Swiss Cottage tower developer is ordered to keep affordable homes pledge
Council rejects new deal for 100 Avenue Road
31 March, 2021 — By Tom Foot
How the tower block is due to look if the original project is finished
A SKYSCRAPER developer has failed in a bid to remove all the affordable housing units from a scheme in Swiss Cottage.
Essential Living (EL) had claimed it could no longer make a suitable profit from its 23-storey tower block plan for 100 Avenue Road – where work was paused during the pandemic with some buildings on the site already bulldozed.
The New Journal revealed in January how the company had sparked anger by asking the Town Hall for permission to remove all 36 affordable units in the scheme, arguing its costs had risen since the original agreement was first reached and building consent granted in 2014.
Camden Council may now have to defend its decision if the company appeals against the new refusal – a further chapter in a controversial planning saga which has now been running for seven years.
Janine Sachs, chair of the Save Swiss Cottage campaign, said: “It’s really good news that Camden has refused EL’s application to renege on their affordable housing agreement, but because EL may appeal, we’re only cautiously optimistic.”
She added: “If that happens I’m sure Camden will have the full support of the community. Camden’s decision report appears very robust, so fingers crossed.”
Amid hundreds of objections to the scale of the tower, the council had originally rejected planning permission for the project as a whole.
The company appealed, but Camden was overruled by the then local government secretary Greg Hands, who said work could begin.
EL then ran into a row over how it would remove spoil from the site as residents complained about the prospect of trucks taking over residential streets. The Town Hall is still to decide on another new application from Essential Living – the Jersey-based developer has asked to use cheaper materials for the tower’s cladding.
The 100 Avenue Road site – the former offices of the Ham & High newspaper – has already been knocked down and residents and council chiefs now fear the prime land will remain a mound of rubble for years as the dispute rumbles on. The developer is considered to be in a position of power and insisted this week “it is in everyone’s interest to see the scheme delivered”.
The delay to building, in what was once rebranded Theatre Square, also affects the Winch youth centre which was promised a new home by Essential Living as part of the planning agreement.
Swiss Cottage ward councillor Leo Cassarani said the developers had “truly sunk to new lows by proposing to eliminate all social and affordable housing from their development”.
A statement from his ward colleagues added: “We are concerned about the future of the now-vacant site on Avenue Road, which confirms the worst fears of the local campaigners who have fought this project for nearly a decade. But we do not intend to compromise on the delivery of social and affordable housing at a time when it is needed more than ever.”
EL has not confirmed yet if it will appeal, but development manager Camilla Lesser told the New Journal: “Naturally, we are disappointed with the council’s decision. The approved scheme is not financially feasible in its current form.”
A Camden Council spokesperson added: “In line with the legislation, officers considered whether the modified obligation would serve the same useful purpose and concluded that it did not – so the application was rejected on the basis that it would reduce the amount of affordable properties delivered as part of the scheme.”