Exclusive: Murphy's Yard tower block scheme in Kentish Town is spiked

Questions raised over planning process

Wednesday, 18th May — By Dan Carrier

Murphy’s Yard

How the redevelopment of the site was due to look

THE future of a £1bn construction project was up in the air tonight (Wednesday) after developers pulled the plug on their tower block  proposals for Kentish Town.

The New Journal can reveal that the architects behind the Murphy’s Yard  scheme have told council officers they are withdrawing their application  to open up the site and build 850 new homes and a host of new offices.

A new walking route from Kentish Town station to Hampstead Heath was  also planned.

But more than 1,500 people on both sides of Hampstead Heath had raised  concerns over the height of the scheme – 19 storeys in some parts.

The  land, a depot for the famous Murphy’s building firm, has long been earmarked for redevelopment and work to draw up plans began four years ago.

But this week Murphy’s and Folgate, its sister company overseeing the  work, informed the Town Hall that it is pulling their application and  will think again about what to do next.

The case now raises questions over the planning process and how the proposals got as far as they did after the developers were given  pre-application advice to work with.

Folgate paid Camden Council £650,000 for officers’ time to oversee the  project and a further £5m to surveyors, architects and other fees to  draw up the project.

Now they are facing writing off swathes of that investment and further  costs as they take stock and reconsider what to do with land that has  been owned by the Murphy’s family for more than 60 years.

A Folgate Estates spokesperson said: “Having reviewed all consultee  responses in great detail, Folgate Estates feels the best way to address  concerns raised is to withdraw our planning application.

“This will allow us to undertake further consultation and make revisions to our plans.”

Folgate began consultation with civic groups and neighbours in 2019 and  submitted an outline application in June 2021. Further consultations in  2022, led by the Town Hall, revealed the hopes and aspirations of civic groups and neighbours for the brownfield site – and a range of  objections to what was proposed.

“We remain committed to redeveloping Murphy’s Yard, bringing the whole  site back into active use and opening it up to the public for the first  time,” the spokesperson said.

“We remain firm in our belief that Murphy’s Yard represents the best opportunity and location to help address the pressing needs of the  Kentish Town, Gospel Oak and wider communities in terms of affordable housing and new homes, workspace and employment opportunities, new  community spaces, local health facilities and important infrastructure  links.

“We are part of a family company that has a 60-year history of  stewardship of this site and have the local connections, knowledge and  commitment to reimagine this place in the interests of the community. We will continue to work with other landowners and stakeholders, officers  and councillors.

“We would like to thank everyone who has taken an interest in our  proposals during the past three years of public consultation and  especially those who declared their support for our regeneration of  Murphy’s Yard. We know you all want to maximise public benefits through  regeneration and will consider the full range of feedback as we review
the masterplan.”

As the site is owned by Murphy’s and Folgate, the firm say it is under  no obligation to develop the land and could continue to use it as a  depot and headquarters. They said they had drawn up the proposals after years of discussions with Town Hall officers.

Sources close to the project said the planning framework had called for  a range of homes, offices and industrial spaces – but recent changes to  the area’s plan mean developers could be allowed to offer less office space and, crucially, lower tower blocks.

How the development was due to look from the Heath

The Dartmouth Park Neighbourhood Forum had also called on Folgate to  scrap the designs and start afresh – an approach that may be partially  considered.

Other objections included police warnings that the scheme could  attracted anti-social behaviour at night.

Hampstead Heath guardians the City of London expressed concern over the impact of three planned towers at the Gospel Oak end of the site, while scores of residents also aired fears over the size of the project.

Actor and travel writer Michael Palin was joined by novelist Deborah  Moggach and broadcaster Melvyn Bragg in opposing the scheme.

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