The following article was written by Tom Young, architect and urbanist, in 2015.
…one essential thing (about the nation state) is that there is a direct link between government and the bottom (the citizen at the bottom) which never existed in the past old empires or pre-national states. The state only reached down that far down: down below it was left to all manner of networks and hierarchies…
(Eric Hobsbawm, Radio 4, “Start the Week”)
Moreover, as the London job market becomes more internationalised, the competition for jobs gets more acute. While there is little evidence of any reduction in the domestic skills/jobs mismatch, it is increasingly difficult for graduates and those with lower or no qualifications to obtain and secure positions in the labour market.
(Duncan Bowie, “A Balanced Approach to London’s Growth”, 2014)
During 2012/13 there was a net loss of 12,638m2, following from previous year’s loss of 28,000m2.…There is a net total of 453,361 m2 floorspace in the development pipeline (i.e. planning permission granted but not yet built), mostly from the King’s Cross development.
(Camden Business and Employment Bulletin, Autumn 2014)
The wheel has turned again. Nearly 50 years have elapsed since the Gospel Oak (GO) estates were built, and now a new bout of large scale demolition and rebuilding is in prospect.
Gospel Oak’s original, sometimes mean terraced townhousing, laid out by speculators 150 years ago, evolved a small business economy of pubs, shops, small works, builders’ yards and so on: it was peppered with commercial activity. It was replaced by below-par Modernist estates celebrated at the time for excluding disturbing work uses.
Since the Sixties and Seventies, all kinds of institutions, enterprises and businesses once invested in the area have withdrawn, and their footprint used mostly for homes. What were railway yards, garages, shops, pubs, offices, schools and colleges, workshops and small factories have become flats or in a few cases, parks or supermarkets with car-parks. This huge change-of-use from the late 70s onwards, following comprehensive development of the housing estates, signals great economic change, yet is uncommented by Councillors or Planners who claim earnest absorption in the endless housing crisis and, day-to-day, the routine politics of residential space: services, amenity, nuisance, Conservation niceties etc.
The reversal of the wide distribution of work and employment space of all kinds and subsequent “residentialisation” of extensive tracts of urban space, is visible across the country, not only in London’s mid-Victorian urbanism. It’s one of several sharp changes in urban form since the 50s, the others being – vehicle space (motorways, car-parks), vast commercial interiors (retail barns, super warehouses), mutual exclusivity of building types as construction has specialised according to market segment (zones), and lastly, a roster of big unpeopledspaces for business operations with impenetrable security (server farms, container docks, railway sidings, battery farms). It is difficult to imagine how one might absorb these spaces in British cities.
Processes which pushed work out of our neighbourhoods are not exhausted. Globalism, financialisation and corporate consolidation go on. Local effects are Chinese goods in most shops, consumer credit, property appreciation in some places, multinational investment in property and “affordable housing”, “wealth-effect” economics, and Kings Cross – an example of “business quarter” development exemplified by Canary Wharf and Broadgate in the early Eighties. Kings Cross (KX) is “transport orientated development” giving corporations the opportunity to consolidate in new buildings accessible to the commuter-base of employees brought in via the improved transport hub. It’s celebrated as “green” and forward-thinking as if expanding employee catchments with more long-distance commuting to Victorian railway terminals is a paradigm shift, or much to do with “reducing the need to travel between homes, jobs and services”.
It can only be true that KX development discharges the local authority’s economic development responsibilities if KX serves the same piece of the economy as Camden or Kentish Town. That’s not true but Planning Officers adjudicating change-of-use planning applications use the fact of new corporate office space in KX as license to cede ordinary SME employment space to housing in areas like Camden, KT and GO, so hardening “residentialisation”. Policy on Council books suggests they are misguided, but there are no other obstacles to their carrying on.
From the perspective given by London’s history, KX and GO regeneration is just new large-scale development on the site of old large-scale development: not special given the mosaic of historic large-scale developments from which modern London is made. Agents of GO regeneration would accept ordinariness is a goal – as would the KX developers – and claim credit for a new piece of the city that recovers the virtues of ordinary Victorian streets and terracing. This is clear from the emphasis on “a street-based approach”, crisp demarcation of public and private space, continuity with existing streets and other lessons apparently drawn from “traditional” street architecture and the failures of estate development. The theme of learning from the past helps to free up political righteousness about the demolition of Victorian terraces that made way for Modernist housing in Gospel Oak:
…it is an example of vandalism in the name of progress. This is a 1960’s and 1970’s tower block housing development, which replaced a whole series of little Victorian streets. To my horror at the time its construction was passed by only one vote of the Council. The estate was badly designed and kept in a poor state of repair leaving tenants feeling despondent and unsafe.
(Tessa Jowell, The Guardian, 2001)
But there are other lessons from Victorian urbanism which are overlooked. Gospel Oak housing regeneration lacks easy hospitality for small business and informal enterprise, the dispersed domesticated economy – realised in adaptable buildings allied to the townhouse-type – which is a hallmark of Victorian places. The “implantation of commerce” defines many Victorian streets as much as the tough coherence of their domestic architecture and the adaptable land parcellation on which they are based. Yolande Barnes of Savills puts it simply as follows :
Completely rebuilding traditional streetscapes could provide more housing and commercial space while also rehousing existing communities.
(“A City Village Approach To Regenerating Housing Estates”, IPPR, 2015)
Another lesson of the Victorians is the siting of institutions in the fabric of speculative housing – hence high quality churches, board schools, almshouses and so on. In making claims about the restoration of the “public domain” to Victorian standards, GO regeneration Officers don’t acknowledge GO’s institutional inheritance or town-like aspects, or that “town” is the obvious identityurban design depends on (see KX which “boasts its own postcode”).
GO has its own public condition and “town-ness” that depends on what remains of the local economy and the structure of public spaces and related institutions. There are those for whom GO is pathetic, who are weary of it, and think its identity derives from chronic problems and gross welfare dependency (“deprivation”). Grandee of past Labour administrations, John Mills, set out their icy managerialism in this way:
We have tried hard, backed by substantial sums of government money, to improve Gospel Oak physically as a living environment. On the whole, the general perception is that, at a price, this objective has been successfully achieved.
We have also fought a battle to improve social conditions by creating local facilities such as QCCA, putting pressure on the police to produce more community policing, introducing concierge arrangements such as the one at Bacton High Rise, etc, etc. Unfortunately, perhaps mainly because of the increasingly widespread use of drugs, these initiatives have probably not achieved as much in overall terms as we hoped they would, but we are still strongly committed to pursuing them.
