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Uproar from residents over '24-hour town centre' plans for Ham&High office

PUBLISHED: 13:00 04 July 2013

An artist's impression of the proposed development. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

An artist's impression of the proposed development. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

Developers planning to demolish the Ham&High office building and replace it with a 24-storey tower block have been slammed by residents for attempting to create a "24-hour town centre" in Swiss Cottage.

Residents at the development management forum. Picture: Nigel Sutton.Residents at the development management forum. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

More than 50 residents turned up at the Marriott Hotel, in King Henry’s Road, Swiss Cottage, on Tuesday night to hear about plans from developer Essential Living to turn the office block at 100 Avenue Road into 190 privately-rented flats, with cafes, a restaurant and possibly an independent cinema.

Architect Craig Casci told residents at the Camden Council development management forum that the plans aimed to “enliven” the area around Swiss Cottage Tube station with “24-hour use”.

But Elaine Chambers, chairman of Winchester Road Residents’ Association, started a petition at the meeting calling for the plans to be scrapped.

She said: “Already on the site we’ve got resident families and social housing and those people are going to suffer.

“They want to turn this place into a 24-hour town centre and we don’t want it to become that.”

Residents also argued that the 24-storey tower – one of three residential blocks planned – was unnecessary and would create an eyesore in the heart of Swiss Cottage.

Cllr Jonny Bucknell, who represents Belsize ward, sparked loud applause from the crowd as he voiced his opposition to the proposals, insisting that the tower block was aimed at “squeezing every last ounce of profit out of the site”.

As part of the proposals, the new development would be split into two sections – the tower block and a seven-story building divided into two residential blocks – separated by an “arcade” through to the green space behind the site.

The tower would be used as a residential block, while the smaller block would accommodate retail use throughout the ground and first floors, with flats occupying the rest of the building.

Residents were told delivery trucks transporting stock for retailers inside the proposed new development would use the basement entrance to Hampstead Theatre to drop off deliveries, travelling up Eton Avenue to reach the theatre.

Peter Rich, one of the architects who designed the original office block, which is also occupied by media company Thomson Reuters and other north London newspapers, attended the meeting to find out more about the plans.

He said: “It’s inappropriate in scale and all the haulage coming and going for deliveries will have to come through a residential hinterland.”

Mr Casci said: “No one wants their backyard to be dug up and replaced, but London is constantly changing.

“It can’t die and become a museum – construction is construction.”

The plans will now undergo a formal period of consultation before a final proposal is submitted to Camden Council.

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