second sessions is planned for September to tackledthose overhanging shrubs. If you want to join us please email .

Finchley Road towerblock: Are they having a (Sky)lark?

In the outer reaches of West Hampstead, where it abuts the Finchley Road (indeed next to Finchley & Frognal Overground station) is 317 Finchley Road. You may know it as the heavily locked former nightclub. It could be transformed into a ten (10!) storey building. Could be.

The statutory consultation period for this planning application has closed but the application is still under consideration so in reality it’s not too late to comment – see below.

Skylark Court image: via planning application

Skylark Court. Image via planning application

The proposed development, ‘Skylark Court’, is from Linea Homes, a small developer that has been increasing the size of its developments over the past decade. One of its earliest developments was in West Hampstead, converting a house on Fordwych Road into flats; a couple of years later it redeveloped a house on Holmdale Road. Skylark Court is on a different scale.

For 317 Finchley Road, Linea is proposing a contemporary development with floor-to-ceiling windows, which might look good in Berlin, but does anyone need that much of a view of the Finchley Road? The ten storeys will tower well above neighbouring buildings, and has been rationalised on the basis of the flats next to JW3 (which is quite a distance away).

You may recall there was another recent application to redevelop 317 Finchley Road, however this was for only part of the site (the old pub). This got planning permission for six storeys, but the developer then sold the site on to Linea, who decided to combine it with two adjacent sites – and add four storeys.

Previous consented scheme image: via planning application

Previous consented scheme (note five storeys, plus a sixth set back) image: via planning application

Alongside all the glass, the developer explains its choice of materials:

Materials, colour, texture, patterns, structure and construction were under consideration while sculpting and breaking down the mass against a multiple of further competing criteria, namely Network Rail, neighbouring daylight and sunlight amenities, overlooking, road noise and atmospheric pollution, street and townscape, fire escape’.

No, we can’t understand it either, but it appears they want to clad it in some sort of red stone (see illustration below). What’s wrong with good old brick?

Berlin or the Finchley Road?

Berlin or the Finchley Road?

One final thing to note is that Linea is proposing a completely new entrance to Billy Fury Way, between the development and the Overground station, while still keeping the old one, which seems a bit odd.

The previous application attracted only a couple of comments, but this one has already reached over twenty, 95% opposed on grounds of height. If you want to add your comments on the application (2016/2910/P) you can find the related documents here or  you can comment here.

Hallelujah! West Hampstead is getting new community space

What do with church buildings in 2016? The buildings, many Victorian, are too big for today’s congregations and an increasingly diverse and secular London. A couple of years ago St. James Church, just south of the tube station, was converted into the Sherriff Centre.

Fr Jonathan and our Local MP Tulip Siddiq

Fr Jonathan, Tulip Siddiq and Emmanuel Church

But what you might not know is that redevelopment is underway at Emmanuel Church off West End Green at the heart of West Hampstead. This will add five different rooms/spaces available for community use. Father Jonathan Kester explains, “A number of local community organisations including the Community Association of West Hampstead have indicated that they will use the new space in the church for some of their activities and this will greatly increase what they can do. We will also be able to do more of the outreach work that is such a vital part of the life of the church. The rooms will make it possible for us to participate more fully in the Camden Churches Winter Night Shelter, for example, and to continue our partnership with Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous, the Fortune Green Choir and a number of other artistic, musical and cultural activities”.

The first suggestions to add community space to Emmanuel Church were raised in 1921, so it’s only taken 95 years for it to happen (and we thought Camden Council was slow). Redevelopment was triggered by the fact that the floor needed stablising and replacing, which created the opportunity to rethink the space.

New two story rooms, with same on the other side and community space in between.

New two-storey rooms, with the same on the other side and community space in between.

The project is making better use of the space in the side-aisles. Before the redevelopment there was one plasterboard community room on the right hand side of the nave (the bottom part of what you see in the picture). This has been replaced by a brick structure (as required by the Victorian Society in keeping with listed status) with another community room in the space on top. The same is duplicated (out of picture) on the other side. And between the two sides will be a space suitable for larger community meetings. All this is situated in roughly the back third of the church, the front part will remain as a church.

The total cost is around £650,000 (plus VAT) paid for by largely by Emmanuel Church with contributions from the local community and a £50,000 section 106 contribution. Although there is still some money to raise to finish off the project. If you would like to contribute to the funding or find out about using the rooms, please contact . It is expected to open for business in mid-October. Hallelujah!

£3 million in the “Bank of West Hampstead” – but who’s managing it?

Camden has £3 million pounds to spend in the area thanks to the arcanely named “Section 106 money”. These are payments made by developers to the council and is allocated for spending in the following areas: community facilities, transport, highways, parks and open spaces, schools, apprenticeships and policy contributions. Yet, as Councillor Flick Rea eloquently stated at last week’s Area Action Group public meeting, neither she nor other local councillors have any idea how decisions are made on how this money is spent.

In an effort to shed some light on the matter, Rob Willis, Infrastructure and Growth Manager at Camden Council, came to the meeting. He handled himself reasonably well in the face of rather grumpy audience but he didn’t really have the answers. For example there was confusion between what was Fortune Green and West Hampstead, although it was agreed locally that the two wards should be seen as one area. Rob did say that the council wasn’t sitting on the money, sometimes it was waiting for matched funding and it wasn’t always clear when it would arrive.

Although even quite small developments can be forced to make s106 contributions but the bulk of the money comes from the big developments. Ballymore contributed £1.3 million, the student housing on Blackburn Road about £350,000, and the three recent developments on Iverson and Maygrove roads another £600,000, just to give some examples.

Time to spend some money on the interchange area?

Time to spend some money on the interchange area?  Pic: David Jacobs, Colour Division

Some spending has been allocated; £900,000 is going towards the Overground station, £500,000 has already been allocated to community facilities (£330,000 to Sidings, £75,000 to Kingsgate, £80,000 to WH community centre, £50,000 to Emmanuel Church and £50,000 to the Sherriff Centre). But there is no masterplan for spending the rest of the money or to provide a framework for linking developments. There is no ranking of potential beneficiary projects, little idea of how the decisions are made and scant scrutiny of how money is spent.

At the  meeting, several questions were raised:

  • There is about £250,000 unallocated money for community facilities. Could/should this be spent on the library? On the West End Lane loos under threat of closure?
  • The Iverson Road Open Space has been allocated £210,000 for improvement, but it recently had money spent on it. It’s tired and needs improvement but £210,000? Who made this decision?
  • Sumatra Road Open Space is getting £50,000 for improvement but, like Iverson, it had £50,000 spent on it only a few years ago.
  • Maygrove Peace Park, which is heavily used and surrounded by development, was promised £100,000 from the adjacent 65 Maygrove Road development, but that has somehow become just £59,000 and it won’t get it until 2019. (Again, Maygrove had £100,000 spent on it not that long agom which raises questions of maintenance).
  • There is more than £750,000 for highways and transport spending. Everyone agrees the streetscape round the interchange needs upgrading and it is an important part of the masterplanning – but will Camden consult West Hampstead residents on this?

