'Potential for something remarkable'? Residents on O2 Centre redevelopment
- Credit: Polly Hancock
Residents, shoppers and employees have spoken out on plans for the redevelopment of the O2 Centre.
Camden Council’s cabinet member for planning, Cllr Danny Beales, has approved a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) that will help guide the local authority’s decision on a future planning application for the site, which is expected later this year.
The owner Landsec is seeking to build around 1,900 new homes, largely in flats that will be four to six storeys tall on Finchley Road, and up to 16 storeys in surrounding areas.
The Ham&High visited the O2 Centre on Friday (September 24) to gather people’s views about the major redevelopment plans.
Sue, 64, of West Hampstead, said: “I want the plans to give something back to the community that’s more specific than housing, such as an affordable nursery for young families. We loved coming to the cinema and will really miss it if redevelopment plans go ahead.”
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Tricia, also 64, said that since the cinema and multiple restaurants closed during lockdown, the O2 hasn’t felt the same.
She said: “I do question how many people come here anymore. If developers put a sensible hat on, there could be potential for something remarkable to be done.
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“This is an expensive area to live, and if housing really does become more affordable, we could open the area up to wider communities.”
Romel Omar, 25, who works in a mobile accessories shop in the O2, said that footfall has dropped and some customers are “shocked” at how quiet it has become – adding that the space would be better suited for housing.
“If we redesign the centre as apartments, I think that would be more beneficial for the community,” Romel said. “People can invest in these flats and have new choices for living spaces.”
Many restaurants on the top floor of the centre are gated shut, and a large area which used to be a YO! Sushi has now been boarded up.
Anita Chan, 41, of Belsize Park, said: “I come to classes at the gym here three to six times a week. I live a very active lifestyle, so if that was taken away it would be massively inconvenient for me.”
Residents have expressed significant concerns over the scale of the plans. Keith Moffitt, co-chair of the Fortune Green and West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Forum, said his group has fears over the “excessive” height of the buildings and the density of the development.
Sue, of Swiss Cottage, said: “It feels like over-densification to me. We need more space for families to live in the area, not for tiny apartments.
“It’s going to be overcrowded and tall buildings are going to look oppressive, they shouldn’t be building anything more than five storeys high.”
At a public meeting for Camden Council’s development management forum, Landsec project lead Tim Trillo said: "We want to work in partnership with you and with Camden Council to deliver a development that meets London's needs.
“I do recognise that some people are still concerned about issues such as height and the provision of affordable housing. We will continue to listen to that."
Landsec unveiled its proposals for the area, from West End Lane to Finchley Road, in May 2020. The developer says it is committed to providing a “large supermarket” and a central green space. It is aiming for 35% of new homes to be “affordable”, under government terms.
West Hampstead councillor Shiva Tiwari said it is “vital” the community has its say in further consultations.
Cllr Tiwari added: “A balance needs to be struck between a range of community priorities – including a clear need for more affordable homes, concerns over building heights, a need for community facilities and a need for further investment in the existing transport infrastructure.”
A Camden Council spokesperson said there will be “many opportunities in which people can have their say”.
The town hall said that the supplementary planning document (SPD) was amended to reflect public views over the plans, adding that consultation events have been held in recent months with local residents.
A site allocations plan – which plays a more central role than the SPD in how Camden determines a planning application for the O2 Centre – will be adopted, following consultation, later this year.