‘It’s just so BIG’

At an exhibiton today (Saturday 26th November) Camden Council revealed their updated plans for the comprehensive redevelopment of West Kentish Town Estate. It is very similar to the last version (proposals in 2019): the proposed heights and mass of the blocks show no appreciation of the surrounding context.

Consultants on-hand explained the council will submit a “viability assessment”. It’s always been a puzzle why Camden prepare viability reports on their own schemes. Viability appraisals are normally used by private sector developers to demonstrate to planning authorities how much subsidised housing they can afford to build into their development. It seems strange that Camden is doing the same thing when its whole apparent motivation is to build as much council housing as possible!

Exactly six years ago, Camden sought to get planning permission from itself to increase the amount of private housing in Phase 2 of its Bacton Low Rise development. The associated viability report includes these two sentences virtually side by side: “LBC is a Borough Council that is not commercially driven and therefore not considered a typical developer that would require both a ‘competitive return’ as a land owner and as a developer”… “Without the success of this…application the .. scheme would be at risk from a viability perspective”. Camden seems very confused about itself.

In the case of West Kentish Town estate, Camden makes the ‘business case’ but not the ‘town planning case’- they are not even trying.

There is extreme, jarring disjunction between the scale of proposed buildings and existing buildings on Grafton Road where the new development will cause the loss of beautiful, mature lime trees. The new buildings will similarly dwarf Rhyl and Carlton primary schools, and the Victorian terraces on the west of the estate. This is what results from over-development. If the buildings were more sensibly scaled and conceived as updated versions of existing building-types, set back from the street, the trees could be saved and existing residents’ amenity protected. A reasonably scaled urban environment could still be maintained, rather than being destroyed as currently proposed.

The massive courtyard blocks will create poor living conditions. Like other schemes designed by architects AHMM, the masterplan will create harmful environments because of:

  • Overshadowing
  • Overlooking and loss of privacy
  • Layout and density of building
  • Overbearing nature of the proposal
  • Indequacy of infrastructure and /or social facilities
  • Effect on surrounding area (including conservation areas)

Here is what WHGARA say about the O2 Centre development, also designed by AHMM: link to website

Here is what COALITION AGAINST HIGH RISE CAMDEN say about the Charlie Ratchford development by AHMM: link to website

All of these proposals show lack of consideration for existing and future residents, but in this case it is Camden Council doing the damage. Labour councillors seem happy to go along with it and claim immunity because of viability, but this does not wash.

The presentation of the “Design Codes” show buildings of 6 stories. This should be the maximum permitted, not 7, 8 and 10 stories. Where are the illustrations showing that these are remotely acceptable? They don’t exist.

Above: timeframe for demolition and when the Initial Demolition Notices are to be served

It would be nice to think that the Council had learned the lessons of large scale, poor quality housing development, but no. The design of the proposed buildings at West Kentish Town estate are crude and of poor quality. It is sad that the Council is happy to present these to the public.

The tower in the middle of the estate has one staircase and single aspect flats facing north.

It looks a lot like the original Hawkridge Tower. Will the council ever learn that high rise is not a good way to build homes?

We sincerely hope to see an improvement in the architectural quality soon, as well as a reduction in density which will improve the chances of this not being an extremely damaging development for our area.

2 thoughts on “‘It’s just so BIG’

  1. Thank you for the article. Can you help connect us to the right people?

    Angela and I represent the Carlton Tavern freehold. We will be dwarfed and overlooked on 3 sides by this development.

    We would like to engage with other concerned residents and put forward constructive lobbying to the council and planners.

    Can you suggest who we should link up with who has similar interests in lobbying?

    Alex Appelbe m: (+44) 07775324827


  2. Yes “Overshadowing”! All the blocks are 4-sided, with a well in the centre which no sunlight will reach. The sample pictures they give all show people – and plants – enjoying the sunlight. No plants will grow in these blocks.
    In every case, the south-facing section should be removed, leaving a horseshoe-shaped block open to the sun.


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