From April 2015 this year CIL (the Community Infrastructure Levy) replaces the financial contributions of Section 106, and this money will be spent on projects identified by ward councillors. Some of these are the issues thrown up by the growth area. However, this isn’t linked with previous section 106 payments. Odd. Time for some joined up government?

Revealing the ‘history’ of Heritage Lane

We promised to investigate why ‘West Hampstead Square’ is now known as ‘Heritage Lane’ and here’s the result of our sleuthing. Back in 2014, Ballymore applied to use the ‘West Hampstead’ prefix as the postal address for the development, while it was marketing it as West Hampstead Square. There is a very simple statutory consulting process – Camden asks the Fire Brigade, who refused on the grounds it would be a duplication in Camden (and hence could be confusing). What’s confusing is whether it is the square or the road at the side that is being named but either way, it’s hard to see what would be especially confusing.

Camden says that names have been turned down by the Fire Brigade even if there is no other one in the Borough on the grounds that there is one in the neighbouring Boroughs of Islington or Barnet.

HeritageLane_text

When Ballymore was told that West Hampstead Square had been turned down, it came up with the following alternatives: Scholars/Heritage/Bohemia and Wordsmith with a suffix of Row, Way, or Lane. Seems like they were following the logic of each building being named after an author. Scholars was also rejected on the basis of duplication, leaving Heritage, Bohemia and Wordsmith. The rest, as they say, is Heritage.

The naming of buildings is governed by the London Government Act 1963 Section 43 and the London Buildings Acts (Amendment) Act 1939 Part 2, along with more recent policy guidance. If the streets of Kilburn were being named today there would no longer be a Kilburn Lane, Kilburn High Road, Kilburn Place, Kilburn Square, or Kilburn Vale. Cricklewood couldn’t have a Broadway and a Lane. However, recent developments elsewhere in London do include Oval Quarter near the Oval and redeveloped Kings Cross includes Kings Boulevard and Kings Place.

Planners say that we should foster a sense of place to create successful neighbourhoods. So they suggested this development have a square to provide some open space off crowded West End Lane, and the buildings were named expressly to reference West Hampstead.

One would have thought that someone at Ballymore would thought about all this in advance. The readers of West Hampstead Life came up with a concept behind the naming of buildings, giving them a sense of place. Since the building isn’t yet occupied, it’s not too late to change it. It doesn’t cost much and could be done if Ballymore wanted to, although there may be legal documents using the name Heritage Lane.

Yes, it was cheeky of Ballymore to ‘nick’ West Hampstead as the name for this development but given it lies next to ‘West Hampstead’ Overground station and opposite ‘West Hampstead’ tube it was not an unreasonable choice. It may well be that it will be called West Hampstead Square anyway. That could indeed be confusing for the emergency services.

156 West End Lane obscured by the fog of planning

Just as there exists the fog of war, so it seems there is a fog of planning. A2 Dominion’s redevelopment of 156 West End Lane has been amended and come back again for comments, but it’s not clear where things stand. To add to the fog, the redevelopment is being reviewed by a new planning officer.

Technically, the application did not need to reconsult because the new scheme is within the parameters of the old one (i.e. theoretically ‘better’). However, as it is such a controversial scheme, we get to enjoy another round of consultation. The closing date for comments was July 5th, but according to Camden planners, it won’t actually start until for another fortnight at least, when the official three week period will begin (i.e during the height of the summer holidays)?!  Fog of planning.  There are now more than 200 related documents to plough through on the website, so it’s becoming increasingly hard to work out where the application stands.

Two documents on Camden’s planning website provide a useful summary. They have many of the same images and explain the changes. They are the Design and Access Statement Addendum or the Townscape (scroll down to 14/6 @13:11) and Visual Impact Addendum (scroll down to 28/6). Why do two documents have the same information? Must be the fog of planning.

156 West End Lane latest plans

156 West End Lane latest plans.  Image via: Design and Access Statement

The main changes are:

  • Reduce height of the East building by one storey (making it less visible from Crediton Hill)
  • Changes to the South elevation – wavy balconies (reflecting mansion block bays?)
  • New treatment of the corner with West End Lane

The reduced height of the East Building improves the application though the the new balconies are not convincing, nor does the corner treatment doesn’t seem resolved.

Nov 15 plans.  Image via Design and Access statement.

Nov 15 plans. Image via Design and Access statement.

What stays roughly the same

  • The redevelopment provides 163 new flats (was 164); 42 affordable, 34 shared ownership and 87 private. By area 50% are affordable.
  • It provides 1,824 m2 of office space

The GLA (Mayor’s Office) commented on the previous application, so there has been an important external opinion. It felt the application broadly complies with the London plan but still had a few concerns. Camden planners too still have some concerns. but it’s not clear what those concerns are (the fog of planning again).

One concern of the GLA was the loss of employment space and the suggested ‘satisfactory business relocation measures’, which seems a big ask. Travis Perkins is fighting this hard. It wants to stay on the site but in a city short of space, Camden needs to weigh up whether light industrial usage is really the best use of this site? Travis Perkins was also interested in bidding for the site itself but decided against it.

Trying to combine employment and residential use means the proposed redevelopment exceeds the London Plan’s guidelines for residential density (odd the GLA didn’t comment on this) – buried away in the documents it calculates the net density of the residential part as being 791 habitable rooms per hectare while the London Plan has a suggested upper limit of 700.

This application faces a trilemma. Camden wants to sell the site for as much money as possible. A2Dominion offered to buy it and needs to make a commercial return. But did they offer too much, which now means they are forced to breach planning guidelines to deliver the return? It’s agreed that housing should be built, but is there enough truly affordable housing? Added to which planning policies also ‘require’ keeping as much commercial floorspace as is currently there.

The site is clearly suitable for redevelopment, and housing seems like a sensible use, but how much development is acceptable on the site? Particularly one that is adjacent to a residential area, and a conservation area at that? To be explored in part two as West Hampstead Life seeks to clarify matters further.

West Hampstead Square rebrands as “Heritage Lane”

HeritageLane_text

Ballymore’s increasingly delayed West Hampstead Square megaproject has taken another turn for the bizzare. In a marketing document seen by West Hampstead Life, the developer is selling the long leasehold for the commercial part of the development with a breakdown of who the tenants will be. The words “West Hampstead Square” appear nowhere in this glossy brochure. Instead, we are invited to take a walk down “Heritage Lane”.

HeritageLane_main

A Ballymore spokesperson told us that this was not the developer’s idea. Indeed she sounded a bit peeved given the amount they’d spent on marketing West Hampstead Square. Instead, she claimed that Camden had forced this upon them. We are chasing Camden for comment/confirmation, though local councillors and the NDF were nonplussed. It is true that local authorities and Royal Mail do have a say over new street names even on private developments. But how anyone thought Heritage Lane was a good idea is beyond me.

Perhaps if indeed Camden is responsible, the new name should have been put to some sort of public vote… Or maybe not (Blocky McBlockface anyone?). The access road for the bin lorries and no doubt endless Yodel vans is hardly lane-like, and the commercial bit out front certainly isn’t a Lane. It’s not a Square either to be fair, but it is some form of broadly quadrilaterally shaped space.

