O2 Centre plan for 1,800 new homes ‘will be carnage’

‘How do you expect tube stations to serve at least 2,500-3,000 additional passengers a day?HHo

Friday, 25th February — By Tom Foot

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How the new development could look when it is finished 

A 15-YEAR redevelopment of the O2 Centre and surrounding land will create “havoc” by overwhelming the transport network, health services, schools and small supermarkets, according to a raft of official objections this week.

Land Securities has submitted its first planning application to flatten the shopping centre in Finchley Road, the Sainsbury’s car park, Homebase and the car showrooms to build a “new neighbourhood” with 1,800 homes.

An original deadline for responses of March 9 has been pushed back and the application will now not be decided until after May’s council elections.

Dr Elika Kashef, an NHS hospital radiologist who lives in West Hampstead, said in her objection: “You are shutting down this large supermarket and building 1,800 additional flats and expect people to use small supermarkets.

It will be carnage. Over-subscription of current schools will create havoc. There are major planning safety issues regarding fire safety as well as issues with sustainability.”

She added: “The two Underground, stations West Hampstead and Finchley Road, have no plans for expansion or extension. How do you expect it to serve at least 2,500-3,000 additional passengers per morning and afternoon?

The number of flats being planned has a much higher carbon footprint against Camden’s net zero sustainability plan. The GP practices are already over-subscribed.”

Several objections questioned whether Camden would be getting enough affordable housing and whether private flats would be bought as investments and left empty.

As the New Journal reported last week, hundreds of documents have been lodged with the Town Hall by Landsec showing a plan for a first phase of work that would see Homebase demolished first, along with half the Sainsbury car park.

On that land, 608 homes would be built in a first phase of construction with 188 flats designated “affordable”. However, the “affordable” homes would be split 60/40 between “low-cost rent” and “intermediate rent”, where flats are still let up to 80 per cent of the market rate.

Labour West Hampstead ward council candidates Lorna Greenwood, Cllr Richard Olszewski and Marcus Storm said this week they were “making it clear we will demand an increase in the percentage of affordable housing proposed by Landsec and ensuring it is an adequate size for families”.

The scale of the scheme is justified by the developer because of recent major developments in Iverson Road, 156 West End Lane, West Hampstead Square and 100 Avenue Road. The developer says the scale is appropriate as these schemes have “evolved the character of the area in general and increased overall density”. The tallest building will be 15 storeys.

Cllr Oliver Cooper, the leader of the Conservatives, said the Labour-run council had failed to revise a botched “allocations plan” for the site that allowed Landsec to apply for so many homes.

He said: “Camden’s leadership has shot itself in the foot and shot the O2 Centre in the head. Camden knew its plans to earmark the O2 Centre for high-rises did not have public support, but instead of withdrawing it, Labour kept it on the table and played right into the developer’s hands.”

Demolition and construction of the blocks is expected to take 15 years, according to the planning statement from Gerald Eve on behalf of the developer.

It says the scheme will “create a place that integrates and connects the communities of Finchley Road and West Hampstead” with “a new neighbourhood that reflects Camden’s unique culture and provides something for everyone”.

It said the residents from all over Hampstead, West Hampstead and Swiss Cottage would benefit from “a large open green space” and landscaped areas and play spaces including a sports pitch.

The application says the O2 Centre has become “inefficient” as a shopping centre and “has seen the failure of a number of tenants in recent years, leaving a considerable number of voids”.

There are 464 jobs at risk if the entire site is demolished. But at least 548 will be available in replacement retail units when the new scheme is complete, the application said.

Keith Moffitt, co chair of the Fortune Green and West Hampstead Development Forum, said: “Although Landsec have made some changes as compared with their original proposals, we still believe that a development including buildings 15 storeys high and 1,800 new homes is at odds with the surrounding neighbourhoods, including three conservation areas.”

The developer would be liable for a £43.5million payment to Camden Council as part of the Community Infrastructure Levy.

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