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Hand key King’s Cross site to land trust instead of private developers, Town Hall urged

Council says it is reviewing options for Camley Street

17 July, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

Mario Raggio, financial director at IMS Smith­fields, Alex Smith, of Alara, and Tony Meadows, sales director of IMS Smithfields, who have drawn up their own plans for the King’s Cross site

PRIVATE developers should not be handed a prime piece of land in King’s Cross ahead of a community-led homes-and-businesses scheme, City Hall was told this week.

London Assembly members were told of the tug-of-war for three-and-a-half hectares in Camley Street which is set to be sold off by the Town Hall.

They were urged to lobby in favour of a co-op of more than 40 businesses, known as the Camley Street Sustainability Zone (CSSZ), which has drawn up a £500million scheme for the area which includes 1,000 rent-capped homes and protection for long-standing businesses.

Members are concerned that the idea has so far received a lukewarm response at the Town Hall and that the land will be sold to the highest bidder.

Alex Smith, director of the CSSZ, told the Assembly’s housing committee: “We need a route to Camden Council. There may be a tendency for them to throw up their hands and say, we have been offered this money [by private developers], we need to fill up our reserves and we do not have the head space to look at this at the moment. The pressure will be increasing on them all the time to do this.”

He added: “We want them to have a nudge and say, look, this is a reason­able scheme that gives you income, and meets a series of your needs, retains and enhances the sorts of jobs needed in central London.”

The CSSZ plan for Camley Street is part of a string of attempts to set up “community land trusts” in London to maximise new affordable housing. Under the scheme, the CSSZ would pay a large lump sum to the council to lease the land, allowing Camden to retain ultimate ownership of the site and to collect ground rent and rates.

Two so-far unnamed pension funds have been lined to help finance the building of new homes, which the council has been told it could use to place people on its waiting list.

Green Party London Assembly member Sian Berry, who chairs the GLA housing committee, said: “We will be writing a report later in the summer for the GLA and hopefully, meanwhile, Camden won’t decide just to put all their future sites in a massive joint venture with a big developer, and give the Camley Street team a chance with their leaseholder offer.”

Camden hired advisers Lambert Smith Hampton in 2015 to review its assets and property portfolio. The firm has filed a report which is thought to include advice on what to do with Camley Street, but it has not yet been made public. Supporters of the CSSZ fear it recommended the land should either be sold off to boost council coffers, or redeveloped in partnership with a profit-making housing firm.

Mr Smith added: “There has not been any public consultation yet, and we hope before any decision is made, there will be. We do not want to see any plans preferring a private developer put forward as a fait accompli.”

Labour’s regeneration chief, Labour councillor Phil Jones, said: “We are carefully reviewing options for council-owned sites on Camley Street. There is an opportunity for mixed-use development in the area that would support new homes, enhanced employment space and enable improvements to public space and connectivity. Camley Street Sustainability Zone has presented an outline proposal to the council, however we are not currently in negotiation with them or any other party.”

He added: “Once we have reviewed options, any agreement with partners to help fund and deliver development will be subject to a fair and competitive process>”

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