Still, all that heritage eh? Um. West Hampstead Square Heritage Lane is a distinctly modern development, all brick and glass and air conditioning units. Whether or not you like it aesthetically, it is unapologetically modern and does not conjure up images of heritage. And nor does it need to – it’s been marketed as modern living for modern people so this sudden throwback to heritage seems an odd choice?

Ballymore did hold a local competition to help with the naming of the tower blocks, but we all naively assumed that West Hampstead Square would be the permanent name of the whole scheme.

HeritageLane_aerial

The winning entry suggested the blocks were named after local authors, and apparently Camden has agreed to this, so the first five blocks at least will be named (I don’t know in what order) Orwell, Milne, Lessing, Beckford and Hardy.

So what’s going to be in Heritage Lane?

We all know that Marks & Spencer is opening a food store there. This is a large 5,800 sq foot shop (ground floor), for which M&S will pay just shy of a quarter of a million pounds a year in rent. To give you an idea of size, that’s larger than the Little Waitrose and Tesco Express on West End Lane combined.

Next door is an M&S “Hot Food on the Move” café. The final ground floor unit is being occupied by The Provenance Meat Company, a butcher that has a Notting Hill outlet. After years and years (and years) of people whining about not having a butcher in West Hampstead, we’ve suddenly got two… and a farmers market. Are they all sustainable?

On the upper floor, it’s been well known for a while that the Village Haberdashery is moving from its cramped Mill Lane premises to take over a large 1,400 square foot space that will be both shop and workshop.

"Heritage Lane". Photo via Annie Barker

“Heritage Lane”. Photo via Annie Barker

Owner Annie Barker has big plans for the space, and it’s genuinely pleasing to see that a local business has been given a sizeable space there at reasonable rent – at least for five years when her rent will be reviewed. Finally on the upper floor, the news you’ve all been waiting for… yes… another estate agent. According to the brochure, this has not been confirmed yet, though it’s described as “specialising in premium new homes and luxury real estate with multiple offices in London and the Far East.” All in all, the annual rental income in year one comes in at £325,500.

And what is all this commercial space on the market for? According to one source, the asking price is somewhere around £6.75 million.

Overground redevelopment starts soon… and takes how long?

The long awaited redevelopment of West Hampstead’s Overground station is poised to start in August. And to finish two years later.

Not that you need reminding if you use it, but this is to cope with the exponential growth of Overground use since the line was upgraded.  In 2009/10 there were 1.3 million entries/exits from the station. By 2014/15 this was 4.7 million, up over 250% and by 2015/16, on current growth rates, it should be more than 5 million. Interchanges to other stations rose even faster, from 138,000 in 2009/10 to 513,000. Something needed to be done.

Overground station new entrance. Image via TfL

Overground station new entrance. Image via TfL

TfL will be building a totally separate new station, between the existing one and Ballymore/West Hampstead Square. The old station will become a ‘retail opportunity’. The new improved station will have accessible lifts for both platforms (paid for by a £1 million Section 106 contribution from Ballymore). There will be more ticket gates, wider platforms and steps that will be a third of the way down the existing platforms. At the entrance there will be a wider forecourt and pavements for passengers interchanging.

New Overground station, view from platform. Image via TfL

New Overground station, view from platform. Image via TfL

It won’t be easy to do the work as this busy station will remain open the whole time. TfL aims to minimise disruption to residential neighbours. So work is being phased. The prep work starts this August, construction of the new footbridge begins in January next year, the new station itself will take a year to build, starting in March and the station is set to open by Easter 2018 (Sunday April 1st!). Finally, the conversion of the old station and completion of the project in the summer of 2018. Full details, with plans and CGIs and brightly coloured arrows can be found here.

The new station will be between Ballymore and the old one.

The new station will be between Ballymore and the old one.

Combine improvements to the Overground station, the continued growth in Thameslink passenger numbers, plus all the new West Hampstead residents moving in over the next few years and it seems logical that, unless something is done soon, West Hampstead tube station will be swamped. TfL, are you listening? WHL also wonders what Camden Council is doing to ensure coherence in the streetscape and landscape between all these developments. Many trees were destroyed to build them, but what is being done to replace them?

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:

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)

First look at 156 West End Lane plans

Developer A2Dominion held two drop-in consultations this week, revealing its first plans for 156 West End Lane. The redbrick site, currently occupied by Travis Perkins, has been sold by the council as part of its Community Investment Programme to raise money.

A2Dominion 156 West End Lane _ preliminary plan

The plan is for a mixed-use development, with 202 dwellings spread across three blocks. At the moment, the developer is saying no building would exceed eight storeys. There would also be retail frontage on West End Lane, a small amount of commercial space, and improvements to the Potteries Path as well as some public green space within the site.

The existing buildings, yard and playground that form the site

The existing buildings, yard and playground that form the site

Although the developer has said it is committed to delivering 50% affordable housing on the site (as promised by Camden in light of the Liddell Road scheme), its website makes no such commitment and simply says that there would be both private and affordable housing.

The development is likely to be the first test of the Neighbourhood Development Plan. The plan is due to be voted on in a referendum on July 9th and assuming it is passed (no-one has yet launched a “No” campaign, so a rejection would be a surprise), then this site will be the first major development that must adhere to its guidelines.

In its comments on the site, the NDP says,

Any redevelopment of this site needs to provide a mixed-use development, satisfying or making an appropriate contribution to the following needs:

  • Housing, including a significant amount of affordable homes and 3 or 4 bedroom homes (see Policy 1).
  • Offices for small, micro and start-up businesses – including the possibility of serviced offices and studio space.
  • Flexible commercial and retail space that can be used for a range of employment uses.
  • Retail space on the ground floor along West End Lane, which is fitting of the character of the Town Centre (see Policy 13) and set back from the pavement.
  • The design of any new building will need to reflect the design of neighbouring buildings and the neighbouring Conservation Area (see Policies 2 & 3), including use of red brick.
  • The site shall provide an improved design relationship to the adjoining Canterbury Mansions and West End Green Conservation Area, to protect and enhance the character and appearance of the area. Therefore, the height of any new development should ensure the overall design and transition in massing achieves an appropriate relationship with neighbouring properties – and it can be demonstrated that no harm is caused to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area, its setting.
  • The provision of new green/open space to address the deficiencies outlined in the CCS.
  • The provision of space for a community meeting room for local groups and businesses.
  • Improvements to the neighbouring Potteries Path to provide a safe route for pedestrians and cyclists.
  • The investigation of opportunities for a pedestrian bridge over the railway line to the O2 Centre car park.

The ground floor of the site is currently occupied by the builders’ merchant, Travis Perkins (TP). The company has been based in the area for many years, is a significant local employer, and is keen to remain on the site. Protection for land in viable existing employment use is given in this Plan (see Policy 12) and also the CCS (CS8 & DP13).