We have backed government training schemes and initiated a number of our own to try to improve the employment prospects of Gospel Oak residents. The problem here is that the economic policies which determine the demand for the sort of work for which people in Gospel Oak are best fitted is almost entirely a national rather than local responsibility. All we can do is to improve the supply side, which I think we have done reasonably well, taking account of all the constraints within which we have to operate.
Areas of housing are built “for” people, and quite obviously, the neighbourhood is theirs through complex attachment. Local politicians build constituency from housing. In the current GO showpiece – the Bacton Low-Rise (BLR) regeneration – housing is celebrated as the sign of fulfilled commitments without reference to matters of “town-ness” mentioned above.
Councillors swim in housing, and its “narratives”. Local politics in places like GO and KT is framed by past commitment to monofunctional zoning. Councillors are creatures of this space: like politicised Housing Officers, they are nonplussed by anyone hoping for a conversation about neighbourhood economic capability and have no idea how to pursue it. The sturdy fact is businesses tend to be displaced, but housing is always there. So Labour’s battle cry for the May 14 local elections was “It’s all about Housing!” doubling down on an already one-track conversation with client voters, and saying little about the small additional increment of new, genuinely affordable housing actually in the pipeline.
In the middle of GO, Queens Crescent is an obstinate, long-lasting reminder to politicians absorbed by housing that there are other dimensions to place. Councillors and Officers don’t think about the contribution SMEs make to GO until perhaps they need to find work experience places for young people at short notice. Fairly decent Planning policy about employment uses and mixed-use exists, as noted above, but is unsupported by organised thinking about how it could ever trump the demands of the “housing crisis”. Losses of employment space are mostly unremarked by Councillors; losses of sites where employment space could be reinstated get no reaction at all from local politicians.
No Councillor will set out the public purpose in reviving the SME economy in GO or KT. One would have to explain the value of diffusing many small enterprise spaces across neighbourhoods rather than concentrating a few politically reliable, and well-known corporates in central locations like KX. Local politicians won’t take time off from “residential” matters without certainty about “job delivery” which SMEs can’t give.
Mixed-use is now just a feeble Planning piety without grounding in developed thinking about variegating the economic base or structuring new urbanism with spaces consonant with reasonable, popular hopes about urban opportunity and a condition of interesting publicness.
The negligible replacement workspace in the Bacton Low Rise development shows how little Councillors and Officers want to talk about it, let alone build it quickly or in sufficient quantity despite the vast amount lost already under various administrations. They are champions of housing which, like large-scale corporate development, is haloed with political certainty.
Worklessness is conveniently measured as a shortcoming of persons not places hence political indifference to understanding the complex contribution local work uses make “at the neighbourhood level”. Whilst the housing issue is sustained day-to-day by its ready convertibility into a conversation about bedrooms, overcrowding, bins and so on, generous and strategic provision of local workspace is hardly a “community” concern. Broaching the matter is potentially contentious too because it implies space for outsiders, something central to its regenerative value. With only sketchy appreciation of workspace’s role in urban neighbourhoods, the Council is not motivated to pursue the matter. In our era of “structural unemployment” and the “skills mismatch”, we can perhaps intuit the usefulness of that turgid word “residential” used across the piece by politicians, Planners and developers and their agents, in light of the difficulty posed by work and economic participation.
Queens Crescent and Publicness
It is important to see the city as an accumulation of assemblies, each responding to different circumstances of location and culture.
(Terry Farrell, Planning as Design versus Evolution)
Queens Crescent and its twice weekly market is a space of work, and commercial engagement with the public at large. The market renews local bonds with the area, whilst allowing its constituency a distinctive, self-made publicness.
Aspects of the publicness of Queens Crescent are exercised in the ceremony of certain funerals at St Dominic’s on Malden Road. Friends and family collect at the Sir Robert Peel pub on the Crescent, spilling outside to smoke. Then they drive or walk up to the grand church frontage, past the undertakers and the old people’s home (which – rather marvelously – is being rebuilt in the same position). After the service, they collect back in the pub which does well out of the ensuing party. At the end of the day, the landlord sometimes gives the leftover food to scavenging regulars.
The funerals renew the meaning of street space along Malden Road that connects St Dominic’s and the Sir Robert Peel. The connection of market and church means each reflects the significance of the other. This is a living remnant of a deep tradition in European city life right here in our midst. It exemplifies the extraordinary ordinary which QC has in spades.
Other examples are the “characters” who perambulate the Crescent including a schizophrenic who shifts cash-n-carry shopping for one particular shopkeeper, the third world diaspora collected in scrofulous internet cafés, the remarkable inter-generational scene in the library ably managed by Camden staff, the genial decision taken long ago to put sheltered housing above the Library, the gaggles of men moving along the pavements before and after Friday prayers, the energy of immigrant retailers, the public interior of the Sir Robert Peel pub curated with instinctive appropriateness by the manager, the loyalty of several shopkeepers to the street, the unique cash-only world of Frank’s supermarket, the laundrette round the corner that’s evolved into a haberdashery, the Cypriot clothing repairer, the range of useful shopping provided and so on.
Although the Crescent has been functioning for over a hundred years and its empty rate is very low, it is often discussed, without regard for the evidence, as if its supporters are loyal but deluded about its prospects.
What QC means is complicated. In Dr Suzanne Hall’s work we begin to see the proper willingness to address streets like Queens Crescent sociologically and economically. Hall is persuasive about job density on what she calls “the multi-lingual” street, a reference to a global diaspora embroiled in commercial activity along streets like Church St, Rye Lane, Walworth Rd, Ridley Lane, Queens Crescent, West Green Rd and many others…
…that are comparatively ‘ordinary’: they fall outside of London’s prestigious landscape. Also of importance is that these streets exhibit a relative economic and cultural vibrancy despite being located within areas with high indices of deprivation. Yet…their value is not necessarily legible to the lens of power.
Dr Hall highlights how suited streets are to “digesting” new immigrants in a time of globalism and financialisation. The Crescent provides conditions for new and old communities to get used to each other in a context defined by commerce.
Diminished Public Space
Queen’s Crescent shows us a way of life dependent on place – a reciprocation between popular participation, area identity and a particular, non-substitutable urban configuration. People who use the Crescent know they make the area’s publicness and are aware of the theatricality of the scene.
