Opinion: We’d love to find a better plan now 100 Avenue Road has been halted

Janine Sachs wants an opportunity to formulate and alternative project in keeping with the environme

Janine Sachs wants an opportunity to formulate and alternative project in keeping with the environment of 100 Avenue Road. - Credit: Archant

After seven years of fighting the monstrous and unwelcome development planned to overshadow Swiss Cottage Green Space, local residents are relieved that developers Essential Living have announced they will be “closing” all work on the 100 Avenue Road site, including removal of the large crane forthwith.

At last week’s Construction Working Group, Essential Living’s senior project manager told us that “due to unprecedented circumstances” the company decided to take “a strategic view... across all our jobs (and) projects”, and there will be “a pause period”. He said “we don’t see a main contractor coming onto site following J F Hunt this year at all... and to be honest we’re still reviewing up until next year as well”. When asked whether the company might sell the site, he said they were “considering everything at the moment”.

Local jubilation at the halt on work at the controversial building site has been tempered by continued fears about the site’s future now that the original office block has been demolished. Campaigners and local councillors repeatedly asked the developers and Camden Council for reassurance that once the building was demolished it would not be left lying fallow, as happened with Essential Land’s site in Sittingbourne, Kent.

The need to ensure that we are not left with a derelict plot has been central to local objections throughout this process. Camden’s planning officials reassured us that they would not allow this to happen, but they have yet to comment on the latest turn of events.

At every stage of this process, the authorities who are supposed to look after this community have failed to do so. For seven years, we have watched with dismay as our local council officers, the mayor of London, and finally the secretary of state appeared to listen to an anonymous pension fund, rather than this local community over the future of our beloved Swiss Cottage.

It is deeply ironic that it has taken a global pandemic to wipe out the global pension fund behind this unpopular development. There will be no tears for Essential Living or their backers M3 Capital Partners in NW3. This community is fizzing with ideas for the future of the 100 Avenue Road site and the Green Space.

We would love the opportunity to formulate an alternative project that will be in keeping and harmony with the surrounding environment and directly benefit the Swiss Cottage neighbourhood and its visitors, providing us with the genuinely affordable, low-rise housing, greenery and flexible workspace that we desperately need.

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For now at least we can enjoy the rest of the summer on Swiss Cottage Green Space without the noise and dust of construction - so welcome to those of us who have been locked down in flats without any outdoor space.

We rejoice in the remarkable way that this community came together to fight for so long to bring us to this point, and we hope we can soon look forward to a better future all round.

• Janine Sachs, chair, Save Swiss Cottage.