Opponents of Swiss Cottage tower branded ‘snobs in million-pound houses’
- Credit: Archant
One of the most controversial housing developments proposed in Camden in recent times will reach a critical point in the coming weeks – and a bitter war of words has already broken out between the developer, council and campaigners.
It was 10 months ago next week that a plan to build what would be north London’s highest residential tower was thrown out by Camden Council in the face of huge opposition.
The £100million proposals would have seen offices at 100 Avenue Road, in the heart of Swiss Cottage, torn down by developer Essential Living and replaced by an enormous 24-storey tower visible from Hampstead Heath.
It would provide 184 flats, some of them “affordable”, along with a part-five/part-seven adjoining building providing retail space and a new home for the neighbouring charity The Winch.
While developers said it would help solve the housing crisis in Camden, some 3,000 people fought the proposals and heritage groups described the designs as “monstrous” and “casting a blight on the whole area”.
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And campaign groups thought they had won a momentous victory when councillors ignored their own planning officer’s recommendation by rejecting the scheme back in September.
But in two weeks, the battle over the tower begins all over again.
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Essential Living has sought to overturn the council’s decision by submitting an appeal to the planning inspectorate.
The proposal will now be evaluated all over again during an eight-day public appeal, starting July 14.
So significant has the development become that the final decision will be left to the Communities Secretary, Greg Clark MP.
And with the appeal not even started, a war of words has already broken out between campaigners, the council and developers.
Essential Living chose not to officially comment when approached for a statement on the appeal but a source close to the company instead chose to describe opposition to the tower as “social snobbery from people living in million-pound houses”.
They told the Ham&High: “Anything you propose there would be opposed by these people. You can have the most wonderful building and it would be opposed.
“Even Hampstead Theatre was opposed when it was first built and now it’s a listed building.
“A lot of these people [opposing the development] aren’t even from the area.
“What we’re proposing isn’t going to be One Hyde Park – we will have affordable flats as part of the development.”
Essential Living has previously said the scheme will bring regeneration to the area.
But campaigners, who have urged residents to turn up “en masse” to oppose the appeal, attacked Essential Living as “greedy”.
David Reed, of Save Swiss Cottage Action Group (SSCAG), said: “The effect of this development on six surrounding conservation areas and numerous nationally listed buildings will be significant.
“It will also affect the Swiss Cottage Open Space, overshadowing it significantly and bringing a great deal of congestion to the area.
“And these won’t be homes provided for local people. They will be rented out for extortionate amounts on three-year leases to transitory residents.
“This could also be a test case and just the start of more towers coming to north London if this is given the go-ahead.”
Essential Living has hired prestigious law firm Mishcon de Reya, famed for representing Princess Diana of Wales in her divorce, to fight its case during the appeal.
Campaigners, who have raised £15,000 to fund their own case, have attacked Camden Council for putting up what has been branded a “token defence” of its case for rejecting planning permission.
Some 18 of the original reasons given for refusal by councillors back in September have been reduced by council lawyers to just two. A spotlight has also been shone on what the council has to gain from the development.
Edie Raff, a Swiss Cottage resident and former chair of SCCAG, said: “Unfortunately for objectors, the council has far more to gain if they lose than if they win – a minimum of £3million from planning gains and up to £100million if they sell the Winch and the entire parade.”
Cllr Phil Jones, cabinet member for regeneration, transport and planning, hit back by saying: “This conspiracy theory is total rubbish.
“The council is fully committed to winning the appeal and our legal team are putting a lot of effort into doing so.
“Ultimately the decision rests with the Secretary of State, but the council will be working hard to vigorously defend the position of the planning committee, just as we do for all appeals.”