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Editor's comment: Is museum really the right target?

PUBLISHED: 08:30 26 September 2019

BR Ambedkar in 1950.

BR Ambedkar in 1950.

Archant

I understand the principle of Camden Council's opposition to the B R Ambedkar museum in Primrose Hill.

The memorial represents the loss of two homes so that someone whose brief stay there a century ago can be commemorated - even though Camden probably turns down far less significant "change of use" applications on a regular basis.

What's more, if it simply accepts that the museum is already there, it could open the door to any number of less than scrupulous conversions that may seek to rely on this case as a precedent.

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I support the idea that in a housing crisis we must prioritise the availability of housing, especially genuinely affordable housing (which isn't how this was categorised), above pretty much anything else.

Yet surely there must be a compromise that doesn't involve the removal of what has nonetheless become a culturally important site for many - a decent contribution to genuinely affordable housing elsewhere in the borough, say.

If Camden wishes to be this stringent about maximising housing (and I'm not saying this is a bad thing) I think the 7,122 so-called second homes and 1,210 empty homes within its border - both among the highest figures in London - might merit its attention rather more urgently than a modest museum and memorial to someone who did so much good.

For its own part, the State of Maharashtra really ought to have known better than to convert two inner London flats into a museum without getting planning permission. As a campaigner for equality and social justice, I suspect B R Ambedkar would have been less than thrilled at the thought of his own legacy diminishing the amount of housing in a borough where people already struggle to afford homes.

Any contribution the museum's owners were able to make to affordable homes in Camden might, in fact, be an entirely appropriate extension of his memorial.

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