It is worth noting, echoing the conjecture of Saskia Sassens that “the poor make the social”, that there are fewer sites left around QC where sociability can still be “made”. We’re down to the last pubs. The Bassett St vegetable garden might be closed for housing development at any time. The Thanet and City Farm are perennially at risk. Business space is subject to endless c-o-u applications. The area’s streetscape is a parade of ex-shops, ex-pubs, and ex-business units.
Planning and Queens Crescent
A glance at Camden’s Planning policy shows a map with blue lines around the blocks of shops forming the retail frontage along Queens Crescent. They denote a “neighbourhood centre”. The shops are, if one wants to think this way, of the lowest quality. How a Planning Inspector, local Planners or Councillors would evaluate threats to this ragged, but enduring, residue of commercial space isn’t clear. Planners have allowed reductions of shop space in the Post Office and the ex-butchers on the corner of Bassett Street. We have no idea when an Inspector will tell us the shops on the Crescent simply aren’t good enough to house a modern retailer and are therefore non-functional.
The Crescent’s remarkably adaptive urbanism could be lost in the blink of a technocrat’s eye and flutter of a developer’s eyelashes. A stabilising urban resource, that has maintained small businesses over more than a century, could be lost from the area and never recovered.
But from the housing-and-planning perspective, Queens Crescent is replaceable if not substitutable as a place: Morrisons and Sainsburys will do as well. The same managerialism equates “community” with “the residential” – that is the management of nuisance, the anti-social, overlooking, overshadowing, privacy threats and so on.
The amount written on “residential” issues in the August 2012 GLA Pre-Planning meeting minutes about the Bacton Low-Rise development dwarfs the two lines about employment issues which draw a veil over the demolition and loss of about 3800 sqm of offices and workshops. Here is exactly the local government presumption, shared by “partners”, that there’s a big question about “residential” articulation to answer, and only an insignificant one about local business and the mixed-use city.
There is no strategic concern with the loss of employment uses on the site, given the employment uses are locally designated and a provision/relocation strategy is proposed (GLA Pre-Planning Meeting about the Bacton Low-Rise redevelopment, 3/8/12)
The arbitrariness of administration of Planning is part of the gross problem faced by areas like Kentish Town with remnants of a layered and complex urbanism. The Planning Inspector’s argument against reprovision of workspace on the site of the Allcroft Road Workshops captures the gimcrack “expertise” which underlies much of Planning:
“Overall, I find the appeal site to comprise a small, isolated site (isolated to the extent that it is not close to other, perhaps complementary industrial uses and in terms of ready access to the Transport for London Network and/or London distributor roads, the nearest distributor being Haverstock Hill (A502) which is some 200 metres from the appeal site and can only be accessed through residential areas) with poor access through narrow streets. There would be little or no space for servicing, and its largely unrestricted use for industrial purposes is likely to be incompatible with neighbouring residential uses. On that basis, I consider the site to be heavily compromised, equating to a Category 3 site, notwithstanding that the premises were identified as Category 1 in the Council’s Strategic Appraisal of Council Owned Employment Land Final Draft Report.2
Whilst an alternative to industrial use in a mixed-use development on the site might be Class B1(a) office use, the provision of such is not an employment priority for the Council. That is recognised by policy DP13 which confirms that, where the only suitable alternative is B1(a) offices, change of use to permanent residential use may be permitted. On balance, therefore, I consider that the development proposed would not have a material adverse effect on the supply of good quality employment land/floor space within the Borough and there would be no conflict with the relevant policies of the development plan.”
The Inspector does not recognise best-in-class employment space is too expensive for most small business. It is true GO should not compete with KX or Park Royal but that doesn’t mean it can’t sustain useful, creative businesses. So the inspector should argue from the fact Allcroft Road workshops functioned successfully since 1985. She gives a faux technical argument instead, ignoring history, overruling consultant evaluation of the workshops, and implying industrial estate development is the only useful alternative despite DP13 stating:
Where a change of use has been justified to the Council’s satisfaction, we will seek to maintain some business use on site, with a higher priority for retaining flexible space that is suitable for a variety of business uses
The Planning Inspector’s outlook is of the type that has been problematising the ordinary city for decades, treating ordinary adaptations to available accommodation made by businesses and small enterprises as non-optimal, a sign the city needs to be reformed. It presumes building types that combine commercial and homes are an unholy hybrid to be excised by technocratic reform of the “found city”.
Restrictions on hours of operation, and the proximity to nearby residential properties/future residential units in any mixed scheme on the site, could, potentially, make the site an unattractive proposition for potential B1(c) occupiers
Fixing on segregation to resolve the complexity of cities is regressive, and discredited by a large body of urban studies and examples of successful urban administration. The building types that embody this principle would, if rolled out across Kentish Town, destroy the area: big sheds, detached houses, stand-alone housing complexes and tower blocks: a Legoland kit of buildings for estates and business parks that obstruct infill development and uphold the interests of major property owners, stymying evolution of place through myriad interventions by many small players. Property, cast in these forms, rejects the potential of urban conditions: it’s a one-way relationship with place enforced by getting rid of the necessity for all small accommodations: it’s a power projection. A presiding form of construction and daily practice that isn’t about minor cooperation will eventually destroy the city.
Municipal acceptance of the NW5’s reliance on urban building types and appropriate land parcellation, could improve regeneration. Camden’s development policies are headed by DP1 promoting mixed-use but it’s not clear what it means to Officers, Councillors or Planning Inspectors. Mixed-use policy is both weakly articulated, and poorly conceptualised by Officers and Councillors – indeed anyone in a position of administrative responsibility.
And Planners betray DP1 frequently by accepting arguments from building owners along the lines that their commercial premises are no longer suitable for business-use. Surveyor’s reports are cited, paid for by the applicant. Case Officers write up the applicant’s arguments that the premises in question are unsuitable for an upgrade. The same space is then transformed into residential space, often “high-end”, as if with change-of-use the ability to introduce appropriate servicing, natural lighting, heating etc is suddenly achievable.
There are numerous factors which the applicant has detailed which suggest the poor quality of the existing space. The internal layout and irregular shape of the building, there being no lift facility, the building only having a single toilet and the close proximity to the railway viaduct are all detailed. Moreover, the building not adhering to disabled access requirements, a lack of modern servicing and the lack of natural light at ground and first floor and heat loss from the glazed second floor all point to the showroom having severe difficulties in meeting the needs of modern industry and employers.
