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Camden Council to embark on a major property sell-off to plug funding black hole

PUBLISHED: 05:14 02 March 2012

Cllr Theo Blackwell speaks out about expenses

Cllr Theo Blackwell speaks out about expenses

Archant

Highgate is set to be one of the main areas affected by controversial town hall plans to sell-off buildings to raise cash for school and council house repairs.

Camden Council chiefs have published a list of buildings which could be put on the market in what will be the biggest ever sell off of town hall assets in the borough.

The money raised will help plug the massive hole in the authority’s capital budget account of nearly £1billion over the next five years – thought to be the largest in London.

But the move has sparked criticisms the authority is plundering the family silver to cope with the spending squeeze.

Finance boss Cllr Theo Blackwell said: “I think the scope of the cuts and demands of the capital budget are so severe that some assets that people know and love in their community will be subject to these discussions.”

Cllr Blackwell said discussion about how community services could be reorganised in Highgate had already begun, and that four secondary schools in the area will benefit from the investment.

But critics warned of uncertainty among residents fearful of losing much cherished community spaces.

Highgate Green Cllr Maya de Souza said: “There is quite a lot of sensitivity in Highgate.

“There is a concern that Highgate Newtown community centre is at risk of losing some space, and there is uncertainty around what is going to happen to the gatehouses in Waterlow Park.”

Cllr de Souza also called for more information about how the money will be spent on.

The project includes proposals to develop individual garages and houses, to larger building schemes including one in Chester Road, Highgate, where 52 homes will be built.

No schemes have been announced in Hampstead Village,

Some £236million is expected to be raised, of which £119million will go into improving council homes and £117million will be spent on schools and children’s centres.

Cllr Blackwell said the council’s large property portfolio put the borough in a stronger position to “weather the storm” of capital investment cuts, and rebuffed accusations he was selling off the family silver.

He said: “The capital challenge is a major challenge and we don’t want to go back to the situation where schools lack investment and people start voting with their feet.”

The council will hold meetings to discuss the plans with residents from March.

A list of the buildings being discussed is on the council’s website, although more schemes are expected to be announced over coming months.


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