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Developers were sent back to the drawing board earlier this year following a massive campaign led by local councillors and residents. After several months of close liaison with the Hawley Wharf Working Group (made up of interested local representatives), developers have come forward with a new, improved scheme which shows far more respect for it’s iconic setting in the heart of Camden Town and alongside the Regent’s Canal.
While the new scheme may not yet be 100% perfect, Cabe are definitely right to describe it as “a marked improvement“. It just goes to show that corporate developers and professional planners in the Town Hall should harness the energy and ideas of local residents more often.
Controversial plans for a four storey retail development in the middle of Camden Town were dramatically thrown out by councillors last night.
Local residents were out in force to protest against the proposals, which were also opposed by many local businesses and respected groups including English Heritage and the Design Council. Speaking on behalf of residents at the planning hearing, I highlighted the four storey mall masquerading as a market, the negative impact on the conservation area along the canal, and the concentration of retail spaces which would have created a tourist trap by day and an empty ghetto at night.
There has also been widespread criticism for the failure to provide affordable housing for local people.
It didn’t have to be this way. Local people, through the Hawley Wharf Working Group, have spent years working with the developer trying to shape and improve the proposals. The developer has paid the price for ignoring the wishes of our community.
Now we need to move forward together. We want to see a development that respects the unique heritage of Camden Town; improves the market so it is sustainable in the long term, and offers more affordable housing for local families. A new school would be welcomed, too – but not as a sweetner to an otherwise disastrous development.
Camden Town is an incredible place – which is why we will continue fighting to secure a decent scheme on this huge and critical site.
For the full story, have a look at this week’s coverage in the Camden New Journal.
Tonight the planning committee will make its decision on the proposed Hawley Wharf development in Camden Town, which will affect the character of our area for a generation.
We’re hoping for a strong turnout at the Town Hall to show the committee how strongly local people feel about the plans. If you want to demonstrate your support, please come along to Camden Town Hall, Judd Street at 7pm.
I will be speaking at the committee, and have joined together with councillors in neighbouring Camden Town with Primrose Hill ward to send the following letter to our local papers today:
We represent different political parties, but have come together to urge our colleagues on the planning committee to reject the damaging Hawley Wharf proposals. We don’t oppose development – but we do oppose bad development.
We have spent almost four years working with residents to influence and improve the developer’s plans. Unfortunately, our conclusion is that they just aren’t good enough for our area. And it’s not just local people who say that – both English Heritage and the Design Council have raised objections to the scheme.
Camden Town is a special place with a unique, vibrant atmosphere. The new plans would replace the independent, entrepreneurial spirit of trading in Camden with a four storey shopping mall, designed to attract maximum numbers of tourists and freeze out residents. We need a development with open space the whole community can share; affordable homes for local people, and diverse shops and services that people of all ages want to use. A new school could be a useful addition locally – providing it doesn’t mean there’s no social housing.
Even at this late stage it’s not too late to protect the future of Camden Town – by sending the developer back to the drawing board and asking him to come back with better plans as soon as possible.
Cllr Chris Naylor (Lib Dem), Cllr Pat Callaghan (Labour), Cllr Matt Sanders (Lib Dem)
Update: we won! Scheme thrown out by 7 votes to 5. Camden New Journal has full story here.
Those who have been less than complementary about development plans for Camden Market (including English Heritage, the Design Council and many local residents) might be breathing a sigh of relief when they see what was originally being cooked up.
Buried away in an obscure part of the internet are what looks like early plans for the iconic market site… let’s just say it’s not exactly pretty.
And can anyone spot the glaring ommission?*
* The not-so-eagle-eyed will have noticed that much loved Castlehaven Community Centre, not even part of the development site, has been entirely airbrushed out of the drawings above…
Two expert professional groups have revealed they have significant concerns around the Hawley Wharf redevelopment plans as they currently stand.
Design watchdog CABE (the the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, now part of the Design Council) and conservation specialists English Heritage have sent representations to Camden Council setting out how and why they think the developer’s proposals should be changed. CABE’s expert submission echos many of the points that residents have been making:
- Streets and public spaces “lack generosity” and are “too constrained to deal with the numbers of people moving through the area and the density of development proposed”;
- The architecture of the new planned market building is “complex and contrived” – and may not be able to accommodate future uses if a market were no longer viable;
- Replicating the Victorian arches “competes with the exisiting viaduct”;
- The huge office building in the centre of the site is “squeezed” into its position – a smaller footprint would “better define the community square”;
- The appropriateness of a nine storey residential building is questionable.
Meanwhile, English Heritage express similar reservations about the design of the market building, and in particular its impact on the canal front.