Planning arguments for a mixed-use block in Camden’s redevelopment of Bacton Low Rise (BLR) (2012) and for a purely “residential” one nearby by Telford Homes on Allcroft Road (2013) are signs of Planning’s arbitrariness. In both cases, the developers got advice from West End surveyors Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH). In the first, LSH’s work on local B1 demand was used by Camden to justify flexible B1 space on the ground floor of a proposed block of flats. The planning case officer noted:
the Class B1 uses are not considered to have any significant impact on the amenity of future or existing nearby occupiers
In the second case, Telford Homes employed LSH to argue for a “purely residential” block on the site of four workshops sold by Camden. LSH acknowledged demand for light industrial space, but stated B1 can never be satisfactorily combined with residential uses – the opposite argument to the one made by Camden’s BLR case officer.
LSH’s argument on behalf of Telford Homes is as specious as it is predictable. It simultaneously foregrounds local demand for B1 and its impracticability in a “residential” context, to blind us to the reasonable possibility of inoffensive employment uses. (See DP13 on “flexible space that is suitable for a variety of business uses”, the photographer’s studio in a ground floor unit of flats built next-door to the Telford Homes site being a good example).
Here then is more pretence of expertise whose aim is to stymie public policy that upholds a sensible urbanism of mixed-use buildings. As Richard Sennett said in a recent lecture
…in my experience in planning, those developers in London as in NYC who complain most loudly about zoning restrictions are all too adept in using these rules at the expense of communities…
…may I say here that the cunning of neo-liberalism in general … is to speak the language of freedom whilst manipulating closed bureaucratic systems for private gain by an elite: you talk about openness but it’s a smokescreen for an elite manipulating and indeed rigidifying certain rules…
(Richard Sennett, CRASSH, Cambridge University, 2013)
Publics and Change
A question for our urban age is what the forms of work and associated modes of public contact are that permit learning within cities that are highly varied and rapidly changing.
(Suzanne Hall, “City, Street and Citizen: The Measure of the Ordinary”)
Architecture forms the location of daily life…It manifests not only as … buildings, spaces and places but also as an immaterial component of collective everyday occurrence.
(Michel Hirschbichler, “Architecture and Everyday Actions”)
There is more than a “community” of the housed in Gospel Oak. “Community” displaces less demonstrative words like “society”, “public” or “association”, and, in my view, should be confined to the life sciences.
The phrase “the community of victims” now being used in connection with the historic child abuse inquiry is interesting because of the complementary passivity of the words “community” and “victim”. An alternative phrasing – “the society of victims” – suggests more agency.
“Society” is probably a better idea. Society is often used by shared interest groups e.g The Bristol University Philosophical Society or The Camden Society. This usage draws attention to the ordinariness of variegated, unaligned aims and purposes across a range of socialised bodies.
My view is that “local society” is made up from multiple small societies that, if not unified, are localised together. These are “micro-publics” and potential lies within and between them.
In GO, there are “micro-publics” in offices, viaduct arches, workshops, the City Farm, chapels, mosques, allotment gardens, blocks of flats, the Community Centre, certain ethnically specific shops, and in open, aggregating settings like the market itself, shops, pubs, cafés, schools, libraries, parks and sports places. Micro-publics recall remarks of Ben van Berkel:
In contrast to today’s mediatised culture, theatre offers the participatory experience of the live event, often appropriately referred to as ‘liveliness’…understood as the strange, elusive energy between audience and performer, the community forged together, and the momentary collaboration necessitated by the live event
Micro-publics are associated with the architectural form of a setting and its support for the theatricality of ordinary life made from innumerable instances of “momentary collaboration”.
A non-commercial example are the entry courtyards of the West Kentish Town Estate blocks that integrate small access galleries, main stairs and landings and the courtyard floor, forming an inner world for residents that’s open to the sky and sheltering. It relates residents to neighbours through decently articulated common areas that set up an appropriate “distance” from the street. While the building is basic, the assemblage of minor spaces facilitates the inner society of the block. Two lessons are how framing the sky creates an authentic ground and rubbish disposal doesn’t occur in the space: rubbish is taken outside in a ritual of joint respect. Insights about layered incidental space as a social prop can be derived from this basic setting.
In the case of the architect’s office on Lamble Street, the inner micro-or-semi-public is also not open to outsiders. Although the office’s big street window invites interest like a shopfront, and casts symbolic public light from the street onto the interior, the idly curious aren’t admitted. The office houses a micro-public – a company in fact – governed by the rigour of a profession. The office’s large street window is a big hole in the wall, an opening onto this micro-public, and a succinct expression of dependencies between inside and out, between the disciplined microcosm and a larger whole in which it participates. What’s regrettable is the office’s isolation or lack of collegiality with any immediately neighbouring enterprises.
Nearby Queens Crescent aggregates micro-publics. It’s an assembly of groups forming and dispersing. Working as the counterpart to this diffusive openness and renewed by it, and even sponsoring it, is the amalgam of local society based on affiliations to effective local micro-publics (often part-closed), enriched by affiliations to foreign ones.
Enterprise based micro-publics reflect different aspects of economic life as well as a world outside “the area”. New enterprise space, priced appropriately, and related to a plausible “public domain”, will sooner or later attract entrepreneurs from far beyond the local, thereby, almost certainly, enriching it. The latter might correspond to external SME entrepreneurs “discovering” local opportunity in competitively priced workspace or other undervalued resources including “quality and character” of place. The local authority should understand this positive form of private sector regeneration can be very drawn out in settings, such as GO, where the mixed-use atmosphere has been lost from too many streets.
Some of the work of living with others in cities is joining (and perhaps sustaining) open micro-publics. By not participating, an individual loses the benefit of social systems that have the capacity to harvest advantage from happenstance. Participation helps us meet life challenges, and cross thresholds into closed micro-publics like that of the architects office. This form of individual progress via localised interaction is plausible in a properly mixed-use urbanism equipped for open and closed micro-publics, and a structure of settings to aggregate them. It’s impossible in massive mono-functional zones except through “family connections”.
Suzanne Hall says:
The focus on the shops has led me to larger questions of belonging, participation and allegiance in a diverse and unequal urban society In particular, I explore whether capacities to engage in urban change and difference are connected to forms of inclusion integral to daily life including skill and meaningful work that, in the case of the street, are made publicly visible and are refined through social contact.
