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Anger as more jobs make way for housing in West Hampstead

PUBLISHED: 18:40 29 April 2015 | UPDATED: 18:40 29 April 2015

Joseph Joy at Travis Perkins in 156 West End Lane. Picture: Polly Hancock

Joseph Joy at Travis Perkins in 156 West End Lane. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

A thriving business that has been supporting the West Hampstead community for more than 35 years has accused the council of risking jobs and “riding roughshod” over its own planning policies after being told its building will be turned into luxury flats.

Travis Perkins, a building merchant in West End Lane, supports more than 30 jobs and serves more than 1,000 customers a month.

It says the small scale builders and tradesmen who arrive to buy building supplies from its site have been making “a huge contribution to the local economy” for decades.

But its future at the site is under serious threat as Camden Council, owner of the building, edges closer to cashing in and allowing developers to turn it into luxury flats.

Funds from the sell-off, expected imminently, will help pay for plush new council offices built in King’s Cross, as well as affordable homes.

Travis Perkins says it has been told by the council it has “no long-term future” at its current home, reopening the debate over whether too many jobs are being “pushed out” of the area to make way for housing.

Describing the proposals as a “short-term dash for cash”, Travis Perkins this week said the council plan would “undermine the sustainability of West Hampstead”.

Joe Joy, branch manager at the store, said: “This sadly characterises some of the bad and short-term decisions being made here.

“It’s bad planning, bad interpretation of policy and bad for the sustainability of our community.

“We need jobs and services supporting the local economy, not just residential development. More than half of our employees live locally and we play an important role in providing opportunities for apprenticeships and getting long-term unemployed back into work.

“I should also say that we are not insensitive of the need for more housing and that local authorities like Camden Council need to balance the books but there are better ways to do this.

“We would be happy to be part of a proper mixed-use regeneration scheme and hope this can be achieved at West End Lane as it has been, for example, on a different local Travis Perkins site at St Pancras which was successfully redeveloped with new homes alongside a retained store.”

Mr Joy’s comments come as businesses at another light industrial estate just a stone’s throw away from Travis Perkins have been given until the end of the week to move out.

The council-owned Liddell Road industrial estate once supported 24 businesses but is being developed into a mixed-use site, comprising of a school, housing block and employment space.

Mr Joy said the Liddell Road development, which sparked angry protests among residents and business owners in West Hampstead when it was proposed, had similarities to his own battle.

In response to the comments made by Travis Perkins, Cllr Theo Blackwell, Camden Council’s cabinet member for finance, said: “Although the Council understands the potential impact on the current leaseholders, we have a wider responsibility to safeguard the interests of local residents and secure best value from our assets.

“The sale of the property provides a significant capital receipt which is then available for reinvestment in other local priorities, at a time when funds for capital investment are very scarce.

“The property was marketed widely and Travis Perkins could have put in a bid at that stage, but instead they’ve conducted a publicity campaign. It should also be noted that no decisions have been taken as yet on the nature of any final development and that this will be subject to the Council’s normal planning process.

“I’m sorry that a democratic decision is getting in the way of Travis Perkin’s ongoing business but, unlike their firm where the money goes to shareholders, money raised from the sale of this site goes directly to improving public services and creating affordable homes.”

Camden Council said it has chosen developer A2 Dominion as the preferred purchaser for the site currently occupied by Travis Perkins. It said a planning application for the conversion into housing, yet to be submitted, it expected to deliver 50 per cent affordable housing.

What do you think? Tweet us @HamandHigh or write to letters@hamhigh.co.uk.

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