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Belsize Fire Station: Councillors block plan to ditch affordable housing from development

PUBLISHED: 11:21 10 July 2020 | UPDATED: 11:13 11 July 2020

Firefighters leave Belsize Fire Station for the last time. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Firefighters leave Belsize Fire Station for the last time. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

Camden councillors from across the political spectrum rejected a recommended cash payment in lieu of affordable housing on the site of the old Belsize Fire Station.

Demonstrators outside Belsize Fire Station protesting against the station closure. Picture: Nigel Sutton.Demonstrators outside Belsize Fire Station protesting against the station closure. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

At a meeting on Thursday, the borough’s planning committee unanimously decided the fire station’s developer, Vulcan Properties, should still have to provide two home for “intermediate rent” on site, rather than paying a mooted £283,550 fee.

Camden’s head of development management, Bethany Cullen, said a payment in lieu of affordable housing had in fact been first broached by council officers in an attempt to address the development’s stalling. She said officers felt a payment was preferable to looking for a private company to manage the social housing.

Councillors objected to the plan on the grounds that the original agreement was signed in the knowledge of the difficulties presented by the Grade 2* listed site, and that the payment “would not adequately” compensate for the lost affordable housing.

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The plan for 18 flats on the site was agreed in 2017 on the proviso there would be two available as affordable housing.

The fire station, in Lancaster Grove, was shut in 2014, as part of former London Mayor Boris Johnson’s drive to save £29million.

Planning chief Cllr Danny Beales (Lab, Kentish Town) said it was “not an enviable situation for anyone involved” and added the proposed payment wouldn’t allow the council to provide equivalent social housing off-site.

Cllr Oliver Cooper (Hampstead Town), who leads Camden’s opposition Tory, group agreed: “The applicant made the application and they signed the 106 agreement knowing there would be higher costs. Unless the applicant has been asleep for the last 46 years they’ve known it.

“I believe the applicant signed knowing almost all of the factors and, therefore, it’d be inappropriate to cite known factors as reason for Camden to sign a sweetheart deal to change the section 106 obligations.”.

Cllr Anna Wright (Lab, Highgate) described the payment as “glaringly insufficient”, while Cllr Adam Harrison (Lab, Bloomsbury) questioned how the figure had been calculated.


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