The challenge of improving Gospel Oak’s society is accepted by housing and regeneration Officers. Their work would be deepened by understanding how it is met in public interiors associated with enterprise and work sited “locally”. This is about facilitating the individual’s difficult, time-consuming work getting useful knowledge, earning trust and using his leverage to find and realise opportunities in interlinked social-and-commercial spaces.
Gospel Oak’s growing local population could generate many new micro-publics if the area became hospitable to much more small business and enterprise of all kinds. An important way to develop local society – to substantiate it as genuinely town-like – is through SMEs of all kinds: they are a vital dimension of civic life.
DP1 Policy asks for mixed-use to increase housing provision by adding housing to commercial districts. It is not interested in safeguarding mixed-use against encroaching residential development.
If we are going to adapt successfully to Camden’s growing population, we need to make the best use of the borough’s limited land. Developing a mix of uses on individual sites and across an area can be beneficial in a number of ways, such as:
- reducing the need to travel between homes, jobs and services;
- providing a range of activities through the day, and so increasing community safety and security;
- contributing to the creation of areas that are diverse, distinctive and successful;
- allowing an efficient use of land, with other uses developed above those uses which need direct ground floor access or a street-level frontage, such as shops;
- providing more opportunities for the development of housing.
Large parts of the borough have a well-established mixed-use character and the Council seeks to extend this.
Approving of “areas that are diverse, distinctive and successful” and “efficient use of land” is half-baked without outlining a method of delivery of mixed-use. Developer efficiency is always monofunctional, most notably on ex-employment sites, so policy should posit realistic alternatives to reliance on the conventional class of developers a.k.a “private sector partners”. Without earnest reflection on the unreliability of the normal developers, policy commitments to efficient use of development space, diversity or distinctiveness are lame, more so because of the decisive role of “viability” in planning decision-making.
The silver bullet of planning applications, the viability appraisal, explains, through impenetrable pages of spreadsheets and fastidious appendixes, exactly how a project stacks up financially. It states, in carefully worded sub-clauses, just why it would be impossible for affordable housing to be provided, why the towers must of course be this height, why no ground-floor corner shop or surgery can be included, why workspace is out of the question
(Oliver Wainwright, “The truth about developers”, The Guardian, 17/9/14)
Without making an effort to clarify how the conventional developer’s outlook is contrary to “public purpose”, mixed-use looks like a matter of taste. Although that unjustifiably discounts the importance of at least someone weighing up private and public goods, we can easily see that the apparently discretionary compares poorly with the necessary.
Below, the Bacton Lo-Rise case Officer is quoted verbatim. He exercises no discretion over Camden Council’s own “viability” arguments for the development: he’s in a dead-end role requiring him to perform to the Development Control Committee while his real work is done in a spreadsheet. Spreadsheet logic trumps discretionary policy that requires workspace reprovision.
I think in an ideal world we’d like to retain a like-for-like employment proportion on the site because that’s what our employment policies talk about particularly ones which are functioning well, you know in operation etc. I think a lot of it came down to the viability looking at the development finance – and I mentioned earlier some of the figures – the housing is a lot more profitable, in terms of the overall outcome which is one of the main reasons why we have a loss. It’s very, very marginal in terms of the build cost and development margin on this particular site. So that’s probably the driver for losing iton this site, and there are obviously opportunities to go higher in terms of, you know, building mass.
(Jonathan Markwell, case officer for Bacton Low-Rise, Gospel Oak District Housing Office and Vicar’s Road workshops redevelopment, speaking at committee on March 21st, 2013)
Mixed-use policy recommends adding residential space to business buildings – hence the KX version of mixed-use which is business with added residential. It doesn’t help in the case of “residential led development” despite DP1’s appreciation of mixed-use areas and commitment to extending them. We just don’t get residential with added business or employment space.
Swathes of Camden now subject to housing regeneration, where mixed-use was once the norm, are therefore unaffected by DP1.
Supporting Strategy or the Strategically Important
We have to create over half a million new jobs in the capital over the next few years and a million more people will have to be housed.
(Sir Edward Lister, Deputy Mayor of London for Planning)
Any additional housing – however small the increment – upholds strategy and so is valued as necessary either by Council or Government. This, in broad terms, is the argument repeated over and over in minor change-of-use applications. On the non-residential side, only new development of employment space forbusiness operations that are strategicis held similarly important, and this always entails large scale – hence “business quarter” type development. This is the problem with re-establishing a dispersed layer of SME’s across our towns and cities: a backbone of mixed-use of dispersed small and medium sized business is unstrategic.
These are anachronistic reflexes which have been applied in GO many times over, undermining the meaning of the Council’s phrase “well-established mixed-use character”which correctly signals (“well-established”) that continuityof economic activity (through adaptive reuse and repurposing) is important. Non-residential use helps to conserve publicness by offering new opportunities to succeeding generations of SMEs. It should be obvious that it buttresses the ordinary neighbourhoods where we spend our lives.
Realism about Place
Housing areas are conjured with by politicians as safe from cycles of change and dynamic alteration associated with the modern economy. They are putatively slower-paced to foster family development and early-life relationships. Housing, and those policies protecting its amenity, is the Planner’s ration of Romantic retreat from the world’s fray, for an enfranchised population very attached to “residential” entitlement, fulfilled or unfulfilled. Everyone is now entitled to demand a home, successfully or not. Very frequently not.
Planning might be conceptualised as the progressive gearing of the big wheel of the tradable sector to minimise impacts on residential settings. It seems like common sense: look after the tradable economy on which State agency depends and protect residential places from the impacts of business operations. Planning relates these client and provider identities spatially. Important local politicians scurry between the two, beseeching goodies from the “markets” to get votes from the “peoples”.
Kings Cross, with its various “world class” attributes, is dedicated to the tradable sectors and sold as an exemplary, safe “mixed-use experience” open to the whole of London.
GO’s regeneration exemplifies the client side of this deal and assumes the area’s economic capability is utterly irrelevant. It is Camden Council’s grand correction of the residential condition after years of decay. Addressing decades of drift through regeneration is a big public or private corporate effort, whether in KX or GO, to renew control over decayed, and incoherent situations. Regeneration is not, on the other hand, a better understanding of the possible relationship between the “client” and “provider” identities. It reinforces existing assumptions about how large urban groups and their corresponding city areas relate. It misunderstands how satellite districts can sustain originality and new thinking.
