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Developers must not ride roughshod over the people

17 November, 2017

An illustration shows how new homes could look at the controversial Chalk Farm development

WE trust members of the council’s planning committee will fully appreciate the sheer scale and size of the proposal for a £600m retail scheme for the Camden Goods Yard – and its inevitable impact on the area.

However, early signs show that hardened battle lines are shaping up between the developers and local residents.

An alliance of residents, conservation and business groups has been given short shrift during a consultation that appears, admittedly, to be little more than a tick-box exercise.

The Camden Goods Yard Working Group has drawn up an alternative scheme they say would create a sustainable development with a pleasant green corridor leading from the canal to Adelaide Road.

They have been ignored.

Once more, a developer has failed to act on people’s concerns by making any meaningful changes to its plans. Despite several meetings with the developer, their views have made no real difference. It is no wonder that people living in Camden Town and Chalk Farm feel they have been served with a fait accompli.

It is now down to residents’ elected representatives to stand up for them. They must be prepared to argue against what appears to be a lopsided, profit-motivated over­development.

The corporate sheen of the blocks being constructed currently around Hawley Wharf should serve as a constant reminder of what is to come at the proposed site – another Brent Cross-style shopping mall, in the heart of historic Camden Town.

On a technical level, Barratt’s application has so far raised more questions than answers. Are the estimates about loss of sunlight accurate? The working group, emphatically, says no. The developer claims the development will create more than 1,000 jobs. It is not clear how this figure has been calculated.

Will the majority of these homes be sold off to investors, lying empty over the years while they accumulate value? The promise of 40 per cent affordable housing is, typically, nebulous.

After Grenfell, Jeremy Corbyn has urged Labour councils like Camden to “think again” about how regeneration schemes are handled. Corbyn said he will compel councils to ballot all tenants and leaseholders before any regeneration is approved.

In these schemes the developer makes their mark-up, the council pockets some loose change. Often the soul of an area is swept away by this sledgehammer gentrification.

The council should implore the developer to sit down with the working group and start again.

There is only one chance to get this right.

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