IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

We deserve better than this corporate insipidness

17 September, 2021

A committee meeting recently witnessed furious scenes after a new development planned for Gondar Gardens in West Hampstead got the go ahead

EVER get the feeling you’re invisible and no one can hear you?

The numbers of people calling up our office with complaints about the handling of their own complaints is becoming a story in itself.

The furious woman who tipped a chair towards the planning committee was, in her own unique way, expressing a feeling perhaps held by many thousands of Camden residents who feel excluded or ignored.

It is no wonder people get angry at the planning system. Most weeks the committee appears to dole out some form of punishment or despair.

Often residents, who may have never been in a council meeting before, are made to sit through gruellingly long sessions and then told they have a few seconds to get their views across. Worse still, many are made to wait and then do not get heard at all.

While the process regularly frustrates individuals worried about what’s on their doorstep, it can also be hugely ineffective in securing real and meaningful benefits for the borough as a whole.

The huge overhaul of King’s Cross is often touted as a success story for the council. There is no doubt that there is a cleaner and calmer feel to what was there before. But what about those missing affordable homes, of which the new NC1 postcode is notably lacking.

There is also a kind of dead-eye, insipidness to a place in which, nestling among the water features, can be found imposing offices for the large tech firms.

Is King’s Cross an area for future generations of Camden residents to grow up and live together, or is it for the corporations?

While there are some meetings where chairs get thrown, there are others – for example the “themed” debates at full council – where there is little to no chance of any dissent from speakers.

On Monday, councillors were urged not to forget the people that live here when steering the future of Euston, all the while continuing to think big about what could be built above the HS2 station. If it ever does get built.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if there was a project that the community could really get behind and look forward to and back.

It is not an easy job – as the railway project is proving itself – to understand what will seem outdated by the time this major project comes to pass.

But will an unsettling mash of glass office mountains, towering housing blocks and suburban-style street plazas cut it half way through the century?

We are living in a city where the developer is king. But we could do so much better with Euston than just another King’s Cross.

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