Gospel Oak and Kentish Town, like several areas beyond the inner circular road, are a melée of 19th Century speculative terracing, remnants of Victorian industrialism, railway structures and related severance, Thirties and Fifties Moderne, postwar municipal Modernism and Municipalisation, tin shed industrial estates, suburbia and generations of property appreciation. It’s a landscape of large-scale urban projects smeared over each other in time.
Is a rationalised version of this sequence of large projects the future? Is London outside the “historic core” only imaginable now as a series of big redevelopments or “regenerations” by public or private corporations, justified by their own technocratic rhetoric (a.k.a policies) which they formulate between themselves?
Where there’s already been big development, it happens again, GO and KX being examples chosen for this piece. There is a sense that one regeneration begets another: temporariness is built-in from the start particularly with modern forms of construction.
And which will disappear first – Queens Crescent, that’s endured 150 years of rough trade and waves of change, or the brick-faced timber-frame soi-disant contextualist blocks now springing up in the Bacton Low-Rise regeneration? Will the brainchild of “regeneration experts” last longer than a 19th century street of the poor?
Regeneration or Continuity
…the degree to which an urban spatial system allows for self-organization is highly influenced by its particular configuration of accessibility and land division… For example, it has been shown in both social and natural systems that division of land into discrete plots or parcels (in cities) or patches (in nature) can increase both social and biological diversity…
(Lars Marcus, “Towards an integrated theory of spatial morphology and resilient urban systems”, 2014 )
A standard regeneration narrative used in London today, about linking-in new neighbourhoods to surrounding streets, preserving heritage and Conservation-grade buildings as meaningful monuments amongst the new blocks, clear demarcation of public and private space recalling esteemed Victorian precedents, and so on, disguises rupture and erasure, and importantly a wrong-headed preference for new buildings which are unmoored from place and patterns of life likely to engender permanence and continuity. The error became prevalent with late-19th century social housing, and was deepened by municipal Modernism, and is now ingrained in development practices speciously hyped as “traditional”: it is to think the main identity of the city is the building, when it is the block, in which the building should figure subsidiarily.
The island block (in French it’s called l’îlot) assimilates change. When stand-alone buildings are demolished, they leave behind indeterminacy whereas removing buildings from intact blocks like the ones shown below invites infill, whilst the surrounding streets remain alive. These blocks demonstrate various uses and scales of building. The long term effect is an urban whole consisting of contributions from different times upholding the continuity of the overall block, and the town, rather than that of an individual building. Urban change is managed without the cataclysm of wholesale regeneration. Here is a system to produce continuity from continuous change. Many parts of the Central Business District are constituted from such evolved and variegated blocks.
Regeneration is failing if it produces urbanism presuming wholesale demolition. Unless regeneration brings in an urban order that endures by being ordinarily adaptable, any claims to have surpassed the “brutal” Modernists are suspect. Comprehensive Redevelopment as the endpoint of all efforts wipes out the self-made and the mish-mash of history: it erases time and indicates how the State and large private sector corporates are both focused on change-free, or centrally controlled urban space. Adaptivity – the embrace of time and evolution rather than command-and-control – is not part of mass-production of homes understood in local politics or by large scale developers.
Under the regime of cyclical regeneration, big change is infrequent, and a huge upheaval decided by the landlord and partners. “Chaotic randomness” is the technical term for this kind of cycle between eventlessness and cataclysm.
It might be hoped that Conservation, now embedded in Planning, is a store of alternative thinking to alleviate this grind of cyclical regeneration. It does protect parts of the housing stock, but is not yet a body of knowledge about how to make the city anew or set out an enduring city block though Conservation is strongly and thematically linked to the long-lasting. Conservation Officers are silent about evolution of urban blocks many of which began life in Gospel Oak and Kentish Town as speculative builders projects – what Andrés Duany calls their “…inaugural condition”, followed he argues, by “…successional stages of urban moulting”. The development, and life, of those blocks has much to teach authorities about continuous urban systems.
Ordinary local authority deliberation on urbanism is suspended between Conservation’s limited receptivity to past lessons and apparently blameless stake-out of “our heritage”, and corporate place production in episodes of destruction and new-build mediated in places like GO and KT by housing entitlement politics. An adaptive, enduring urbanism is plainly not what Conservation and Comprehensive Redevelopment offer.
In GO, the current challenge is composing a replacement neighbourhood from a mass of new “residential units”: “un problème social, celui du logement”, addressed in the 20th Century on countless different occasions.
We see the job is to leaven too much newness, monoculture and awkward repetition, the palpable signs of production keyed to bureaucracy and not the town or culture. We ask architects to transmute the abruptly new and monolithic into the social – a green area or playground is expected at least to support a claim of wholeness. Without traditions of place to call on, including small business space, the architect’s capacity to socialise mass housing depends on emotive gesturing, and that promise of improved general behaviour so eagerly anticipated from re-Victorianised streets.
The claim is made that the new Bacton Low-Rise blocks – the vanguard of GO regeneration – reinstate the London tradition of perimeter block building. But BLR doesn’t have flexible framework of site plotting: a basic lesson of the Victorian block, that allows piecemeal change, is ignored. Nor is there a recognisable architectural sub-unit of identity (e.g terraced house) – the default building type and “inaugurating condition” for each plot – to correlate site layout and internal planning, ownership and construction, part and whole. The architectural unit facilitates staged development by different builders – an unremarked feature of Victorian terracing – just as it allows partial demolition and redevelopment, often using a different building type: for example, a group of houses within a terrace replaced by a blocks of flats built in the modern idiom.
Without the discipline of a building type, BLR’s overall form is baggy. Other signs of being bossed by the client brief are clumping of flat-types in blocks joined together without hint of pattern, and in the mixed blocks, non-alignment of walls on different levels disabling partial demolition and incremental renewal in the future. The BLR plan signals bureaucratic control of form rather than architectural. Bacton Low-Rise is really a name for a field of operation where a bureaucratically negotiated campaign of complete site utilisation has been conducted without regard for the principles of a self-renewing urbanism.
19thC terracing was clearly a different, far less co-ordinated system of site development. For example, its build-out by different builders responsible only for segments of terraced streets frequently produced a difficult leftover at the back of the houses – an inefficiency in today’s terms. The “backland” was usually taken over by small business and enterprise, often providing services that homes needed near-at-hand. The last remnants of this urbanism of loosely sequenced urban block development are still being targeted and destroyed by change-of-use developers today, even in NW5.
“life forms outside the labour market”
You ask why small businesses in neighourhoods can be considered important to local economic health. The principal reason I would give is that they are possible bases for further development and diversification.
