View from the chamber: 'Camden is revising its local planning framework'

A sketch of the new 'central square' green space now planned for the O2 Centre's redevelopment in Finchley Road

A sketch of the new 'central square' green space now planned for the O2 Centre's redevelopment in Finchley Road - Credit: Landsec/AHMM

The starting gun was fired this week on the mega-development to demolish Finchley Road’s O2 Centre and cram 2,000 flats into its place. This 100-page environmental impact application makes the development feel more real than ever.

It says that the site will include up to 2,000 flats. This is the number that Landsec [the developer] has been publicly saying it aims to build there, but to see it in black and white in an official planning application is still eye-watering.

To fit that number of homes in, it gives the building height at 122m above sea level. Given ground level there, that’s equivalent to up to 21 storeys: vastly more than the 16 floors previously proposed.

Cllr Oliver Cooper called for a "root and branch" review. Picture: Cllr Oliver Cooper

Cllr Oliver Cooper says Camden's Local Plan rules are being sidelined - Credit: Oliver Cooper

And yet Landsec isn’t doing this speculatively. It’s doing this because it thinks Camden will allow it – and residents have good reason to fear it will.

Camden is revising its local planning framework – its Local Plan – to give in-principle permission to developments up to certain sizes on certain sites. The council has now briefed that it will write into its Local Plan that it expects “up to 2,000 flats” on the site, despite overwhelming opposition last year to its proposal to earmark the site for 950 flats.

This would be tantamount to granting permission for up to 2,000 flats, as objections could not then be accepted on the basis of over-development or height.

This application shows that Landsec expect 2,000. They wouldn't have made this application unless they’d already been as good as told that. It makes a mockery of Camden’s claims that the Local Plan is a means of controlling development – when Camden allows it to be effectively written by developers.

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The Local Plan is supposed to be the rules of the game, set by the council on behalf of the public, and which developers play by. But the rules are being hurriedly re-written before kick-off, while residents watch perplexed on the side lines.

The technical application this week may just be the beginning. But when it comes to Camden ignoring residents’ views and rolling out the red carpet for the developer, it’s less a starting gun than a smoking gun.