Tuesday 5 June 2012

Hampstead Garden Centre Site Planning Application Approved

Given the strength of objections that had been submitted from West Hampstead residents, local groups and Ward Councillors, many will be disappointed that the Planning Application for a development of 36 dwellings for the Hampstead Garden Centre site was approved by Camden’s Development Control Committee last Thursday.

Previously, the Officers had recommended the application for Refusal because there was insufficient Affordable housing but when this was increased from 7 to 10 units (only 70% of Camden’s requirement) the recommendation was changed to Approval.  Yet none of the objectors were consulted on the revised application and were only given a week’s notice that the application would be heard at the meeting the day before the Jubilee Weekend when many people were going away and, ironically, when the new Neighbourhood Planning Forum (to develop a local Plan) was meeting.
The Officer’s report appeared to focus on the Developer’s compliance with Camden Policy – even though allowances had to be made – rather than the very real concerns of  local residents.  The case for Change of Use was considered for residential use only, even though the site had had Commercial Use for 26 years.  No case was made of why it could not continue even though no market research had been carried out and the Officer concluded continued retail use would not be viable.  Although the new Placeshaping Action Plan identified the need for office or workshop accommodation, for which the site would be ideal, this was not considered as it was not included in the developer's application.  It would nevertheless provide jobs and employment which would support the local weekday economy.

Bizarrely, because this site is not included in the London Plan for the Intensification of the area, it was not necessary to assess the cumulative impact on the area and local services of this development with the approved plans for 200 homes at 187-199 West End Lane and the 300 Student Housing in Blackburn Road, only 100 yards apart.  Each application is assessed on its merits, not against other applications.

Furthermore, no noise assessment was carried out to meet the concerns of
Sumatra Road about the bulk of this development amplifying the railway noise for them.

Given the continuing outrage of residents around Lymington Road about the South Hampstead School development, the Planning Officers continue to adopt very narrow assessments of planning applications in West Hampstead that favour developers whilst ignoring the issues raised by the people who live here and will have to endure the long term consequences of their recommendations.

Councillor Risso-Gill, a member of the Committee, challenged the Officer and Developers on all these issues that had not been covered elsewhere and Councillor Eagling also challenged the proximity of the railway and erosion of employment space in the area. 

Unfortunately, there was no representation from local residents at the meeting, which usually sways the Committee members if residents feel so strongly against an application that they will attend the meeting to object in person.
Most of the members who voted to approve the application live elsewhere in the Borough and were swayed by the increase in Affordable Housing.  Our objections on the night did result in three members abstaining from voting.

There is a slight glimmer of hope that the development will not be built as the rationale for recommending approval in  the Officer's report based on increased Affordable Housing also commented that such complex designs often find difficulty in securing finance.

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