Travis Perkins, which at one time was thought to be interested in bidding for the site itself, has sent letters to locals in an attempt to bring people on side with its campaign to retain a presence on the site. The letter argues that that it provides jobs to around 30 people and it wants to be “designed into the scheme”, retaining a presence on the site albeit in a new format, with homes alongside and above.

[update] A2Dominion has contacted WHL to tell us that, although it was not mentioned in the original plans, there is provision for a community space of approximately 60 square metres. This now appears below
Site plan
[/update]

Lymington Road residents, whose houses back onto the site, will be by far the most affected by any redevelopment of the site.

Lymington Road back gardens

The plan sites the highest parts of the buildings as far away from Lymington Road as it can, but there can be no denying that the impact will be marked – not least during the construction phase. The site does lie in the designated Growth Area, which more or less means that some substantial residential development will be granted permission here. The devil will be in the detail.

156 West End Lane building typology

In the images published so far by the developer, perhaps the most surprising ones are the projected views. Two in particular give a sense of the scale of the project:

View from Crediton Hill

View from Crediton Hill

View from Iverson Road

View from Iverson Road

A2Dominion’s ambitious timeframe has this going to Camden’s planning committee for a vote next February with construction starting in early 2017. However, these are early days and sketches at this stage can have little relation to the submittted plans.

The developer certainly needs to be much clearer about the extent of affordable housing it expects to deliver, but if this is the 50% that Camden has promised for the site, then local residents would have to expect a reasonably dense development in order to make the project financially viable. Three blocks peaking at eight storeys may not be a bad outcome, but if this scheme delivers less than 50% affordable then don’t be surprised if the developers increase the massing or height to meet that target.

You can have your say on the initial proposals here: http://www.156westendlane.co.uk/have-your-say.

Get creative with public spaces in urbanism competition

Urban Commons

Organisers of a new competition are inviting Londoners to re-imagine the city’s urban spaces in a practice known as “commoning”, or reclaiming public spaces to be used by the communities in which they are located.

With London’s open spaces increasingly being developed for profit and managed by private owners (sound familiar in West Hampstead at the moment?) the organisers Theatrum Mundi, a group of urbanists and artists, feel that “the range of activities permitted in urban spaces is becoming increasingly narrow”. How best to reclaim and use these spaces?

Feeling inspired? Perhaps there’s somewhere local, such as the Travis Perkins building on West End Lane, you feel could be used to benefit the local community.

You don’t need to be a professional designer or architect to enter your idea – it’s open to all. Full details can be found on the Urban Commons website, and the closing date is May 1st, so there are still a couple of weeks left to develop your idea.

Ten selected proposals will be awarded £300 toward the implementation of their proposal and will be featured at an exhibition at the LSE as part of the London Festival of Architecture.

“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)


www.ndpwesthampstead.org.uk
@WHampsteadNDF

West End Lane could soon be clear of agents’ boards

Last February, we reported on local resident Alan Grogan’s campaign to rid West End Lane of the large number of estate agents’ boards that were attached to many properties along the road. Many agents responded swiftly to our article and, within a couple of weeks, had voluntarily removed their boards from buildings. However, quite a few of the signs still remain up more than a year later.

This week, just as Foxtons added to the glut of estate agents on West End Lane, Alan got the news he’d been hoping for. Camden Council has submitted the Regulation 7 Application to ban all estate agents’ boards for the stretch of West End Lane between the tube station north to David’s Deli. This means that barring any major objections, the proposal should pass in the next few months.

Alan said that he is hoping the ban will come into effect “in time for the summer and we’ll have a very, very nice looking high street”.

Two of the signs still on West End Lane that would have to come down if Camden’s proposal is passed

 

 

 

Liddell Road scheme given green light

Camden councillors voted tonight to give the go ahead to both the proposal to build the school and to build the housing and employment space that will help fund it.

The debate lasted just over an hour and a half and got rather tetchy at times. It brought home how complex the funding issues are and how hard it is to make decision, or criticize them when no figures are made public.

The first vote was whether or not to approve the school and all the committee voted in favour
The second vote was whether or not to approve the rest of the scheme. Cllr Flick Rea (LD) and Cllr Claire-Louise Leyland (Con) voted against, it looked from the webcast as if Jenny Headlam-Wells (Lab) abstained (WHL has contacted Cllr Headlam-Wells to clarify), and everyone else voted in favour so both applications were passed.

Liddell Road vote

We now get to see whether the numbers did indeed add up. There was some suggestion from the independent viability assessor that it was possible there would be more capital receipts from the scheme than originally anticipated. Should that happen, that money would go towards affordable housing, though this would not be on the Liddell Road site itself.

It was sad how little mention was made of the jobs and businesses that will have to leave the premises.

Decision time: The Liddell Road refresher

It’s decision time tonight for Liddell Road, but what’s at stake and why has it been so controversial?

What’s the deal?

The council has an obligation to provide enough school places for local children and the projections are that some 400 places are needed in the West Hampstead area in the very near future.

Where to build this school?

The council decided that Liddell Road, a light industrial estate that it owns just off Maygrove Road, was the best site. The school would take up about half the site.

Rather than build a new school, which under government rules would have to be a free school, it decided to expand Kingsgate School in Kilburn, which is the best part of a mile away on foot. The youngest children would attend the Liddell Road site, the older children would be taught at the Kingsgate site. Astonishingly, even now, the admissions point for the new expanded school has not been settled.

How to pay for it?

Like many councils, Camden has been hit very hard by budget cuts, so to pay for the school it’s decided to sell off the other half of the Liddell Road site for housing and office space. By selling this land to a developer, it would get enough money to build the school and have some left over to fund improvements to other schools in the borough.

Why has it been so controversial?

Jobs
The problems started more than a year ago when there was a big discrepancy between the number of jobs Camden stated would be lost from existing Liddell Road businesses and the number that the traders themselves came up with. The traders’ number was treble Camden’s number (250 vs 80), and Camden never published the results of its employment survey despite promising to do so.

Some traders also claimed that Camden was less than helpful in assisting them finding new premises, which was next to impossible anyway for those who wanted to stay local. Camden disputes this.

Consultation process
In the first consultation about the scheme, the number of respondents who were residents AND parents was incredibly low – in fact it appeared to be just two people. There were three high-level questions, and just two responses to each from this segment: one person was in favour of expanding Kingsgate, one didn’t know; one was in favour of the split school site, one was against; one was in favour of the redevelopment overall and one against. Had this consultation reached the right audience?

The tower block
In the run-up to the council elections in May 2014, Labour campaigned on more school places, which was popular, and won five of the six local seats from the Liberal Democrats. At this stage, the early plans for Liddell Road looked like this:

LiddellRoadplan_before

After the election, the plans looked like this:

Revised Liddell Road plan with 14-storey tower block

Yep, a 14-storey tower block had appeared. Residents weren’t keen, and many pointed out that this site falls outside the designated Growth Area, where people have come to accept that higher density housing will be permitted (for example, West Hampstead Square, which has a 12-storey building at its heart).

