West Hampstead school plan could spell the end for businesses

Two dozen small businesses in West Hampstead could close if proposals to build a school extension get the go ahead, employers have warned.

Camden Council is next week due to decide on plans which could see an industrial estate bulldozed to make room for a new school building in a bid to tackle the dire shortage of primary school places.

But employers based at the Liddell Road site say the development will condemn many struggling businesses to the scrapheap.

Branko Viric manages the family-run business West Hampstead Motors, which has been based at the site for 12 years.

He said: “They are giving us the push.

“Businesses are facing a difficult enough time as it is, this could spell the end for us.

“We employ 14 people and they all have families to support. We need to know what our future is. They cannot just close down 30 businesses in one swoop.”

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He added: “It has sent panic through all the businesses here. We don’t know where the future lies, so how can we run a business?

“Most of us are family businesses and haven’t got the money to relocate and buy brand new shiny buildings.”

Proposals to erect a new building for Kingsgate Primary School on the site, which would create 60 new places a year, were first floated 12 months ago. It came after figures revealed that rising demand meant some children were being left without a school place in their area.

The Ham&High reported last week that four year-old Isabel Gosling, whose family has lived in the same West Hampstead street for a century, has not been given a place in her area despite applying to a dozen schools.

But businesses said their future should not be sacrificed to create extra places.

Father-of-two Roy Miller, who runs a Volkswagen and Audi repairs garage for 20 years, said: “They are just turning us out. There are a lot of people who work here and we are all going to be thrown out. There is no one to stick up for us.

“I know there is a need for school places, but we are a family as well.”

The town hall will decide on July 18 whether to approve the plans, which would also include new homes and some office space.

Councillor Angela Mason, Camden’s children’s chief, said: “We are responding to the real pressure for primary school places in that area.

“However, we also understand the concerns of businesses on the site and would plan to retain some employment use at Liddell Road as part of the development.

“There will be time for consultation.”