As Hampstead’s councillors, we are concerned by the proposal to fully transform Queen Mary’s House – the former hospital that now houses NHS staff at the top of Heath Street and East Heath Road – into luxury flats: a project dubbed ‘Hampstead Gardens’.
With the movement over the decades of services that were at Queen Mary’s to the Royal Free’s main site, it makes sense for the Royal Free to want more staff accommodation near Pond Street.
However, it makes little sense for Camden to miss out on this opportunity to increase the number of homes for key workers. As the Royal Free expands – with its expenditure in Hampstead up by well over £100m since 2010 and its staff numbers in Hampstead rising – it needs more, not less, staff accommodation.
Hampstead has lost a huge number of affordable properties in recent years: undermining our social mix and making it harder for Royal Free staff to live locally.
In part, this is because of ever-higher property prices. But it’s also because Camden Council has refused to apply its own requirement for affordable housing to be preserved. This requirement is enshrined in policy H5 of the Camden Plan and previously in Camden’s Development Policy 4, but it’s often ignored.
Hampstead Conservatives fought strongly against the loss of hundreds of affordable housing units and key worker accommodation across Hampstead, such as the Hyelm flats at 79 Fitzjohn’s Avenue and the nurses home at 29 New End.
Sadly, despite the damage done to the social mix and local community character, both were given the go-ahead: by Camden’s Planning Committee and the Planning Inspectorate respectively.
At a minimum, Hampstead Conservatives urge Camden Council to make it clear that development will not be permitted on this site unless it preserves key worker accommodation on a like-for-like basis in Hampstead.
Ideally, the site – with indicative plans showing a massive 160,000 sq ft (15,000m2) of usable floorspace – affords plenty of opportunity for the site to continue to host accommodation dedicated to key workers as well as the new private properties required to fund new worker accommodation on Pond Street.
We were delighted to see the Hampstead Neighbourhood Plan further the principle that Camden must preserve affordable housing and we will be backing it at the referendum to adopt the plan in June.
However, as we’ve seen, all the rules, plans, and policies in the world can’t stop bad developments if Camden doesn’t enforce those rules. Camden must immediately set out its stall and guarantee that no development can go ahead at Queen Mary’s unless it preserves Hampstead’s unique social mix and character.