Download CABE’s submission on Hawley Wharf (pdf file)
Together with some residents from the Hawley Wharf Working Group, I met with the developer before Christmas and we did secure some small concessions. They will enlarge the community space, and have committed to enter into an agreement to help clear up some of the mess visitors make along the canal and in Castlehaven Gardens, which are constanty strewn with old takeways and drinks cans.
By and large, however, it was clear that the developer has a very different view to residents on how his site can best benefit Camden. Dismissing local views is one thing – but it remains to be seen whether the developer can so easily ignore two highly respected design bodies.
The Hawley Wharf Working Group have declared there are “fundamental” problems with the Hawley Wharf scheme, and urged Camden Council to reject the plans in their current form.
The Working Group is made up of a large number of local residents associations and organisations who have been scrutinising the developer’s plans for over two years. They have a deep working knowledge of the plans, have canvassed opinion locally and staged public meetings as the application has developed.
Many aspects of the development have been welcomed – such as a new art house cinema, provision for local retail, and the continued use of the railway arches for industrial and employment uses. Ultimately, however, the Working Group concludes that these benefits cannot make up for the overall negative impact on Camden Town.
The council set up this group, and the meetings have been chaired by local councillors. They have a strong, clear mandate, and Camden needs to take these concerns seriously. It wasn’t a great sign that the group were not allowed to present to planning councillors alongside the developers this week, meaning those who will make the final decision only heard one side of the debate. The Working Group representation makes the alternative case.
They’ve included my letter, focussing on the negligible amount of affordable housing on the Hawley Wharf site:
Hawley Wharf is one of the largest and most high profile development sites in Camden. It is therefore incredible that, with thousands of local families languishing on Camden’s housing waiting list, the scheme on the table proposes just 8% affordable housing against the council’s target of 50%.
Time and time again the council states that housing is a site’s priority, only to ditch it at the last minute when something sexier comes up. Readers will remember that this is what happened at Brill Place, and it’s happening again here.
We have to face up to the reality that Camden desperately needs new homes, and they aren’t going to appear by magic. Land in our borough is precious and it would be shameful to squander this unique opportunity to provide for local families.
Since writing this, I’ve learnt that my numbers are out of date and the amount of affordable housing has actually fallen – to just 5%.
The developer does plan to provide a new primary school on the site instead – which is a good thing that few would oppose. However, my argument here lies with the council. At some point we have to tell one of our developers that the need for more affordable housing in Camden is so acute and so urgent that, this time, it trumps everything else.
Update 14th November: There has been some confusion over the actual percentage of affordable housing. After questioning the developer tonight I’m happy to clarify that the 8% quoted in my original letter is in fact correct. The 5% figure refers to the proportion of social housing. In addition to these 9 units of social housing there are 8 units of intermediate housing, making 17 “affordable” units in total – or 8%.
Plans for the mass redevelopment of the Hawley Wharf site opposite Camden Market have been submitted to the council this week.
For over two years, I have been working with other local councillors, residents and business groups to influence the developer’s proposals. While it’s great that this ramshackle and tawdry site (partly gutted by the fire back in 2008) will finally get a make over, we need to make sure the development respects our local area and makes Camden Town an even better place to live.
Judged against these criteria, and despite the developer taking on a few of our ideas, I believe the proposals currently fall short on several scores:
- Just 8% of the new housing on the site will be affordable, despite Camden setting a target of 50% and housing being the priority need in the area;
- Open spaces are poky and overshadowed by huge blocks;
- No evidence has yet been provided that local transport infrastructure will be able to cope with large numbers of extra visitors to a new four story “market”;
- There is no mechanism to secure new outlets that will bring retail diversity to Camden, to appeal to a different demographic.
Frankly, this new development feels like a shopping mall disguised as a market. Yet there is already a huge, commercial market on the other side of Chalk Farm Road, attracting thousands of visitors a week.
I believe most residents and local businesses would like to see a scheme that looks to Camden Lock’s origins as a place for craftsmanship, entrepreneurship and creativity, while offering something for the local people who currently feel frozen out of their own area.
A big thank you to all those who attended Holy Trinity Church last week to debate the progress of the Hawley Wharf development, and also to those who couldn’t make it but took the time to send me their views by email.
We had a vigorous discussion, with a general consensus that more affordable housing should be a priority in the development. You can read a more full account in today’s Camden New Journal.
As ever, do get in touch if you have any thoughts you would like to share.
I have been campaigning to make sure that residents’ voices are heard in the huge new Hawley Wharf development, opposite Camden Market.
This group is led by local residents and aims to involve as many people as possible. By joining together we have a much better chance of influencing the council and the developers to make sure that the new development makes our area an even better place to live.
At the meeting we will discuss employment opportunities for local people; how we make sure new shops and markets appeal to local residents as well as visitors; tackling anti-social behaviour and the strain on public transport, and lots more. I will be in the Chair and do hope as many people as possible will come along and share their views on the future of our area.