Neighbours criticise demolition of Charlie Ratchford Centre for 115 flats

The facility used by the elderly will be replaced by housing blocks up to 10 storeys high

The facility used by the elderly will be replaced by housing blocks up to 10 storeys high - Credit: Google

Plans for the demolition of a Chalk Farm community centre have drawn criticism from neighbours.

The Charlie Ratchford Centre, in Belmont Street, will be replaced by 115 flats in blocks up to 10 storeys high, as part of the town hall’s community investment programme (CIP). 

At a planning meeting on March 25, the group Neighbours of West Kentish Town described the proposal as a “massive overdevelopment”. 

One member, David Prince, spoke about the impact on daylight for existing homes, a spike in population density, and the low level of affordable housing for the scheme at 23%. 

Cllr Alison Kelly (Lab, Haverstock), speaking on behalf of residents, said: “The old Charlie Ratchford centre, while far from iconic, was well-loved and used particularly by older people for social activities.  

“It is a one-storey, light and airy with an internal garden, surrounded by green space and trees. You might not have noticed it in the past. You’ll certainly notice this proposed building because of its height and bulk.” 

Town hall officers branded the centre “of no particular merit” and raised no objections to its demolition. 

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Responding to concerns around the level of affordable housing, officers said the scheme is linked to a development across the road for people who need 24-hour care. When taken together, they say, the proposal would provide 50% affordable housing. 

Conservative group leader Cllr Oliver Cooper (Hampstead Town) pressed officers on the fact that the new London Plan calls for at least 35% affordable housing on each individual new site. 

Head of development management Bethany Cullen said: “Cllr Cooper is right, what the London Plan now introduces, [and this] only came in a couple of weeks ago, is trying to ensure you don’t get sites with all private and other sites where you get all your affordable housing, so you aren’t creating single tenure locations or hiving off affordable housing to one part of the borough. 

“This London Plan came in a couple of weeks ago, and clearly the decision to put 100 per cent affordable housing on the Crogsland Road [extra care] site was decided a number of years ago.” 

All councillors on the planning committee voted in favour of the plans (March 25), apart from Cllr Cooper and Cllr Andrew Parkinson (Con, Frognal & Fitzjohns).