Skyscraper saga sees developer announce plans go back to work

The tower block nobody wanted may still go ahead

Tuesday, 2nd August — By Tom Foot

Swiss Cottage tower Essential Living

How the skyscraper is meant to look

A DEVELOPER that downed tools on a flagship 23-storey tower block project amid doomsday financial forecasts that it was set to make a £70million loss has announced plans to re-start construction next summer.

Essential Living had used a massive projected deficit from its own scheme at 100 Avenue Road, Swiss Cottage, as an excuse to demand permission to amend its original plans for the site

But its application to remove 28 “affordable” rent flats from the project completelty was rejected by the council and then an independent planning inspector.

The inspector’s ruling in January instead had forced the developer to build the scheme that had been approved back in 2016 – even then amid much controversy – with the originally agreed number of affordable homes and also a new facility for the Winch Youth Project,

Elaine Chambers, who has campaigned against the development since its inception, said: “I thought they’d give up and go away and sell the land, and then we’d have a new developer and maybe a new scheme and we’d have better control over it. We are all thoroughly fed up.

“It’s a nightmare for the people who live around the green. It’s a nightmare once the work starts again. It was traumatic all those years of banging and thumping. The lorries coming up, drilling from 8am til 6 in the evening. I’m mortified.”
Residents around Swiss Cottage learned of the developer’s intention in an upbeat email on Monday.

The campaign against the tower has seen Swiss Cottage residents mount challenges in the High Court, attend several council meetings and protests.

Essential says it now can take a “more holistic and longer-term view” on its investments and that projects will be made in the “longer term”.

It argued in front of a planning inspector that the scheme that was approved back in 2016 had become “financially unviable”.

The pandemic and “wider economic circumstances” were blamed for a huge increase in the cost and availability of building materials and labour.

But the calculations of a potential £70m loss was not accepted during the planning inquiry with experts suggesting removing the affordable housing would only save the company around £12million.

The council said yesterday it welcomed the decision to resume the build and to deliver the 184 homes including 54 affordable homes and the new community home for the Winch.

Winch chief executive Rashid Iqbal said: “We are relieved that after a decade of doubt and delay that the planned development of a new community facility for local residents and young people might finally be completed.”

Essential’s development manager Camilla Lesser said: “Although a normal commercial return will still not be achievable in the short to medium term at 100 Avenue Road, we have decided to press ahead with construction of the approved scheme.

She added:”We remain fully committed to the long-term future of the site and making a positive and sustainable contribution to local life in Swiss Cottage.”

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