I have been alarmed by the proposed demolition of Arthur West House on Fitjohns Avenue and the replacement of this essential low-cost housing with high-end retirement properties.
I have spoken to local residents and to my colleague Tom Currie and the councillors for Frognal & Fitzjohns, who are all strongly opposed to it. The building is on the Frognal & Fitzjohns side of Fitzjohns Avenue, but concerns apply equally to Hampstead Town, too.
This development has the potential to undermine the social mix of Hampstead, reducing the ability of people to live affordability in the area.
Nobody thinks the architecture of the current Arthur West House is appropriate for the the area – it predates the Fitzjohns & Netherhall Conservation Area by ten years and would not be allowed today.
However, the demolition of Arthur West House, if it must take place, is an opportunity to erect a building that enhances the conservation area, as Camden’s planning policies require.
I’m sad to say that the proposed building doesn’t do this. Instead, it takes the form of a misshapen ziggurat, transplanted from ancient Mesopotamia to present-day Hampstead. It does not even relate to any nearby buildings, let alone fit in amongst them.
I’m also concerned that the development allows for as many cars as there are residents, despite being located near public transport and on Fitzjohns Avenue, which is snarled up in traffic enough as it is.
Despite eliminating hundreds of valuable affordable properties in Hampstead, the developer is also not offering Camden the amount dictated by Camden policy. The developer claims they can’t afford to pay the full amount, partly because the new form of housing is experimental. However, that is not the Council’s concern – it is not the job of government to bail out bad business decisions or subsidise risk.
As such, the proposed development fails under Camden’s own Development Policies on making a contribution to affordable housing (DP3), preserving shared accommodation (DP9), car parking (DP18), and protecting Conservation Areas (DP25).
I will be speaking in more detail against the proposal when it’s heard at Camden’s Deveopment Control Committee, and will be lobbying for residents’ concerns to be addressed. This is an atrocious proposal that does not heed residents’ needs or Camden’s policies.
For more about my campaign to oppose over-development, click here.