Oriel Place garden scheme begins but ‘rushed’ plans slammed amid crime fears

The plans for Oriel Place, which include benches, lighting and the removal of the gate. Picture: Har

The plans for Oriel Place, which include benches, lighting and the removal of the gate. Picture: Harry Taylor - Credit: Archant

Work has begun on the long-awaited Oriel Place gardens revamp in Hampstead – but campaigners and community groups are angry at a perceived lack of engagement over antisocial behaviour fears.

The scheme will see historical railings removed to open up the space and create a "piazza" for the use of the public.

The plans were initially backed during a public consultation in 2016, but since then those living nearby have repeatedly expressed concern that the garden redesign will encourage noise and antisocial behaviour.

Susan West, who chairs the Hampstead Town community Safer Neighbourhood Panel (SNP) told this newspaper: "Oriel Place residents raised concerns with the Hampstead SNP about the risk of increased late night anti-social behaviour and the lack of consultation in April of last year."

She said the SNP shared those concerns, and felt "this scheme has been rushed through without clear community support".

Andrew Haslam-Jones, who chairs the Heath and Hampstead Society's town committee told the Ham&High: "We were a little bit concerned we were being kept in the dark. It was disappointing. We want this to take place but we don't want nearby residents to be anxious because they don't know what is happening. We don't want them to suffer in silence."

Andrew added that, having seen suggestions that a fence or gate could be added to the project at a later date, he would want to see what "how bad it would have to get" for additional measures to get the go-ahead.

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The project has been supported by Hampstead's local councillors. Cllr Stephen Stark, (Con, Hampstead Town) said: "I think Camden have been very conscious of these residents and the concerns that came out in the consultation process. The bottom line is we don't want any issues."

A Camden Council spokesperson said: "The project has been a long standing ambition among the local community and was highlighted as a priority in the Hampstead Neighbourhood Plan."

They added the aim was "to create a safe and welcoming space by opening the site for public use and enjoyment" and said the town hall community safety team had backed the scheme as "minimising" potential crime.

The spokesperson also said: "We will continue to engage directly with residents."