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.
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.