New swimming pool? Letters on O2 Centre redevelopment

O2 centre plans

Artist's impression of the O2 site development - Credit: Landsec

Put a pool in the plans for the O2 centre

Peter Rutherford, Pandora Road, West Hampstead, writes:

Your story on the proposed O2 centre redevelopment (Cinema and gym added to new O2 proposals – but concerns remain) points to two useful but already existing facilities but omits one that doesn’t; a swimming pool.

With an obesity epidemic quietly growing and with many residents who would be glad to use swimming to improve health, a pool must be a priority. All the local schools would benefit and its effects are likely to reduce burdens on the health service, which appears unsatisfactorily quiet on the matter.

It is hard to add a pool anywhere at a later date. I believe we need one installed at the outset on this site, which is probably the last site of sufficient size in West Hampstead.

It may be now or never.

Must do better

O2 centre plans

What Finchley Road's O2 Centre development could look like - Credit: Landsec

Eric Peel, South Hampstead, writes:

In the latest announcement by Landsec of a further consultation on the O2 Centre Site Masterplan evolved proposals, they have only reduced the number of proposed new dwellings by 50, from 1,900 to 1,850. This despite all the local residents’ and many local councillors’ concerns about the vastly excessive dwelling density and scale being proposed on the O2 Centre site.
It is an insignificant percentage reduction which will not materially reduce the impact of having almost 4,000 new residents in an area of only some 14 acres/ 5.7 hectares. 

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It would equate to a dwelling density of some 330 dwellings per hectare (or approx 650 persons/ha) – an unprecedented housing density for both Camden and even for a large central London site, and one that is some six-seven times the average housing density for Camden.

The figure of 330 dw/ha will also be some three times more dense than specified by the government’s Model Design Code, and will also massively exceed, by some 50% to 100%, the 2016 London Plan SRQ (Sustainable Residential Quality) density matrix recommendations for Urban settings with good transport links.

To put this into a more relatable perspective: the most densely populated area of central London is Islington, with a population density of 160 persons/ha; Manhattan has 275 p/ha; and Mumbai (one of the most densely populated cities on earth) has 530 p/ha. 

A typical London social housing estate only has around 141 dwellings/ha, compared with the O2 Centre site proposal of 326 dwellings/ha. So, on all counts of density (both dwellings and people), the latest iteration of the O2 Centre site proposals would unfortunately hold the record ahead of Islington, Manhattan and even Mumbai.

A draft sketch of how the streetscene and the public areas of the O2 Centre redevelopment could look. 

A draft sketch of how the streetscene and the public areas of the O2 Centre redevelopment could look. - Credit: Landsec/AHMM

It is this excessive dwelling density that is driving the local concerns of excessive height (12 of the towers are between 13 to 16 stories high), massing, and excessive strain on local community and transport infrastructure.

Camden’s own public consultation on the previous published draft of the site allocations document back in February 2020 was talking about a figure of 950 new dwellings on the site of the car park.

The jump to 1,850 dwellings from 950 is a huge change and, in the interests of local democracy, local residents absolutely do need to be publicly consulted on the latest Camden draft of the Site Allocations Local Plan (SALP) which, through its socialisation with them in “pre-app” meetings, appears to be giving the developer the backing they need to design and plan for the much higher density figure, as we are seeing from their evolving plans over the last nine months.

Why should Landsec be given privileged access to this information in the latest SALP before Camden’s own local residents have even seen it, let alone been consulted on it?

It would be a massive stain on Camden’s record of local democracy, and show an arrogant disregard for the interests and concerns of their residents (as well as the interests and mental health of those who will be forced to live at such huge densities) if approval of the revised SALP document were to take place at a cabinet meeting in November, with no further prior consultation, despite it being a fundamentally different proposition to what Camden did consult on back in February 2020.

Please can Camden urgently reconsider their plan to approve the SALP “by stealth” and instead commit to consult on, and listen to, local concerns about over-development and over-densification of the whole site?