Dartmouth Park Neighbourhood Forum would like to ensure that residents are aware of the forum’s response to the proposed development in Chester Road. Details below:
Comments on Planning Application 2020/3461/P – 2 Chester Road
The proposed development would provide a hostel for the temporary accommodation of homeless families, in some cases women and their children at risk of violence. The new development would provide 50 new dwellings in three blocks (3 and 4 storeys) arranged around a central communal garden. The application proposes the demolition of the existing building on the site, until recently used as a hostel for single person temporary accommodation.
The Dartmouth Park Neighbourhood Forum supports the development in principle. The provision of this facility is consistent with the objective of the Dartmouth Park Neighbourhood Plan to support a variety of housing and community facilities in the area. However, we do have concerns about the detail of the proposed development.
1 We object to the demolition of the existing building, without proof that this is essential.
(a) Camden’s Local Plan Policy CC1(e) requires all proposals that involve substantial demolition to demonstrate that it is not possible to retain and improve the existing building. The case has not been made to show that demolition is necessary and that the building cannot be maintained and refurbished for continued use as a hostel (or for some other beneficial purpose). We also question the assertion that the existing building has reached the end of its life. These issues need to be explored in order to meet the Policy as to demolition.
(b) In addition, with Covid -19 the likelihood of enduring changed working patterns and reduced need for office space suggests that there may be opportunities to repurpose an existing building in the borough as a hostel instead. A number of vacant office buildings could, with minimal refurbishment, provide suitable space to house the homeless. This would avoid the need to demolish a building that could still provide years of service.
(c) The building was designed by Bill Forrest, one of the excellent young architects in Camden’s architecture department in the 1960s and 70s who designed some of the finest social housing in the country, including the Highgate New Town development of which the hostel formed part. The demolition of such a thoughtful and high quality building in a conservation area is deplorable.
(d) The demolition of the existing building, with its large embodied carbon, is not consistent with sustainability objectives.
2 The proposed buildings are too large and domineering for the site in the heart of a residential neighbourhood.
(a) Even the three storey block on Chester Road will be significantly (up to a storey) higher than the neighbouring houses. The four storey block on Dartmouth Park Hill will present a sheer cliff-like appearance to the road.
(b) We welcome the landscaping of Colva Walk and the provision of ramps in place of steps. However, we are concerned that the Colva Walk passage would be overwhelmed by the sheer wall of the building, and that the passage would become a wind and noise tunnel.
3 The accommodation provided for residents is poor. The proposed number of residents (up to 200 in 50 units) is too high, resulting in cramped accommodation. In addition, although there is a central communal garden, there is no provision of private outdoor space such as balconies. These constraints are a concern, especially in the light of greater known risks in relation to viruses now and in the future, compared with when the design was developed. We would prefer to see more generous allocations of space for a smaller number of vulnerable families, which would ameliorate over-crowding and avoid any undue impact on local infrastructure such as medical facilities.
4 The design of the façade is poor.
(a) The development is entirely inward facing, with little engagement with the community.
(b) The proposed continuous façade is bleak and monolithic, with no setbacks, balconies or other features to break up the bulk and create a more domestic scale to blend with the neighbourhood.
(c) It is proposed to clad the buildings in shiny green tiles with a curving and asymmetric profile. The choice of these tiles is arbitrary and capricious, and has no connection or reference to the materials used in the area; the green of the tiles, in particular, is completely at odds with the warm red, brown and yellow bricks of the surrounding streets.
5 We welcome the use of prefabricated offsite construction methods and the inclusion of underfloor electric heating, air source heat pumps and green roofs.