What happens at Murphys Yard, where plans for 750 homes and 71,000sqm of industrial and office floorspace are being drawn up, is so important for the future of our area.
DPNF supports redevelopment of this brownfield site and welcomes the time that Murphy’s team has put into meeting us and the wider community, but feel that we are not being listened to and think that there is a real risk of the current proposals being rejected by planners and that returning now to the drawing board would be best for all parties, not least Murphy.
Current proposals vs Neighbourhood Plan
The Dartmouth Park Neighbourhood Plan, adopted after a local referendum in 2020, forms part of the Camden Local Plan. We have assessed the current scheme against the key principles for the site that we included in the Plan:
- Pedestrian and cycle links through, car-free – YES
- Preserve heritage and views (although plans to re-draw the KTNP protected view) – PARTLY
- Mix of uses, no net loss of employment space, small business units – YES, BUT UNSURE OF THE HARD SPLIT BETWEEN USES
- Sustainability/energy – PROMISING
- Affordable and intermediate housing, including community-led housing, co-ops, co-housing and genuinely affordable rent – HOPEFULLY
- The design of new housing will be informed by the terraced and apartment typologies that are prevalent in the surrounding area – NO
6 questions on character and housing mix
Our grave concerns about the designs are summarised in the questions below. We have recently posed these to Murphy.
- There is a range of policy documents, from the National Planning Policy Framework (“Planning policies and decisions should ensure that developments… are sympathetic to local character and history, including the surrounding built environment and landscape setting”) and National Design Guide through the Camden Local Plan and Kentish Town Planning Framework (“seamlessly integrated with surrounding neighbourhoods”) to the Dartmouth Park Neighbourhood Plan that require design to be rooted in its context. Please can you explain how the wall of towers and tall buildings, rising to 19 storeys, has anything to do with the character of any of the surrounding neighbourhoods? This is a question about character and quality of place of the new development, not views of it or the impact on the 5 adjacent Conservation Areas, which will be a separate and important planning consideration.
- To give us an idea of what the place will feel like, which successful neighbourhoods have inspired the design of the housing area?
- Do the plans achieve the appropriate grain for a successful place? Somewhere that feels homely, with interwoven streets rather than big piazzas, and integrating with the streets (and green spaces) around.
- What would Neave Brown do with this fantastic opportunity?
Housing mix and zoning
- What will the housing mix be and who are all the flats for? Don’t we need more family housing – we now have primary schools closing in Camden because housing policy and prices are forcing families out, including Carlton School immediately over the railway currently under consultation? We need stable, rooted communities, with a range of types and tenures.
- Why such a hard split between housing and employment zones? Previous proposals integrated these elements much more throughout the site with residential units above the work units – mixed use sites with studios for creatives. This all appears to have been lost in this proposal.
Successful neighbourhoods for quality of life
We have provided Murphy with a number of examples of recent high quality development, which tends to be high density/low rise in the proud tradition of Camden Council housing. We feel that the examples given here would be an excellent starting point.
We worry the opportunity to create a place that responds to the area’s special urban character, and that draws on a serious understanding of the lessons of what makes for a successful city neighbourhood, is being squandered. People are keen to help shape the Murphy’s development through a creative exercise, and there are lots of skills to offer.
We appreciate that we have been consulted but it would be wonderful to be able to influence, to come together to engage in a creative, collective way. There is a wide pool of interested talent in the area. A meaningful programme of co-designing from first principles, based on a shared understanding of the parameters that Murphy’s designers need to achieve, could chart a new way forward.