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Battle for Camden’s ‘Manhattan’ skyline grows as West Hampstead tower is branded ‘raised middle finger’

West Hampstead protesters showed their opposition to the 14-storey tower block proposed at the Liddell Road Industrial Estate over the weekend. Picture: Nigel Sutton West Hampstead protesters showed their opposition to the 14-storey tower block proposed at the Liddell Road Industrial Estate over the weekend. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Thursday, July 24, 2014
8:00 AM

A battle for Camden’s skyline is slowly spreading through the borough as communities launch impassioned campaigns against the construction of two tower blocks –described as representing “raised middle fingers to the whole community”.

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The Save Swiss Cottage campaigners gather outside 100 Avenue Road. Picture: Polly HancockThe Save Swiss Cottage campaigners gather outside 100 Avenue Road. Picture: Polly Hancock

Plans to erect a 14-storey tower block in the heart of West Hampstead and a 24-storey tower block in the centre of Swiss Cottage have shocked residents and led to fears they will set a precedent for yet more towers in the rest of Camden.

It comes as private developers and London Mayor Boris Johnson continue to cite their support for solving London’s housing crisis by “building high”.

Camden’s cabinet member for housing revealed the council was now receiving “more and more pitches for higher buildings” and that the construction of any towers “would certainly set a precedent for the surrounding area”.

Cllr Julian Fulbrook added: “While my own ward of Holborn isn’t quite Manhattan, it’s certainly starting to feel that way.”

Fears a “lower Manhattan” could spread further north of the borough were certainly felt in West Hampstead this week.

On Tuesday evening, angry residents filled Sidings Community Centre to discuss the council-proposed tower block at the Liddell Road Industrial Estate.

The estate, home to 24 businesses, will be bulldozed and replaced with housing, increased employment space and a primary school building.

But the decision to include a 14-storey tower block led to scathing attacks on councillors and architects – and accusations they were “ruining West Hampstead” and “offending its skyline”.

Residents were also furious that no affordable housing would be present at the 105-home development, leading to accusations the flats would be sold to foreign nationals and property speculators.

One resident at the meeting even revealed how he saw flats at another controversial nearby development – the 12-storey Ballymore development off West End Lane – advertised to him while visiting the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hong Kong.

Andrew Parkinson, co-founder of campaign group “No to 14 Storeys”, said: “This tower will be a blot on the landscape, set a precedent for the area and provide no affordable housing for the local community.

“To top it all, the council is set to make a profit on this development – and spend it elsewhere in Camden.”

Architects and the council insist the lack of affordable homes is necessary to fund the school.

In Swiss Cottage, campaigners are themselves bracing for a showdown with developers and Boris Johnson.

The Mayor has backed the demolition of the 100 Avenue Road building – former home to the Ham&High – and the erection of a 24-storey replacement housing block.

Its private developer, Essential Living, this week suggested opponents should “change with the times” and “respond to the needs of 2014 not the 1970s”.

Sarah Gottlieb, from the Save Swiss Cottage group, said of the proposed 24-storey tower: “We want houses that local families can actually live in.

“The development will provide less than 15 per cent affordable housing. That’s not dealing with the housing crisis.”

Fearing their neighbourhood could be next, other community groups in Camden have added to the condemnation of “building high”.

Influential conservation group The Heath and Hampstead Society wrote of the “monstrous Swiss Cottage tower”: “The thought that it could itself become a precedent for more towers – a Northern Canary Wharf – is quite appalling.”

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