Cllr Oliver Cooper: Housing key to make Camden 'family-friendly' again
Cllr Oliver Cooper, Camden Council
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Last month, when announcing Camden’s tragic decision to close Carlton Primary, Camden's cabinet member for schools said something that should send a shiver down the spine of parents across Camden and give councillors pause for thought.
Carlton is the third school that Camden has proposed closing in two years, and the cabinet member told the meeting that because of the falling number of children growing up locally, it “won’t be the last,” calling it the “canary in the mine”.
She said this is due to the unavailability of homes for families, and it’s hard to disagree. In the last five years, less than one home in five built in Camden has had three or more bedrooms: barely a third of the proportion across England.
Camden’s official Conservative opposition tabled a motion to this week’s council meeting to double this number in the next four years through a root and branch reappraisal of planning policy and make Camden a family-friendly borough once again.
This trend could be either reversed or compounded by several developments Camden has earmarked. One example is the O2 Centre on Finchley Road, where Camden last week tabled guidance that could allow up to 2,000 homes.
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This is far too many and what’s more, the guidance focuses on paths through the site, not the content of development there.
Without Camden laying down clear requirements, it will inevitably involve identikit Anywheresville blocks all too familiar from mega-developments, not a community integrated with neighbouring areas.
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That also means lots more one-beds – and the contagion of Camden’s school closures spreading. A few metres away at Travis Perkins in West End Lane, Camden is allowing over half of the 180 homes to be one-beds and just one in nine to be family homes.
Council officers said this was necessary because Camden isn’t building enough homes elsewhere, so has to stack up one-beds in West Hampstead and Finchley Road. This simply isn’t good enough and is a recipe for disaster: for our neighbourhoods, for our families and – yes – for our schools.
It’s vital that Camden builds communities, not just shoeboxes. That means enough green spaces, the right retail and appropriate community facilities on site – and we also desperately need more family homes, otherwise all our schools will go the way of Carlton.
- Cllr Oliver Cooper is the leader of the opposition in Camden Council