100 Avenue Road construction paused – and politicians ‘seek certainty’ about future of controversial Swiss Cottage tower
PUBLISHED: 18:29 22 June 2020 | UPDATED: 09:11 25 June 2020
Work on the redevelopment of the 100 Avenue Road site in Swiss Cottage has been “paused”, with councillors and residents concerned about the future of the half-built project – and the social benefits it was supposed to bring.
Last Thursday, representatives from Essential Living – the developer behind the 24-storey scheme – told residents and councillors who are part of the scheme’s construction working group that it was to review its plans and could be downing tools for a year or more.
Councillors on both sides of the aisle are now concerned about the lack of clarity, while the council’s housing chief Cllr Danny Beales said it was “seeking certainty” as soon as possible.
Cllr Beales (Lab, Kentish Town) said: “Whilst this development, which was approved by the Secretary of State is unpopular locally, the community will still want certainty going forward and it’s in no one’s interests to see the site, now demolished, lie empty for a long period.”
The cabinet member added: “Our priority is to protect the community benefits and if possible to use this opportunity to try and secure an improved scheme.”
READ MORE: Controversial £100m Swiss Cottage tower block approved by government
Local Tory leader Cllr Oliver Cooper (Con, Hampstead Town) shared those concerns, and said residents’ misgivings “have now been vindicated”. Cllr Cooper added: “If Essential Living sells it to a new developer, it is important that Camden doesn’t let it welch on the promises it made. The Winch is expecting a new community centre. Camden is banking on millions in financial contributions.”
Janine Sachs, from the Save Swiss Cottage group who unsuccessfully fought against the 184 flat proposal and the associated construction management plan, told the Ham&High she felt Essential Living had been careful not to indicate either way whether the project would continue or be scrapped completely.
Writing in this newspaper she added: “There will be no tears for Essential Living or their backers M3 Capital Partners in NW3.
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“This community is fizzing with ideas for the future of the 100 Avenue Road site and the Green Space.
“We would love the opportunity to formulate an alternative project that will be in keeping and harmony with the surrounding environment and directly benefit the Swiss Cottage neighbourhood and its visitors.”
LLocal ward councillors Cllr Leo Cassarani (Lab, Swiss Cottage) and Cllr Steve Adams (Con, Belsize) were both also present at the working group meeting.
Pointing to a previous development left unfinished by the developer in Kent, Cllr Cassarani told this newspaper: “This is exactly what people were saying they were worried about from day one. That they’d knock it down and then just sit on the land or sell it.”
All four councillors raised anxiety over the promised new space for the longstanding youth centre the Winch. Cllr Adams added: “Clearly an American multinational has decided it’s going to do something different in its life. What’s very worrying will be what happens to the public benefit aspects of the scheme, the new space of the Winch.”
Cllr Adams also cautioned against expecting any new developer to radically change the scheme. He said: “For all some are celebrating, this doesn’t mean we’re going to see the plans scrapped and a row of cottages built. Anything on this site will have to be very similar to this design or anyone will be looking at making a loss.”
After a planning dispute going back to 2013, the secretary of state for communities and local government greenlit the scheme despite huge local opposition in 2016.
Demolition final began in February 2019, but last autumn Essential Living sought to alter its construction management plan with a new constructor - Mace.
Mace were however not retained, and since early spring there has been a lack of clarity as to Essential Living’s plans for the second phase of the development, which had been slated to take at least another two years.
Essential Living has been contacted for comment.
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