Camden’s argument was that it needed all the housing to pay for the school, and all the office space to create jobs (more jobs than existed on the site before if you take their numbers, fewer if you take the traders’).

That £6.7 million grant
Camden received a grant from central government of £6.7 million specifically for new schools. First it wasn’t going to spend this at Liddell Road, then it was, then it was going to spend some of it. The detail has always been unclear. Camden has also said from the outset that it wanted to make an additional £3 million from the project to invest in schools elsewhere in the borough.

Many locals felt that money made from the site should be invested in West Hampstead. The council countered that West Hampstead schools have received a lot of money in recent years that has come from outside West Hampstead. That £3m has since come down to £1.9 million because the council underestimated the cost of clearing the land.

Affordable housing
Initially there was to be no affordable housing in the development. Camden would normally say that 50% of a large development should be affordable, though that’s rarely achieved in practice. Camden argued that the provision of a school completely offset the need for any affordable housing.

In its final revision of the plan, the tower block dropped to 11 storeys, and four of the 106 flats were to be affordable (initally, 1 social, 3 intermediate, but in the final report all four will be social housing). How the economics had changed to accommodate these changes was never made clear.

Opponents have argued that the surplus from the site could be used to increase the affordable housing, the council has said that it would add only a few extra units and it would rather spend the money elsewhere. Councillors also made much of the fact that the site at 156 West End Lane (Travis Perkins) would be developed with 50% affordable housing, but opponents have argued that is impossible to judge the merits of one scheme based on a promise that the council may not be able to keep on another that hasn’t even come close to a planning application yet.

Other issues
There have been a raft of other issues that have caused concern: the siting of the tower, the decision over access roads, the challenges facing parents with siblings at both sites, that admissions point problem, etc.. Camden has responded to all these, except the latter, though not of course always to the satisfaction of locals.

What are the alternatives?

Camden Labour councillors in favour of the scheme, which appears to be all of them except for Fortune Green’s Lorna Russell, have argued very forcefully that the school is essential and at a time of constrained budgets this is the best way of paying for it. They also point out that no-one who has opposed the scheme has come up with a viable costed alternative.

Proposing a costed alternative is difficult when Camden refuses to release any of the financial information associated with the scheme. Indeed it published a heavily redacted report in response to an FOI request. The NDF tried to work out the costs itself, and although it was forced to make a lot of assumptions, it calculated that the council could make an additional £10 million from the site.

Will it pass tonight?

Labour dominates the development control committee (the formal name for the planning committee), which will vote on the plans tonight. It is hard to imagine that the applications won’t be approved as this is one of the flagship schemes in Camden’s Community Investment Programme – its attempt to continue to deliver quality services in the face of swingeing budget cuts.

Complicating matters, the scheme is spread across two separate planning applications, for reasons that have never been clear given that one is entirely contingent on the other – i.e., Camden can’t realistically pass the school and reject the housing.

Many of the groups objecting to the scheme have tried to argue for a delay in order that the detail of the scheme can be discussed more thoroughly and perhaps improved. Very few are arguing that the whole idea should be thrown out wholesale, instead the questions are around the exact implementation. The council, however, is arguing that the school must get approval as soon as possible because it needs to open for the 2016/17 school year.

The upshot therefore is that to meet its statutory requirements on school places, the council has to press ahead with the school now and as the school will be paid for only by the flats and office space, they must be approved too. In other words, the planning committee is a hostage to time. This begs the question as to why this is all so last minute. To quote from a planning officer in one of the early consultation documents,

For a number of years families in the North West of the borough have struggled to find a local reception class place and Camden’s school place planning indicates that there will continue to be a pressing need in this area in the future.

Camden may point out that their predecessors did nothing to act on this when they were in power. It’s a fair point, but Labour has controlled the Town Hall since 2010. Perhaps if planners had had more time, a more equitable solution might have been found rather than forcing one through that has run into quite so many problems with locals who are not, by and large, against the underlying idea of the scheme.

 

The meeting starts tonight at 7pm. Liddell Road is the fourth planning application on the agenda so they should get to it. There are people going speaking against it and it’s likely to take some time to discuss. You can go to the Town Hall and watch in person, or you can watch the webcast here.

Guest post: NDF sums suggest £10 million missing from Liddell Road calculations

As West Hampstead Life reported a few weeks ago, Camden Council refused to disclose the finances related to the Liddell Road development [its scheme to develop the existing industrial estate, which it owns, in order to build a primary school there funded by the sale of housing and offices on the same site]. The council claims these numbers would let private developers know how the council values land, which would undermine it in future negotiations.

Leaving aside the fact that developers can employ armies of surveyors who are well versed in development economics to work such things out, the fact is that the inputs for development models such as rents, comparable sales prices, ‘allowable profit’ levels and building costs are widely available. The NDF therefore decided that in the absence of disclosure from Camden it was worth trying to do the sums itself. The results suggest that the council may make an additional £10 million from the development.

To help with its calculations, the NDF had advice from someone working in the property industry. Development economics are complicated and it is hard to imagine that all the councillors who sit on the planning committee – and thus who will vote on the scheme – have a perfect understanding of them. The general public certainly do not. To help the councillors, and as part of its legal obligations, the council does refer the scheme to an independent assessor. Members of the planning committee will see the assessor’s report before the committee meeting, though even here some financial figures are also redacted.

We would argue that in cases such as Liddell Road, where the council is both developer and approver as part of its Community Investment Programme, it is even more important that numbers are clear and transparent.

Lets do some maths

The actual calculations are relatively simple, and although we have had to make some assumptions, we feel that broadly we should be on the right lines. If Camden would like to correct us on any of these numbers, we would very much welcome their input.

Camden has explained that the sale of the flats and the office space will pay for the building of the school, and deliver a surplus. That surplus was originally £3 million but, in the final report to councillors, it’s been reduced to £1.9 million as the costs of clearing the land appear to be higher than anticipated.

To calculate how much money the council might make we need to work out

a) the value, to a developer, of the land with full planning permission for flats/offices
b) the costs of building the development + various other associated costs (including the developer’s profit margin)

This leaves a residual land value, which is the amount Camden can sell the land for to a developer and is what they will use to pay for the building of the school.

How much is Liddell Road worth to a developer?

The planning application is for two residential blocks and one office block. Lets take each in turn.

Housing
The application is for 106 flats (40 in a tower block and 66 in a mansion block) of which 4 are affordable. In total this is 10,247 sq m of floorspace and 319 habitable rooms. But what are they worth?

A good comparison is to look next door.

Adjacent to Liddell Road is 65 Maygrove Road (formerly Handrail House, now ‘The Residence’) which is currently being turned into 91 flats. These flats are already on the market with asking prices starting at £650,000 for one-bedroom flats and £780,000 for two-bedroom flats.

At those prices, the price per square metre is ~£7,500.

10,247 sq m x £7,500 = £76.9 million. To take account of the four affordable housing units, we’re rounding this down to £76 million.

Therefore, the estimated total sales value of the housing is £76 million

Office space
The application also seeks to build 3,727 sq m of office space. Based on comparable spaces in Queen’s Park and Camden we estimate an expected rental of £295/sq m.

