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Outrage as Camden planners give go-ahead for ‘monstrous’ Swiss Cottage skyscraper

An artist's impression of the new Swiss Cottage tower in Avenue Road An artist's impression of the new Swiss Cottage tower in Avenue Road

Thursday, September 4, 2014
7:02 AM

Thousands of residents fighting a fierce battle against plans to build one of the highest towers in Camden could see their campaign amount to nothing after council planners have recommended granting permission for the scheme.

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"This is a monstrous proposal that is completely out of keeping with the area. We hope councillors listen to the thousands who have objected. We urge residents to join us at the meeting"

Sarah Gottlieb, of Save Swiss Cottage campaign group

Anger over the proposed construction of a £100million 24-storey residential “skyscraper” in the heart of Swiss Cottage – branded “monstrous” and “grotesque” by a former director at English Heritage – has left Camden Council’s planning department facing an enormous backlash which will see hundreds of protesters gather outside the Town Hall next Thursday.

A petition attracted 3,000 signatures while about 900 residents submitted letters of objection to the development on the site of the Ham&High’s former office, compared to five letters of support received by the council.

But it is feared the overwhelming opposition could amount to nothing after planning officers revealed yesterday that they would be advising councillors to grant planning permission for the project.

It would see the current building at 100 Avenue Road knocked down by developer Essential Living and replaced by a 266 foot tower providing 184 flats, 36 of them “affordable”, along with retail and a community space.

The new tower pictured with Swiss Cottage Library on the right. For more pictures of the new development see the Ham&High's photo gallery belowThe new tower pictured with Swiss Cottage Library on the right. For more pictures of the new development see the Ham&High's photo gallery below

Adding to concerns about the height, design and overcrowding, the building will also include a separate entrance for poorer residents – which have been controversially dubbed “poor doors”.

A final decision on the plans will be made by councillors at a public meeting next Thursday.

Sarah Gottlieb, of campaign group Save Swiss Cottage, said: “This is a monstrous proposal that is completely out of keeping with the area. We hope councillors listen to the thousands who have objected. We urge residents to join us at the meeting.”

Essential Living has championed the project, saying it would bring to Swiss Cottage a “much enhanced town centre”.

But on Friday, campaigners handed over a scathing report to the council, written by a former planning and development director at English Heritage.

In his 33-page assessment, Philip Davies, who co-authored English Heritage’s Guidance on Tall Buildings, described the tower as a “monstrous proposal, which is grotesquely out of scale with its surroundings”.

The report added: “It would cause substantial damage to the setting of the surrounding conservation areas and the individual heritage assets with them.”

Conservation group the Heath and Hampstead Society also waded in, saying the tower would lead to more high buildings being granted planning permission, creating what it dubbed a “Northern Canary Wharf”.

Campaigners find themselves pitched against a number of public and private organisations that will benefit from the project.

Transport for London (TfL) described the development as a “significant opportunity” to upgrade Swiss Cottage Tube station – a project TfL plans to undertake with financial help from Essential Living.

It is believed that The Winch youth project could be re-housed in the new development, with the existing premises becoming a lucrative addition to the council’s property portfolio.

In total, developers will hand over £2million in education, employment, transport and other local contributions.

Scott Hammond, Essential Living managing director, said: “The key conclusions of this report are entirely consistent with the views previously expressed by the Greater London Authority and the Design Council.

“It will deliver new jobs, new spending power, and much needed affordable housing.

“Most of all, it will bring forward what Camden officers have described as a ‘High quality architectural design which makes a positive response to the local context’.”

The Development Control Committee meets at Camden Town Hall, Judd Street, next Thursday, September 11 at 6.30pm.

Related stories:

Comment: ‘Why the Swiss Cottage Tower is not the right way for London’

Comment: Swiss Cottage ‘ticks all the boxes for a tall building’

First victory for Swiss Cottage tower opponents as Boris Johnson says decision ‘up to council’

‘Monstrous Swiss Cottage tower’ will blight view from Hampstead Heath, say conservation group

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