View from the Street: Put residents’ concerns ahead of developers profits

Peter Symonds of the Hampstead combined residents associations

Peter Symonds of the Hampstead combined residents associations - Credit: Archant

Reading the objections which have been lodged against the 100 Avenue Road Construction Management Plan, Camden must surely acknowledge that Essential Living’s (EL) claim to have consulted widely with the local community is mendacious.

Those invited by EL to attend consultation meetings excluded – deliberately or otherwise - the residents likely to be most severely affected by proposals. Not that actually being invited made much difference! Essential Living’s latest draft CMP makes not a single concession to the concerns and suggestions voiced by those of us who did attend.

A further demonstration of this developer’s contempt for the local community and its disdain of Camden’s planning processes, is that they are now applying for retrospective approval (known as a CLEUD) for having demolished, without planning permission, the front steps and disabled access.

Camden’s own regulations require that no demolition works be carried out until council is satisfied that a proper consultation of a CMP has been conducted with the local community and that such a plan is carried out “with minimal possible impact on the surrounding environment”. In neither instance is this the case. This version was submitted to Camden on December 5, 2017. The works were begun on December 8 and registered on the 18 when EL gambled, presumably, no one would be paying attention! The CMP has yet to be considered by Camden, let alone approved and it’s clear that the proposed works will have anything but minimal impact.

Having given written assurances that the CMP will be examined in detail and only allowed to proceed if all necessary conditions have been satisfied, Camden must surely recognise the CLEUD for what it is – a pre-emptive strike enabling the developer to claim works started before the three-year permission runs out in February 2019. Why else would they apply for permission retrospectively, rather than before works started.

This development was first considered in 2014, when the extent of local animosity persuaded Camden councillors to ignore their planning officer’s recommendation and refuse permission. It was only the subsequent intervention of the then secretary of state, which permitted the scheme to go ahead. Since then Camden, cowed by that decision, has approved each subsequent EL application.

There is now a growing distrust of our council’s integrity among the local community, compounded by the news that Cllr Phil Jones - whose role as cabinet member for regeneration, transport and planning, brought him into contact with Essential Living - has recently taken a job with Turley Associates, EL’s planning consultants! Now Camden, reluctant to incur the expense of yet again having to fight EL at appeal, appear ready to pay lip-service to their promise of an in-depth consideration of this CMP and take the line of least resistance by awarding retrospective permission on the CLEUD. Camden’s continual timidity in its dealings with Essential Living has merely emboldened that developer to disdain the planning processes incumbent on every other applicant. Hardly surprising, then, that public opinion remains distrustful of Camden’s motives and implacably opposed to a developer whose every underhand action is predicated only on profit.

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​Camden must not accede to the demands of developers like Essential Living by allowing planning procedures to be ignored. They must demonstrate that they alone make the decisions, and that Essential Living, and developers like them, will no longer be allowed to impose their will or ride roughshod over the objections of an entire local community.

Only by making ethical decisions which put concerns of voters before demands and profits of developers, – even when such decisions risk a further appeal – will Camden gain the confidence and support of residents.