Slaney stakes all in bid to protect Somers Town
02 February, 2017 — By John Gulliver
A HIGH Court battle starts next week the outcome of which will determine the future of Somers Town. And I am not indulging in the sort of exaggerated language journalists tend to use.
A proposal by Camden Council to build a 25-storey private residential tower – probably the tallest block in the borough – is being challenged by Slaney Devlin, chairwoman of the Somers Town Neighbourhood Forum.
Though it was opposed by the Forum, more than 1,000 petitioning local residents, the ward councillors, and a host of conservation bodies, the council pushed ahead with the project on the grounds that the sales of the flats – according to calculations by Slaney Devlin they could fetch nearly £100million – would pay for a refurbished nursery and school as well as “affordable” housing.
Apart from the dominating tower block in Purchese Street, the council also plan to build a 10-storey block of private flats and three terraced houses. The council say their hands are tied as the government’s austerity programme has left them pretty much penniless and unable to rebuild badly run-down schools.
The opponents say it will deprive built-up Somers Town of open space and clashes with the planning policy for the area. So much for the arguments that are likely to be heard in the High Court hearing due to take place next Tuesday morning.
Courageously, Slaney Devlin has thrown down the gauntlet herself which will mean if she loses the case she will face legal costs running into several thousand pounds.
Leading for the council, apparently, will be a top QC Hereward Phillpot whose personal fees could be anything in excess of £3,000 for a half-day hearing. So far, she has raised nearly £3,000 through the online crowdfunding site Crowdjustice, backed by several hefty pledges.
It will be an uphill struggle for Slaney. She came off badly in an initial skirmish recently when a High Court judge rejected her counsel’s written arguments, but a renewed attempt has opened the door for Tuesday’s hearing.
This week will be make or break for Slaney’s counsel – if they win the argument the judge will fix a date for a full length Judicial Review, if they lose that will be the end of Slaney’s campaign.
For the council the project heralds the start of a new life for Somers Town. Opponents fear it will spell the end of Somers Town as it has been since the 19th century – a historic “working-class” slice of Camden. It will become “gentrified”, a neighbour nestling in between Euston Station’s planned redevelopment and the swanky, salubrious King’s Cross area.