(Jane Jacobs, World Bank Interview, “Urban Development and Development”, 2002)
In this respect, it could even be argued that the functional precondition of a smoothly functioning ‘pure’ labour market (i.e one which is not blocked by power formations”) is the presence of a non-market social sphere into which people can move freely and thereby work and live without being subjugated exclusively to the laws of the labour market.
(Claus Offe, “The Future of the Labour Market”, in “Disorganized Capitalism”, 1985)
I think that’s harder and harder to account (…people who are time-rich…) Someone recently told me Hackney Wick has changed: you don’t see anyone around between 9 to 5 because everyone has a job now
(Andreas Lang, Public Works Group, “Designing the Urban Commons”, LSE podcast, 25/3/15)
What kind of place is Gospel Oak? How can we speak positively about its role in a system in which Kings Cross seems to many exemplary? The departure point here is GO’s existing town-like aspect, and the conviction its public life is not “residential”. The Kings Cross development obviously draws on similar ideas of wholeness and integrity. Bolstering GO’s town-ness as a principle of regeneration means more than tackling “residential issues”, and demands we find a space for discussion without the shortcuts apparently licensed by the “housing crisis”. As Claus Offe remarks:
…crisis-rhetoric and the actual interpretation of situations in terms of ‘crisis’ offer a double advantage: they provide clear criteria for what needs to be given highest priority, and they permit those claims which cannot be formulated in relation to the crisis to be pushed into the background
GO’s culture is often defined with indices of individual deprivation – see the Council’s 2014 Equality Taskforce report for up-to-date information. This is the other perennial crisis – running alongside the evergreen shortage of housing – that characterises neighbourhoods like GO and KT in the minds of Officers and Members. Rates of unemployment, households without anyone in work, types of housing need, skills deficits etc are the x-ray facts that apparently penetrate the everyday appearance of things and point the way reliably to new remedial initiatives. Like housing, this agenda never goes away.
No attempt is made to ground sensible deprivation data in an appreciation of the self-made culture of local public places where many people spend time – the task Suzanne Hall directs our attention towards. Her approach is an antidote to the imperatives of “crisis rhetoric” that could illuminate new principles of progressive intervention which recognise the synergy between “deprived communities” – concentrations of social housing – and small businesses, both now being equally threatened by property speculation. As it is, the Equality Taskforce document has nothing to say about the actual character of public space or complex public life or lives associated with it. Hall says:
It is not simply that official census data and demographic percentages do little to render a complex or fine-grained explanation of the experiences of difference and change. In their authorised depictions of diversifying urban societies, the modes of categorisation and stratification camouflage the crucial nuances of cultural exchange and social interaction.
Census figures suggest about 50% of the working age population in Gospel Oak and Haverstock wards aren’t “in the labour market”. As such, GO could be an example of what Offe calls “free spaces and buffer zones”. Its energetic, vulgar, enduringly local publicness presumably reflects a demographic of “stay-at-homes”, and their freedom from labour market stresses. Here is an atmosphere to disapprove of if one is disposed to, or to ponder as an important part of the quality of place.
GO’s possible role in the wider scheme as somewhere for people who are not “… subjugated exclusively to the laws of the labour market” is reinforced by Offe’s recognition of two main groups outside labour market: the welfare dependent and “self-employed”. This complementarity is a principle of Queens Crescent and its market. Hall refers to something similar in her work so far as housing estates and nearby shops is a proxy for it
In contrast to the social housing estates that comprise a large proportion of residences in walking distance from the Walworth Road, the independent shop spaces off the street appeared as a cheek-by-jowl series of sub-worlds that were neither overtly public nor private.
Modest workspaces for non-retail businesses in GO are of no interest to large established companies (except predatory, change-of-use property developers), but are an obvious resort for small or new enterprises which can take advantage of the lower costs in devalued parts of the city. As the Mayor for London’s website says:
SMEs contain much of London’s future innovation, enterprise and growth. However, securing the benefits of this innovation and future, depends on London’s SMEs being able to find cheap, yet appropriate workspace.
By demolishing almost all local authority small business space in GO to build housing in the last four years, the current Executive has substantially eroded one of the area’s key strengths, and isolated GO from complementary, positive life-forms in London more widely. Reduced SME presences degrade the “freedom” of the area, its claim to be hospitable to business experiments, and those positively positioned outside “employee society”.
Another sense of complementarity between social housing estates and small business lies in the fact they insulated each other for many years from property speculation by being repulsive to it…till now. In fact, there was also an immovable Planning regime safeguarding both by preventing speculation, as pointed out in a recent study:
…a new type of ‘exclusionary’ zoning started to be used, which also served to prevent other higher-value land uses (including residential) from locating in an area zoned for industrial use. This acted primarily to suppress and stabilise land values in these areas, discourage speculation and thereby encourage new investment in manufacturing and industry
( Jessica Ferm & Edward Jones, “London’s Industrial Land: Cause for Concern?”, March 2015)
Today there is neither protection for estates or workspaces around them as Councils partner private developers to rebuild housing in the name of “regeneration”. In other words, policy against speculators is turned on its head: they’re now invited in for apparently practical, progressive reasons.
And on one view that’s almost second-nature in post-Thatcher Britain, a new preponderance of private sale properties in an area is a form of regeneration in its own right. “Rebalancing” the demographic does reduce chronic local deprivation and possibly the related tragedy of the commons, and restores an orderly “residential” condition (Jowell’s “little Victorian streets”). That it sets the scene for yet more residential chauvinism hardened unavoidably, and irreversibly, by property debt and/or main asset value anxiety is overlooked, maybe because there seem to be no alternatives to yielding to big capital’s claims to inflated profits from property development on once public land.
Large tracts of previously mixed-use or potentially mixed-use urban space, often close to housing estates, are and will be lost permanently in this way – to the condition of fixity demanded by “the residential”. GO and the city is diminished by ceding space supportive of economic diversification and experimentation to new development that imposes punishing fixed costs on its inhabitants: “residential” financialisation trumps the city’s vital role as the space of opportunity, new ideas and associations in situations with low-cost resources – what the political scientist Sidney Winter sums up simply as “trying”.
Perhaps more straightforwardly than we think, affordable housing and and affordable workspace are allied. Sadly, what has been an “urban advantage” of GO – that it could once accommodate a wide diversity of “trying” in conditions marked by the rough liberty of the estate hinterlands – has been disregarded, then trashed, rather than carefully nurtured.
