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.

Camden steams ahead with Liddell Road plan even as job loss numbers queried

This evening, Camden Council’s cabinet met to discuss a wide range of topics. HS2 was by far the most high profile. But tucked away in the agenda – in fact so well hidden that you’d have to have inside knowledge to find it – were details about the “Liddell Road scheme”.

I’ll explain what this is in more detail in a moment, but there’s one thing to understand. In one extremely important regard, a number that Camden is using to help push its own proposal through is clearly wrong. According to some people, very wrong indeed. And this matters – not just for the people directly concerned, but for the mix of our local economy.

Let me take you back.

West Hampstead needs a new primary school. This is a different issue to the free school debate that’s going on at the moment, that’s for a secondary school. This is a primary age issue, and Camden is pushing hard for an extension to the successful Kingsgate School. When they say “extension”, we’re not talking about building a new science wing, we’re talking about an entire school-size building about a mile away from the existing one. The whys and wherefores of this don’t really matter at this moment, although some would argue that they are ideological rather than practical.

The preferred location for this extension is Liddell Road. Most people say “Where?”, but in fact Liddell Road is five minutes’ walk from West Hampstead’s stations, and is home to more than 25 businesses employing – traders there claim – 250 people. That’s a lot right?

Camden council, however, believes there are 80 jobs on the site. Even if the 250 is an exaggeration, the discrepancy is surely too big to write off as an administrative error.

Camden plans to pay for this new school by building flats next to the school and selling them on the open market. Someone told me yesterday that these would have no affordable housing units, but that seems implausible. Camden has also boasted that the site will offer employment space – office jobs for around 130 people.

done the maths?

By Camden’s reckoning, there’s a net gain of 50 jobs. By the traders’ reckoning there’s a net loss of 120 jobs. Quite a difference.

Nor are these like-for-like jobs. This is swapping light industrial jobs – skilled manual work – for office work. Yet, barely a stone’s throw from this site, agents struggled for two years to let modern office space, until they finally gave up and that site is being turned into flats. Camden also admits that it’s woefully short of light industrial space and is forcing the Iverson Tyres redevelopment to have a small light industrial unit. None of this really adds up, unless you accept that the council appears willing to go to any lengths to deliver the school.

Unsurprisingly, the local traders on Liddell Road aren’t happy. They are an eclectic bunch. I’d assumed it was most car repair outfits, and there are certainly some there. But there’s also a glassware company, an upholsterer, a Middle Easter art restorer, and other surprising businesses that I suspect most West Hampstead residents had no idea were on their doorstep.

No-one’s denying the need for the school places in this part of the borough. The traders are aware of this. They are being led by Branko Viric, who runs West Hampstead Motors. I met him, his brother, his Dad and various other employees when I went to see them this week [a side note and only anecdotal, but I saw at least 20 people working in Liddell Road and I only walked up to the end and back and only went into one unit]. West Hampstead Motors has been there 14 years, but most businesses have been on the site far longer.

What Branko is saying is that not enough thought has gone into alternative options. He has set out quite a few in an open letter to all Camden councillors. Most of them probably wouldn’t fly – expanding Kingsgate on its own site seems unlikely. One idea though has that ring of common sense about it.

Kingsgate Workshops, which sit next to the school, is a collective of artist studios. It’s very popular, it has lots of exhibitions that most of you never go to, and it’s been around a while. It’s also a perfect location for extending Kingsgate School. Largely because it’s next door.

Where would the studios go? Well, there’s space on… yes, you’ve guessed it, Liddell Road. The buildings on one side of the estate are subsiding and could do with being replaced – they’re also not all in use at the moment. It’s been impossible to let them with the prospect of redevelopment looming large. Could the Kingsgate Studios relocate to Liddell Road? It almost sounds too sensible.

It would leave Camden with a financial problem – it has to pay for a new school, and there’s no money from central government. But have they even looked into it? Has anyone done the sums? If they have, why haven’t we been told about it? There’s all that Section 106 money knocking around at the moment after all – would some of that help offset the cost? The point is less that this is a brilliant solution, and more that this is at least an alternative that makes some sense and yet we have no idea whether it’s ever beeen thought of. Would Kingsgate Studio artists like the idea? I’m sure some would find it very disruptive. But nowhere near as disruptive as losing their jobs and their livelihoods.

Local councillor Keith Moffitt was at the meeting earlier this evening and “urged” the cabinet to defer the decision as the report misrepresented both the job numbers and the consultation results. Cabinet member Phil Jones tweeted not long after, “Camden cabinet just agreed to rebuild one school in Somers Town and extend another in West Hampstead – without a penny of support from govt”, and later “officers stated that evidence supports council figures”. However, a tiny glimmer of hope flickers on the horizon as he also said in response to my question about the discrepancy in job numbers that “I agree that this issue needs to be clarified and work to now take place on that.”

The development has caused controversy for other reasons too; specifically the distance between the two schools, which won’t help parents with siblings at both sites (the sites will be divided by age group); and the fact that the school decision and the decision on the residential and commercial redevelopment that is funding it are being treated separately, even thought the former is entirely contingent on the latter making it inconceivable that the latter won’t get approved whatever objections may appear.

