Council approves new school building and 11-storey tower development in West Hampstead

A view of the proposed development from Maygrove Peace park

A view of the proposed development from Maygrove Peace park - Credit: Archant

A desperate bid to ensure Camden parents aren’t left without a school place for their children has received a boost after the council granted planning permission for a controversial development in West Hampstead.

The council-led scheme involves the clearing of a light industrial site in Liddell Road and the construction of a new building for Kingsgate Primary School, as well as workspace to replace some of the existing businesses turfed out.

A second, more controversial, planning application to fund the scheme was also passed by the council on Tuesday night, allowing the erection of an 11-storey tower block and five-storey mansion block alongside. This development will be sold to private developers and will provide 106 housing units – just four are classed as affordable.

The decisions followed a lengthy and at-times heated planning meeting at Camden Town Hall that exposed the tension between support for more school places and the plan to pay for it with a tower “eyesore”.

Several councillors spoke of the “urgent need” for new places, with cabinet member for children Cllr Angela Mason saying: “We desperately need a long term solution”.

The headteacher of Kingsgate Primary School welcomed the planned provision of 420 extra school places at what would result in a split-school site.

Liz Hayward told councillors: “We are oversubscribed. We have 90 children on our waiting list and we regularly turn children away.

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“The expansion would mean that we would split the school into two sites, with early years and Key Stage 1 on one site and Key Stage 2 on the other. We are confident we can manage it well.”

Questions of how this would work were levelled at

But many residents and groups have been critical of the scheme.

A survey of local residents carried out by the Fortune Green and West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Forum (NDF), a strong opponent, found 73 per cent against the overall project, with 27 per cent in favour.

Nick Jackson, representing the NDF, told councillors in a deputation: “We support the provision of a school on the site. However, the height and mass of the tower block and mansion block are completely out of character with this low lying area. We are shocked a council development is providing only four per cent affordable housing.

“We did a survey. Comments see the tower block described as ‘an eyesore’, ‘a dangerous precedent’, ‘it will create a race to the top’. On the lack of affordable housing, the language is stronger. ‘A disgrace’, ‘ridiculous’, ‘a trivial proportion’.”

Following the council’s decision, Mr Jackson told the Ham&High the group would “refer this to the Mayor of London for appeal”.

Several other local groups were critical of the proposals, with complaints largely centred on the “excessive” height of the proposed tower, the “low number” of affordable housing units, the loss of existing businesses on the site, and fears over congestion. There was also criticism of the decision not to invest a £3million planned surplus into the scheme. The council says it will instead be invested into other school improvement projects elsewhere in the borough.

The council hopes to open the new school building for 2016/17.