The expected annual rental income from the office building would therefore be £1,097,000. According to commercial property estate agent Cushman & Wakefield, an office building like this could be sold for £20.5 million (based on a standard yield of 5.25%).

Total
Add together the £76 million for the housing and the £20.5 million for the office block and we get a gross development value of the site once developed of £96.5 million.

Deduct the costs

Now we need to look at the costs, which include construction costs, the developer’s profit and other costs.

Build costs
According to the BCIS (Build Cost Indexation Service) of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, an inner-London mid-height housing and office development costs about £2,750/sq m (including fees), though our research suggests this is on the high side for a development like Liddell Road.

Nevertheless, using this guide, the build cost of the 10,247 sq m of residential buildings is £28.2 million and the cost of building the 3,727 sq m of office space is £10.2 million.

To assess other building costs, we have drawn on data from bank BNP Paribas’ introduction to development economics seminar. Landscaping would cost about £1 million, infrastructure costs (roads, pipes) £5 million and a 15% contingency of £6.5 million would be normal.

Total construction costs = £50.9 million

The developer also has to make money and is allowed a 20% profit margin. For a scheme like this, we understand the margin is likely to be based on costs not sales, which gives us a figure of £10 million, but this varies from development to development and is subject to negotiation.

Two other costs can be deducted: financing and marketing costs. Interest rates are very low at the moment but at a rough estimate these would total £5 million. There are also marketing costs to sell the development (those swanky ads in the Evening Standard) generously estimated about at 5% of gross sales, so a further £5 million. Giving total ‘other’ costs of £20 million.

Total construction costs of £50.9 million + other costs of £20 million gives a grand cost total of £70.9 million.

What does this leave?

If gross sales = £96.5 million and total costs = £70.9 million, this leaves a gross residual land value of £25.6 million. This is what the council might expect a developer to pay for the land and what will fund the school

Normally, councils try to capture some of this uplift and get developers to include extra affordable housing and section 106 agreements for community facilities. The situation here is slightly more complicated, but in simple terms, the equivalent payments as set out in the planning report seem to total less than £200,000 (not all are costed, so precision is difficult), which is extremely low for a development of this size. As of April, when the new Community Infrastructure Levy comes into play, a private developer would be expected to pay £2.6 million on a housing/office development like this.

This £25.6 million (£25.4 if you want to strip out £200,000 for section 106-type payments) is supposed to finance the new school on Liddell Road and leave a £1.9 million pound surplus to be invested in schools elsewhere.

What does it cost to build a school?

Camden has said it will cost £13.4 million to build the school and has acknowledged that some of that will come from the £6.7 million central government grant the council received, though have not publically said how much.

According to the BCIS, the cost of building a new primary school of more than 2,000 sq m in inner London is £1,866/sq m. This is in line with the National School delivery cost benchmarking report of June 2014, which gives a figure of £2,170/sq m.

Going with the more expensive figure would give a cost for the school, which is 2,392 sq m, of £5.2 million. It is not clear therefore, how Camden has come up with a cost of £13.4 million – more than 2.5 times the national average.

Money left over?

Even if the school does cost £13.4 million and the council decides not to use any of the £6.7 million allocated for new school places here, our calculations suggest that there would be a further £12 million left over. Deduct the £1.9 million surplus that the council states it wants to make to fund other improvements to schools in the boroughs, and there’s still £10.1 million unaccounted for.

The property expert we spoke too clarified that his view “is given as a personal opinion on the market but is not an official valuation. That said if a full valuation was commissioned from a valuation surveyor, I am sure the view would not differ and in fact they might even come up with a higher site price’.”

The NDF would very much welcome Camden pointing out anywhere where our assumptions are wrong. Clearly the build costs and the sales costs have the biggest impact on the overall numbers, so it would be very interesting to know if Camden’s figures differ significantly from the benchmarks that we have used.

Locals objecting in numbers to Liddell Road plans

Camden has extended the deadline for comments on its Liddell Road redevelopment planning applications to February 12th. In practice, if you still want to comment, then submissions will be considered right up to the time of the vote, which is likely to be in early March.

Of the non-statutory responses Camden has published so far:

  • Objections: 32 (including two residents associations)
  • Sitting on the fence: 1 local organisation (WHAT)
  • In favour: 1 (a WHAT member)

The nature of the objections vary; many are about the scale of the development, but some are very specifically about the details of the school, including the admissions point problem.

The Neighbourhood Development Forum’s response is not online yet, but West Hampstead Life has a copy. It’s long but the key message is in the final paragraph.

“Overall, it is clear to us that this scheme – as reflected in the two planning applications – is in breach of a number of key policies in the NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework], the London Plan, Camden Council’s LDF [Local Development Framework], and in the Neighbourhood Plan. The two proposals must therefore both be refused as together neither are planning policy compliant. The NDF remains committed to working with Camden Council and local residents to bring forward a scheme that is compliant with adopted and emerging planning policy – and which reflects the wishes of our community.”

If you wish to read the whole submission, it’s embedded below.

The statutory responses from Thames Water and London Underground give the developers (that’s the council remember), no cause for concern. The response from TfL concludes, however, by saying:

“There are some question marks about how the mixed uses’ ‘shared’ needs will work in practice in a way that does not create extra activity at the kerbside especially in view of the increase in vulnerable road users associated with the Primary School and nursery.”

It also states,

“Unfortunately the applicant has not responded to pre-application advice that its blue-badge [disabled parking] space allocation is wholly inadequate and does not meet London Plan Standards (aminimum of one space per ten residential units).”

Read the full TfL response.

Whether the councillors on Camden’s planning committee, who include West Hampstead councillor Phil Rosenberg and Fortune Green councillor Richard Olszewski, will be swayed by the antipathy to the details of this proposal remains to be seen.

The one thing they should not be swayed by is the argument that the development of 156 West End Lane will deliver substantial affordable housing and that this mitigates the dire lack of it at Liddell Road. Whether this turns out to be the case or not, no scheme has yet been brought forward for 156, and thus a decision on one proposal cannot be made on the basis of a hopeful promise.

If you feel strongly about any aspect of the development – whether it’s for or against – do submit your comments to Camden and/or contact one of the West Hampstead or Fortune Green councillors: James Yarde, Phil Rosenberg, Angela Pober, Lorna Russell, Richard Olszewski and Flick Rea [firstname.lastname @ camden.gov.uk].

NDF Response to Liddell Road Consultation by WHampstead

Blackout: Council redacts Liddell Road viability report

Camden council claims that it cannot reveal the costings and valuations behind its proposal for Liddell Road “in accordance with the legal advice we have received.”

This led to a farcical response to a Freedom of Information request made by former Conservative council candidate Andrew Parkinson. Andrew had asked to see the Liddell Road viability report, which many locals are keen to look at in order to understand how the council has come up with a scheme that involves an 11-storey tower block, a mere 4% affordable housing and a sizeable surplus.

Copyright issues on FOI responses are a bit confusing, so to be on the safe side, I’ve only published the appendices of the report. Appendix A is the Financial Appraisal and Appendix B is the Cost Plan.

