Highline is a great plan, but don’t forget the vulnerable

COMMENT: If approved the Highline could become one of the most celebrated features of modernised 21st-century Camden

Friday, 20th May


New images of a £55million park to be built above the streets of Camden Town and King’s Cross have been revealed

MASSIVE congratulations are in order to all those involved in the Camden Highline, which could soon become a reality.

If approved it could become one of the most celebrated features of modernised 21st-century Camden.

It will carve a new corridor through the borough, linking up the borough’s biggest regeneration areas, while providing a potentially tranquil place to breathe away from the polluted roads below.

For years detractors have dismissed the Highline as more of a pie-in-the sky line. It had to some, wrongly, appeared to be little more than a vanity project, championed by those seduced by similar big picture schemes in New York and Paris.

Many thought it might be doomed to remain a figment of an optimistic imagination, but this week a detailed planning application has been lodged with the council.

There may be concerns about crime on such a long walkway cut off from the perceived safety of the streets.

Longer rail-side paths, like Billy Fury Way and Black Path in West Hampstead for example, are generally viewed with suspicion and avoided by the people who live there.

As exciting as the scheme is, there must also be room for near neighbours to have their say on any potential disruption to their lives.

The plans for Camden Gardens may also fan the flames of debate about the commercialisation of public parks.

There have in recent weeks been rumblings of discontent about corners of Waterlow Park, Highgate, potentially being closed off to the public.

There will as part of the Highline scheme be new commercial ventures introduced in a publicly-owned green space.

It is fair to say Camden Gardens is not the most salubrious place, however. Certainly, it is not the kind of park you would, for example, take a young one for a run around or go to relax with a bite on your lunch break. It does makes sense to try and change all that.

But there are people who have accidentally come to rely on it, and they are in the greatest need of our support.

The spaces available to people on the street – the addicts, the homeless, and those with severe mental health distress – are too often taken away by projects that seek to air brush out a problem rather than fund a cure.

Developers and the council, if they combine to make the Highline a reality, should also be working to do something positive to help those people.

The many transformations of Camden Town and the regeneration of King’s Cross over the past 20 years are often credited with “cleaning up” those areas.

Often those projects have failed to address the social problems that exist. Gladly, there is so much potential for the Highline to be different.

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