A re-developed SME base, near to intellectual centres like the Royal Free Hospital, embedded in the public condition of Gospel Oak, could still be a source of significant commercial success and innovation if regeneration in the area was more than the recovery of a “residential” purity. Planning has a role to play preparing for the unknown future from which innovation and other novelty emerges. Planning can provide appropriately for “trying” particularly somewhere like GO that is already equipped to become a better urban place for encounter and association because of its atmosphere of liberty and background of lively public spaces.
The Planning regime for expensive “residential” living whether applied to Conservation Area property or new-build apartment blocks is not an agenda for change, or openness to an unknown future. An exclusionary condition of certainty is required, not to resist high-values, but to maintain them. Diverse “trying” is supplanted by a “residential” endgame. It’s as if Kings Cross is destroying alternative commercial cultures around it, and replacing them with financialised housing which, unlike GO’s original Victorian housing stock, is resolutely resistant to adaptation and colonisation by SMEs.
Ecosystems sustain societies that create economies. It does not work any other way round.
(World Wildlife Fund, 2014 Annual Report)
What you want is a livelihood. What you want is to contribute to those you feel close to and aligned with. But in our society we talk about jobs. Jobs are for slaves. The life that people want has to have meaning and purpose, and there is very little meaning and purpose when people go to work not with any degree of passion, not with a feeling for what it is they do, but for the benefit and retirement packages that go with it.
(Peter The Carpenter, Podcast #2, A Small American City, 2013)
- Society of the Area
- GO has an active public life.
- GO enjoys its own society not a “residential community”
- The society is represented successfully by a few main public places that memoralise years of continual usage, and constitute a framework around which regeneration can be forged intelligently
- GO has distinct town-like properties although “administratively” and politically it’s thought of as just a “residential area” and client to the large-scale economy represented by business quarter development in Kings Cross
- GO’s society is made up from myriad micro-publics which are often related positively to specific architectural attributes of certain spaces
- Membership of micro-publics is achieved through time or by overcoming some hurdle of selection. In both cases, work is required.
- Micro-publics are not co-ordinated by a fixed position in the client-provider relationship in the way implied by the designation “local community”. They represent a wide range of often divergent interests. Movement and encounter between micro-publics is potentially enriching for the individual and the place.
- Micro-publics sustain links to other parts of London, and further afield. Local workspace, and social networks, relate the area to the world at large
- Reducing the number of local micro-publics by destroying workspace and other established settings is harmful to the overall public condition of the area
- GO is not an “employee society”. Rather it is marked by life outside the labour market, which lends it an open atmosphere of liberty that’s suitable as a background for exploratory, entrepreneurial and experimental activity
- Regeneration for GO
- Regeneration is based on large-scale redevelopment: given London’s long history of large scale development, “regeneration” is just the euphemism of choice today for intermittent Comprehensive Redevelopment.
- Regeneration in GO should seek a new departure in the form of an enduring urbanism that absorbs and accommodates change rather than ruling it out by statute.
- Alternatives to urbanisms of cyclic comprehensive redevelopment exist: the European City’s urban block allows for continuity through change. Its urbanism allows continuity of place and culture and a variety of scales.
- Examples of the urbanism of the complex city block are scattered all over London including Gospel Oak, Primrose Hill and Kentish Town. It emerges by making constituent buildings secondary to an overall city block. Mature blocks show a rich development of their inaugurating condition.
- Glorification of Victorian terracing is a commonplace in municipal conversation about new urbanism. Without understanding terracing’s hospitality for non-residential uses and adaptability e.g conversion to shop-use, as well as the condition of freedom attached to some of its spaces e.g the backlands, investment in the outward form is unlikely to change very much about urban London. Terraced streets can be as relentlessly monochrome as any poor quality Modernist housing estate.
- Single developer site development today does not produce a low-value leftover, an unintended “set aside” that can be colonised by enterprise.
- An adaptable urbanism needs more than residential efficiency. A surplus is necessary that individuals can use to address their own unknown future, part of the larger general uncertainty faced by the culture at large.
- Regeneration is now driven by skimming high land values which hitherto have been suppressed by public ownership and zoning
- New, non-conventional interests – e.g SMEs whose main source of income is notproperty speculation – should become local developers of scattered ex-Council plots. Building types combining affordable housing, market housing and business should be carefully formulated as part of the mixed-use agenda of regeneration.
- How new common areas in regenerated housing might be the space of micro-publics should be openly discussed by regenerators.
- The liberty and freedom of GO should be a principle of regeneration
- There is no clear understanding expressed in Planning Policy about mixed-use beyond a few light green platitudes. There is certainly no practical advice how it can be achieved in modern conditions in spite of conventional developer’s deep aversion to it.
- Planning’s main contribution to mixed-use development is the idea that new business development should have a residential add-on. There is no equivalent for workspace in the case of residential-led development which serves to consolidate the centre-periphery dichotomy which is emerging in Camden.
- Planning doesn’t recognise the town-like ordering of the Malden Rd (church) and Queens Crescent (market) axes. GO’s town-like aspect is ignored.
- Planning should be used deliberately to create islands of “low-value” in acknowledgement that doing so can facilitate business development, and affordable housing.
- Planning seems to sanction conditions of dynamic change and rigid fixity. Assumptions about the “residential” condition contradict local understanding of “town-ness”, and furthermore, risk consigning populations not willing to participate in the arenas of globalised competition like KX to unnecessary and unproductive isolation.
- Too much of Planning is gimcrack expertise, making areas like GO vulnerable to specious argumentation by so-called experts upholding the conventional interest of “resi” developers.
- There is no clear understanding expressed in Planning Policy about mixed-use beyond a few light green platitudes. There is certainly no practical advice how it can be achieved in modern conditions in spite of conventional developer’s deep aversion to it.
“On top of this, a new form of mega-architecture is starting to creep into the countryside to house the server farms, distribution warehouses and factories that require almost no human labour and which are too big to fit in cities, he explained.” https://www.dezeen.com/2016/12/05/rem-koolhaas-donald-trump-usa-presidental-election-not-surprised/
“Camden is a genuinely special place with an incredible sense of character and identity in each of its constituent towns and villages” (Cllr Phil Jones, Regen & Planning Member, report to full Council, 11/9/17)
“..the continuity that derives from a sense of place & from standards of conduct self-consciously cultivated and handed down from generation to generation” Christopher Lasch, The Revolt of the Elites & the Betrayal of Democracy