Liddell Road - Financial Viability Report - Redacted COPY-2_Page_20 Liddell Road - Financial Viability Report - Redacted COPY-2_Page_21 Liddell Road - Financial Viability Report - Redacted COPY-2_Page_22 Liddell Road - Financial Viability Report - Redacted COPY-2_Page_23 Liddell Road - Financial Viability Report - Redacted COPY-2_Page_24 Liddell Road - Financial Viability Report - Redacted COPY-2_Page_25 Liddell Road - Financial Viability Report - Redacted COPY-2_Page_26 Liddell Road - Financial Viability Report - Redacted COPY-2_Page_27 Liddell Road - Financial Viability Report - Redacted COPY-2_Page_28 Liddell Road - Financial Viability Report - Redacted COPY-2_Page_29 Liddell Road - Financial Viability Report - Redacted COPY-2_Page_30 Liddell Road - Financial Viability Report - Redacted COPY-2_Page_31 Liddell Road - Financial Viability Report - Redacted COPY-2_Page_32

All the numbers in the report – both in the body and the appendices have been redacted.

Andrew Parkinson said, “I personally don’t think its acceptable for the Council to entirely redact the figures in the report.”

James Earl, chairman of the Neighbourhood Development Forum, said:

“We welcome the publication of the Viability Report, which we believe should have been published with all the other documents relating to the planning application. However, the decision to redact every figure in the report is ridiculous and is an insult to the local community. This is not a private development – it is a scheme proposed by Camden Council which involves public land and public money. Local residents have a right to know about the financial position on which the proposed development is based.”

From the outset, Camden has been reluctant to show its workings. Promises to publish its survey on Liddell Road employment numbers evaporated over time, despite the council’s figures differing substantially from those cited by the businesses on the estate who were being forced to relocate.

Stephen Nathan, QC, chairman of local residents’ association WHGARA, said of the redacted report “This is absurd. Camden keep on forgetting that they are acting as a statutory planning authority.”

This latest move will do little to persuade sceptical locals that West Hampstead is getting the best deal here. A recent survey by the Neighbourhood Development Forum revealed that the broad concept for the land is popular, but the details – specifically the tall tower block and the lack of affordable housing – are far more contentious.

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

 

Only 13% of locals support Liddell Road tower

The West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Forum has been running a survey since the start of November to gauge locals’ reactions to the council’s proposals for Liddell Road.

In total, there were 128 responses, and the full results will be published on Monday; however West Hampstead Life has been given an exclusive preview of some of the findings.

Do you support the 11-storey tower block? Yes 13% No 87%
 

is 4% affordable housing too little (80%,), too much (7%), about right (13%)
 

Overall do you support Camden's Liddell Road proposal Yes 27% No 73%
 

James Earl, chairman of the NDF, said “The NDF will submit the results of the survey to Camden Council as part of its response to the planning application”.

School, 106 flats and workspace: Liddell Road planning application is in

Liddell Road from Maygrove Road

The Liddell Road mansion block from Maygrove Road

The council’s controversial plan to build a school, flats and employment space on the Liddell Road industrial estate took a step forward on Friday when the planning applications were submitted. Yes, applications plural.

Although all the documentation that accompanies the applications is presented as a coherent set of documents, the applications themselves are split into Phase 1 (the school) and Phase 2 (the residential and employment). Given that the school is contingent on the apartments being built and sold, this seems strange. One thought is that that council expects it might run into some problems with the residential part of the plan – which is what locals have objected to most – but doesn’t want to jeopardize the start date of the school.

The final applications are to build 106 residential units, of which four are designated “affordable“: three intermediate and one social housing for a wheelchair user. These will be split across an 11-storey tower block of 40 flats and a 5-storey “mansion block” fronting Maygrove Road of 66 flats. The school will be a two-storey infant school that is an extension of Kingsgate Primary School in Kilburn, and will house 420 pupils. The employment space is a 5-storey managed workspace falling under class B1.

B1 building use is use for all or any of the following purposes:
(a) as an office other than a use within class A2 (financial and professional services),
(b) for research and development of products or processes, or
(c) for any industrial process, being a use which can be carried out in any residential area without detriment to the amenity of that area by reason of noise, vibration, smell, fumes, smoke, soot, ash, dust or grit.

Liddell Road mansion block

Liddell Road mansion block

There are a lot of documents to wade through if you want to get an overview of the scheme. As always, the Desgin & Access statement is the best place to start, but it runs to 246 pages. The appendix of views will be of particular interest to many locals. You can access all the documents from Camden’s planning website, but West Hampstead Life has merged all 246 pages together, which you can download here (large PDF file).

Locals have objected to the scale of the residential development, specifically the height of the tower block (which at an earlier consultation stage was going to be 14 storeys), and the lack of affordable housing (which was initially zero), when the council is expecting to make a £3m surplus from the development and has received a further £6.7m central government grant for schools.

There is one section of the document that many will find especially galling. After setting out a perfectly valid case for the low affordable housing quota (by Camden’s own standards, there should be ~50% affordable housing), the developers (remenber, that’s the council) then try to pass blame onto campaigners who wanted a lower tower block.

Splutter

The precise number of flats intended for the site has always been fluid. At one point it was 120, at another 100, at another, 105. We’ve now ended up with 106. Amid all the documentation, WHL has yet to unearth the viability calculations that explain precisely how the affordable housing quota has been determined. Apparently the housing market can be thanked for this sudden largesse although quite what role it has played is of course unclear. Many will also be irked by the implication above that the council would love to have had more affordable housing if it wasn’t for those pesky locals demanding a lower tower, given that the council’s original plans had no such units until locals started clamouring for them despite a bullish housing market at the time the plans were first drawn up. There are no doubt some who would like to know how many affordable units would be possible if 14-storeys had been retained in order that people could make an informed trade-off.

Liddell Road tower block from Maygrove Peace Park

Liddell Road tower block from Maygrove Peace Park

In response to the objection that such a low affordable housing quota runs contrary to Camden’s own policies on vibrant mixed communities, councillors are keen to say that the development of 156 West End Lane will deliver 50% affordable housing. It’s a bold promise they may find difficult to keep, and it is unclear how West Hampstead residents are expected to judge one application on the basis of another development, especially when the latter is not even on the drawing board after Camden “deselected” the developer last month.

Residents have also objected to the siting of the tower block at the eastern end of the site, where it most overshadows the Sidings Estate and Maygrove Peace Park. Newly-formed residents association MILAM has challenged this several times but the architects and the council have decided to retain it in the east. Their argument can be found in its extensive Q&A document. There will also be a new main access road into the development, although the existing access road will be retained.

Consultation on the applications has been extended to take account of the Christmas holidays, so anyone who wants to comment on the application has “at least” until January 30th to do so. The Neighbourhood Development Forum, whose draft plan is quoted many times in the application documents, is also running a survey to try and get as comprehensive a view as possible on locals’ thoughts. You can fill in the survey here.

