Council seats should be at stake in battle for O2 site

COMMENT: 'Retrofitting and net zero carbon goals will all be required from the construction industry if the world is to meet the urgent climate change challenge'

Thursday, 4th November 2021

O2 shopping centre site Finchley Road

The O2 Centre site on Finchley Road

SUSTAINABILITY has been at the top of the agenda during the COP26 summit in Glasgow.

Top engineers and architects have urged the government to stop buildings being demolished. Making bricks and steel creates vast amounts of CO2.

Retrofitting and net zero carbon goals will all be required from the construction industry if the world is to meet the urgent climate change challenge.

One of our biggest failings is that we build buildings then knock them down and throw them away.

What would the world leaders meeting in Scotland have to say about the energy emission-spewing proposals for the O2 Centre?

Land Securities is proposing demolition of a perfectly good and well-used shopping centre that was opened fewer than 25 years ago.

The O2 Centre, which opened before the Millennium Dome was rebranded by a telecommunications company, is named after the chemical formula for dioxygen. And yet its demolition, and the construction of huge tower blocks, would contribute to contamination of the air we need to breathe.

Land Sec argues it will provide new green public space and a sustainable car-free neighbourhood. But the model recently put on display has already proved how cramped the housing blocks will be, and how little open space will be reserved for the public.

There has been a slow drip-feed of information for this huge project over the past year, that looks set to end predictably with a mammoth planning application submitted just in time for Christmas.

Back in the mid 90s, few people were considering the environmental cost of the O2. Residents were questioning why a US-style shopping mall was needed when in Finchley Road there was already a big supermarket, major cinema, gym, furniture shops and plenty of restaurants. There was for several years almost an unofficial boycott.

However, over the years the big Sainsbury has proved a much needed alternative to expensive Waitrose. The public also found, with a healthy supply of teas and coffee outlets, a meeting place to sit and chat.

The battle for the O2 Centre site has only just begun but it could be over a decade before the project actually comes to pass.

There is a huge amount of interest in this, proved by the large numbers who turned out to the West Hampstead NDF’s meeting on Monday night. It is the talk of the town in NW6.

Delaying any decision until after next year’s council elections are done in May may have a big impact on the council’s ruling.

Politicians, sometimes, need to be forced to sit up and listen. And there’s no better time for that than before an election.

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