O2 Centre: New skyscraper debate may bring councillors back to the chamber

Another full council meeting?

Friday, 18th March — By Richard Osley

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Conservative leader Oliver Cooper

COUNCILLORS gave farewell speeches and said goodbyes to those who are set to depart the Town Hall last week – in what they thought would be their last gathering in the chamber before May’s elections.

But it emerged yesterday (Thursday) that members may asked to return to their be seats amid pressure to squeeze another session in before Camden goes to the polls.

The opposition Tories want to force a vote on what Camden’s position should be on tall buildings – a direct relation to the debate on how the council should react to developer Landsec’s bid for a massive overhaul of 02 Centre site in Finchley Road, Swiss Cottage – and a motion to limit what should be allowed in local planning guidance.

The plan for the 02 Centre

The 02 application has grown into an election issue with disagreements between the rival parties over how much the council is doing to protect residents from what has been described as “overdevelopment”.

The shopping centre is facing a date with the wrecking ball and outline proposals for the redevelopment include 1,800 new homes with the tallest in the scheme scaling 15 storeys.

Critics have said the neighbourhood does not have the infrastructure to support this number of new residents and that the buildings will not fit in with the area.

Hundreds have already registered objections at the Town Hall as officials mull over the designs and councillors get ready for a planning decision, now expected later this year.

The 02 Centre in Finchley Road

Conservative group leader Councillor Oliver Cooper has been pressuring the Borough Solicitor and the Mayor of Camden Sabrina Francis to schedule an extra meeting before the final run-in to the polls.

“Camden Conservatives have proposed banning high-rises in all low-rise areas,” he said.

“This is the most important motion that Camden has considered in years, as failing to pass it would mean unending high-rises everywhere.

“It is our one chance to save Camden and stop it becoming Canary Wharf. The high-rise proposals for O2 Centre and Murphy’s Yard developments would dwarf their local areas and devastate communities.

“Camden did not discuss this policy when we tabled it two weeks ago, but it is so important that it deserves an extraordinary council meeting – it must be given priority and heard first.”

It is understood that the idea of a new meeting was already been considered at the Town Hall because some members of the ruling Labour group believe that councillors should get the chance to debate the invasion of Ukraine and how Camden can help ease the refugee crisis so soon after welcoming Afghans fleeing the Taliban.

Camden’s local elections are due to be held at the start of May but council business is usually wrapped up by weeks before the voting.

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