Given Camden Labour’s overwhelming majority on the council, it is hard to see how this plan would be refused by the development control committee when it comes to a vote. There could still be some tweaks here and there of course, but it is a stark example of the problem in the planning system when councils are both developer and ajudicator of the same proposal.

Liddell Road tower and workspace looking east

Liddell Road tower and workspace looking east

Liddell Road mansion block from Maygrove Road artist impression

Artist’s impression of Liddell Road mansion block from Maygrove Road

Liddell Road development masterplan

Liddell Road development overview

Liddell Road colour scheme

The Liddell Road brickwork will be mostly red

View of Liddell Road from Black Path

View of Liddell Road development from the Black Path

Development triggers new Residents’ Association around Maygrove Road

A constitution for West Hampstead’s newest residents’ association has just been finalised, and residents are now waiting for a meeting to formally adopt the constitution and elect its committee.

maygrove_road

The MILAM Residents’ Association will represent the interests of people living in Maygrove, Iverson, Loveridge, Ariel and Medley Roads.

As with many residents’ associations, the catalyst for setting up MILAM was to fight a particular cause, in this case the disruption caused by construction work on the Regal Homes development on Maygrove Road.

Monica Regli, who lives on Maygrove Road, said that she and many of her neighbours became frustrated with the lack of communication both from the developer and Camden Council when the works started. A short stretch of the road was closed for three months, causing significant problems with traffic which affected not only Maygrove but also the surrounding streets.

Monica Regli, of the new MILAM residents' association

Monica Regli, of the new MILAM residents’ association

A few people complained, but Monica felt that residents’ concerns were not being addressed satisfactorily. “Individual complaints were just being batted away – we needed to unite,” she said. She set up a Facebook group and Twitter account where Maygrove residents could air their views, and immediately noticed that as a group, they started to be taken more seriously. Among the group’s first followers on Twitter was Regal Homes, closely followed by many local councillors.

Fortune Green councillor Lorna Russell suggested that residents formalise the group by setting up a Residents’ Association, and also open it up to residents of the surrounding streets facing many of the same issues. The area now covers about 1,000 households. Monica said she was nervous about taking on this task, not having had experience of setting up such an association before, but received overwhelming support from Lorna and other councillors including Flick Rea and Philip Rosenberg, James Earl, chair of the West Hampstead NDF, and Sue Measures of Sidings Community Centre, where meetings were held.

James Earl, who is also chair of the Fordwych Residents’ Association, said that the FRA welcomed the establishment of MILAM. Maygrove Road used to be covered by this neighbouring group, although the other four roads were not. “We think an RA for this area is badly needed and will be able to do a very useful job in representing the views of residents in this (often overlooked) area.” he said, adding “I hope the FRA and the MILAM RA will be able to work closely and productively in the years ahead.”

Cllr. Flick Rea, too, said she hoped that MILAM would “flourish,” and explained why she is a keen advocate of such groups: “Working together achieves so much more, and gives residents a stronger voice when making representations to the Council. They can also help bring people together and create a sense of community, which can be difficult when there is no obvious focal point.”

Monica’s background in law helped when it came to drafting the constitution and ensuring that all residents’ feedback was captured. She is keen to emphasise, however, that she does not intend to take charge of proceedings and that MILAM is for all residents, whether they simply want to sign up or get more heavily involved.

What’s next on the agenda for MILAM after the Regal Homes development? Liddell Road – and its planned tower block – inevitably looms large. Even for West Hampstead, these five streets are surrounded by an unusually high concentration of planned development, and residents understandably want to be aware of, and have a say in, how these proposals will unfold in the months and years to come.

But Monica insists it’s not all about the negative. “This is also a positive way of bringing people together” she points out, saying that since the group came together on social media, her road has felt like more of a community. Social events and street parties are some of the plans on the horizon. “It’s great to feel that we’re keeping an eye out for each other and making the area feel more secure.”

You can contact the group through its Twitter or Facebook pages, or by emailing .

Is affordable housing promise at risk as developer “deselected”?

The minutes from the last Neighbourhood Development Forum meeting contain an interesting snippet towards the end.

156 West End Lane: Stuart (representing Travis Perkins) reported that the site was marketed last year and Mace was selected as preferred developers. Mace have now been ‘deselected’ by the Council and a shortlist of developers have been asked to submit new bids by 21 November… …It was pointed out that the Council’s promise of 50% affordable housing on the site (as made by Cllr Phil Jones at the Liddell Road meeting in September) may now be in doubt. James [Earl, NDF chairman] asked to be kept informed of developments. Local councillors should also be asked for information and greater clarity about the sale process.

This matters because one of Camden’s key arguments for having so little affordable housing in its Liddell Road proposal – just four units out of 100 – was that 156 West End Lane would deliver 50% affordable housing (note that this meets the quota for the site, it doesn’t actually compensate for the lack of affordable housing on Liddell Road). This has been “promised” several times, as noted in the minutes.

Camden’s extensive Liddell Road Q&A document says “At 156 West End Lane the Council is seeking 50% affordable housing from the sale of the site to a private developer.” Words like “promise” tend not to appear in print. Of course the only way that a planning decision on one site could be made contingent on what happens on another site, is for the two sites to be treated as one development and consulted on and voted on accordingly. That has never been on the cards.

Scooter showroom fails to comply in bike parking row

Residents in Fortune Green have become increasingly unhappy with motorcycle showroom Capital City on Fortune Green Road, and have persuaded Camden to take action. Capital City has, however, failed to comply.

According to locals, who are reluctant to be named after what they claim have been some altercations with the showroom owners, the business continues to break numerous rules: parking motorcycles for sale on the pavement and road and thereby making it hard for pedestrians to pass (especially those with pushchairs or in wheelchairs), trading at unauthorised times, and causing noise disturbance.

The business is, they point out, also unauthorised to place vehicles on its own forecourt, as the premises is classified for A1 retail use, not a motorcycle showroom. Nearby neighbours complain that the parked vehicles can at times occupy up to five parking spaces in an area where parking is already limited, and that they are being disturbed by the noise and fumes of cycle repairs being carried out.

Camden’s planning department has issued two enforcement notices, the first of which was issued in March and concerns a timber structure erected to the rear of the building used as a garage, for which Capital City has no planning permission. Elizabeth Beaumont, Appeals and Enforcement Team Manager at Camden, confirmed in an email that “The enforcement notice for the rear extension was not complied with and prosecution procedures have begun.”

The second enforcement notice deals with the various breaches of planning controls. Capital City was given the choice to either cease using the unit as a motorcycle showroom, or to cease storing bikes on the forecourt, cease causing disturbance with repairs and only open for trading during designated hours and days. It had to either appeal or comply with the notice by October 4th, but Elizabeth Beaumont confirmed that this, too, had received no reaction: “A visit yesterday [Oct 7th] confirmed the notice had not been complied with and we are now commencing with prosecution procedures for this matter as well.”

This was also verified by a local resident who photographed the shop the day compliance was required. It clearly shows bikes parked outside.

Motorcycles on the forecourt and road

Motorcycles on the forecourt and road