Verdict on West Hampstead Liddell Road tower delivered tonight

A view of the proposed development from Maygrove Peace park

A view of the proposed development from Maygrove Peace park - Credit: Archant

A controversial proposal to build an 11-storey residential tower in the heart of West Hampstead will be considered by Camden Council tonight – as the lone Labour councillor vocally opposing the plans is criticised by colleagues and branded “misguided”.

The council-led proposal for the Liddell Road development sees the clearing of the existing site and the construction of a new school building for Kingsgate Primary School and workspace to replace some of those making way for the project.

An 11-storey tower and five-storey block providing some 106 housing units – four classed as “affordable” – are also part of the scheme. The money raised from this largely private housing development will be used to fund the school.

The council is also expected to make a £1.9million surplus on the project – to be invested in other school projects in Camden.

While planning officers have recommended councillors grant planning permission this evening, the scheme has received criticism from a number of local community groups and residents.

Complaints have largely centred on the “excessive” height of the proposed tower, the “low number” of affordable housing units, the loss of existing businesses on the site, and fears over increased congestion.

A survey of local residents carried out by the Fortune Green and West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Forum (NDF), which strongly opposes the scheme, found 73 per cent against the project, 27 per cent in favour.

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The Labour-led council has argued the project delivers 420 “much-needed” additional primary school places in the north-west of Camden. It says the private housing development is necessary to fund this.

The only Labour councillor publicly objecting to the scheme is Cllr Lorna Russell, representative for Fortune Green.

While supporting the provision of a school building on the site, she submitted a letter objecting to the height of the tower, the low level of affordable housing and a decision not to reinvest any money made from the development back into the site. She will also be giving a deputation at the Town Hall planning committee this evening.

Cllr Theo Blackwell, cabinet member for finance, branded her views “misguided”, adding: “The only way we are going to be able to build the school is with this scheme.

“Cllr Russell is entitled to her views but she is misguided. The council has made the best of a poor hand dealt by government cuts [to our budget].

“Some of those bad-mouthing the scheme have been caught up in the 2014 local elections [and] I understand councillors in the local area are under a lot of pressure. But people need to lift their eyes above local interests.”

Cllr Angela Mason, cabinet member for children, added: “We’ve had many meetings with Cllr Russell and other councillors on this. Obviously we don’t agree with her. I am really concerned that we get this building up soon as possible because we need the school places. I’m worried by anything that is done to jeopardise this. A lot of people will just look at how issues affect their local area, but we do have to look at the whole borough.”

In response to the comments, Cllr Russell told the Ham&High: “I’ve always strongly supported the proposed expansion of Kingsgate Primary School to the Liddell Road site.

“However, I have a duty to represent my community, and so I’ve asked that the profits be reinvested back into the site, instead of elsewhere in Camden, to provide more affordable housing and to lower the tower block for local residents.

“My values are labour values - social housing and school places, no one could argue otherwise.”

The planning committee will decide on the application tonight at Camden Town Hall in Judd Street, with the meeting starting at 7pm. The planning officer’s report on the scheme can be viewed here.