Branko and his colleagues on the site may yet get a chance to bolster their position. They should be applauded for not simply rolling over, even if they have left the PR campaign a little late, and for thinking about solutions that maximize the benefit to everyone and include the school.

Camden’s cabinet may have made its decision this evening, but there’s a sense that this is far from done and dusted. Do read Branko’s letter – also available below

Related reading:
Liddell Road – how the night unfolded, Decmber 5th, 2013
Kingsgate School expands… a mile away, September 22nd, 2013

Smart and diverse – the Camden census

Camden census – some highlights

The Office for National Statistics released its first set of data today from the 2011 census for England & Wales. I waded through the spreadsheets to find some of the more striking figures relating to the London Borough of Camden and tweeted some of them. It’s too early for ward-level analysis yet.

Storified by West Hampstead · Tue, Dec 11 2012 05:51:29


#whampcensus Camden’s population 220,338 49m/51f, that’s up 18k from the (revised) 2001 populationWest Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden has the 8th densest (steady…) population in the country at 101.1 persons/ha. (Islington is the densest 138.7) *cough*West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden has Inner London’s 2nd highest absolute number of people 65+ living alone.West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden has highest % of flats in converted houses in the country (7th for purpose-built)West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden 6th highest level of private rented accomm. (top 9 are all in Inner London), 3rd lowest ownership (excl. Isle of Scilly)West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden has the lowest % of people living "in a household" in Inner London (96.4% vs. avg 98.4%)West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden has an average household size of 2.2, but an average number of bedrooms per household of 2.1West Hampstead
#whampcensus worth thinking about today: 3,406 households in Camden don’t have central heating. That’s 3.5%, above inner London average 3.2%West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden has 5th highest % of single mother households as % of single parent households (K&C is #1)West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden has Inner London’s 3rd and UK’s 4th highest number of registered same-sex civil partnershipsWest Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden has country’s (and London’s) 6th highest % of single person (never married) households 42.9%West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden ranks 10th for % of people born outside the EUWest Hampstead
@WHampstead #whampcensus Camden ranked 6th highest nationally in % of households with no carEllen


#whampcensus Camden has 5th highest % "any other white" popn in country (at local authority level). Brent the 2nd lowest "White British"West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden has country’s 4th highest % White Irish population; Brent is No1 unsurprisingly. 3.2 and 4.0% of total popn respectivelyWest Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden ranks 2nd (behind the often anomalous City of London) for "Irish and British only" identity, and 4th for "Irish only"West Hampstead
#whampcensus 44 people in Camden identify as Cornish only.West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden ranks 4th for mixed-ethnicity partnerships (this would include eg. 1 x White Irish and one 1 x White British I assume)West Hampstead

Employment & Education

#whampcensus Camden people work long hours – we rank 6th for % of people working 49+ hrs a week, 5th if you just take womenWest Hampstead
#whampcensus is it surprising that Camden ranks 343rd (out of 348) for % of economically active popn. who are employed part time?West Hampstead
#whampcensus 62 people in Camden work in Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing. Who knew!West Hampstead
#whampcensus Those 62 people working in Ag & Fish are split exactly 50/50 male/female.West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden ranks 3rd however for Professional, Scientific and Technical activities (behind City of London and Islington)West Hampstead
Camden also ranks 2nd for "other" (which includes actors).Oddly, Forest Heath comes top, perhaps due to the 2 USAF bases there?West Hampstead
#whampcensus 2,232 people work in "real estate activities". It is believed 2,231 one of them are based within 100 yards of West End LaneWest Hampstead
#whampcensus Unemployment rate in Camden was 4.5% (vs. inner london average of 5.6%).West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden 2nd lowest proportion of people working in manufacturing (behind the City of London, where they just manufacture money)West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden ranks 9th for % of single parents not in employment (51.3% of all single parent households)West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden has 5th highest % graduate population in country. Over half of 16+ popn. have at least an undergraduate degree.West Hampstead


CORRECTION: #whampcensus Camden had the highest % of people not stating a religion (and came 180th for "no religion").West Hampstead
#whampcensus Camden has the 3rd lowest % Christian popn. in England and Wales at 34% (Tower Hamlets 27.1, Leicester 32.4% are lower)West Hampstead
@WHampstead I’m one of the 0.4% Sikhs locally. The rest are all my relatives #takingover #whampcensusSimi
#whampcensus Camden is in the ONS’s lowest bracket for Christian % popn (0-45.9%), and has 5th highest Jewish % popn. (4.5%)West Hampstead
#whampcensus 704 Jedis in CamdenWest Hampstead
#whampcensus One person in Camden belongs to the Church of All Religion. Hedging their bets there a bit.West Hampstead
#whampcensus 9 Druids, 6 Heathens, 1 Mystic, 2 Occultists, 13 "own belief system", 143 Pagans, 6 Satanists, 2 Shamanists, 23 WiccansWest Hampstead
#whampcensus 54,759 Camdeners put "no religion", just 269 actually wrote atheist, and 264 agnostic, 2 wrote "Free Thinker", 18 "Heavy Metal"West Hampstead
#whampcensus Amused that Heavy Metal followers outnumber Scientologists in Camden. OK – enough religion now.West Hampstead
#whampcensus 45,276 didn’t fill in the religion box at allWest Hampstead