Camden Council is proposing to sell the plot of land behind behind West Hampstead Library or housing (along with other small sites in the borough) to help to fund its Community Investment Programme. Local residents were consulted late last year, and although 77% of respondents objected to the proposal, it is planned to be presented for approval to Cabinet in February. Ward Councillors were asked for our comments last week and , having reviewed the objections and spoken to local residents, we have submitted the following concerns :
1) Cumulative Impact
This site is not included in the Site Allocation Document, the Placeshaping Plan nor is it part of the Growth Plan for West Hampstead and we are concerned about the further cumulative impact of such additional sites coming forward for development without a coherent plan for the area.
In June 2012, a nearby site on Iverson Road, which was also not in any local development plan, was bought by a speculative developer and planning permission granted for 36 new dwellings on a very small site that had previously been a garden centre.
We are concerned that the continued encroachment of residential development on infill sites will have an adverse impact on local services such as schools, health services, traffic, parking and transport, which are all already under stress.
The streets around the site suffer from extreme parking stress. The loss of secure parking on the site is causing real concern for the people who rent either garages or parking spaces, some of whom are elderly, work shift work for which a car is a necessity, or are local businesses. No indication has yet been offered of where alternative parking spaces might be provided
We are surprised that some of the spaces are currently not let, and question whether this is because they have not been marketed, or that the Council has stopped letting them in view of this proposed development, which is influencing this decision.
Furthermore the restrictions on parking on West End Lane and neighbouring streets has led to a significant downturn in trade for local shops due to the loss of business from customers from outside the area who no longer come because of the difficulty in parking. This has led to the closure of some businesses, a decline in daytime footfall deterring other retail businesses and a growth in cafes or restaurants serving a nighttime economy when parking restrictions are relaxed. The removal of 28 parking spaces is likely to exacerbate an already stressed situation.
It is naïve to believe that people will be discouraged from driving cars in London by restricting parking spaces. Many people and businesses rely on cars and other vehicles for personal mobility, employment and trade.
If anything, could the site be used to increase the number of off street parking spaces, or make it a Pay & Display public car park for visitors (of which there are none in the area) that would generate more income for the Council and boost local trade?
We question the suitability and viability of such a small and restricted site for additional housing and whether it would be attractive to any buyer. The site is bordered on two sides by Council flats in Dennington House and the surrounding streets are narrow with a high density of residents in multi-occupancy dwellings. The proposed mews development of an additional four flats would be detrimental to the quality of life and well being of residents living adjacent to or nearby and place additional burden on local amenities such as schools, health services and obviously parking, which are already under strain. Taking the surrounding area into account, we doubt that any new development would be permissible on planning grounds as it may have a cumulative effect in exceeding the London Plan upper density limits of 700 persons per hectare. The quality of the proposed new housing for any occupants is also questionable, being surrounded on three sides with obvious limitations on light, open space and privacy.
If housing were permitted, the only development we would support would be if the land were sold to a housing association for social housing. We would oppose the sale to speculative property developers for market units that could be sold to private landlords, thus contributing to the transient movement of population and stability of West Hampstead.
4) Alternative Uses for the Site
If the sale of the site was to proceed, we would favour the site to be used for small scale B1 commercial units for creative or technology businesses that would support the local economy and provide employment. There is a severe lack of small scale light industrial or office accommodation in the area.
Although geographically outside our Ward, the impact of the sale of this site will adversely the residents of our Ward in Hemstal Road – who have already registered their objections - more than those in Kilburn Ward. We support their concerns regarding access to their properties and open space and light and have the same concerns about developing this site as those outlined in 1) and 3) above.