Spring Place Depot

This has been a source of frustration for residents for some time.

See below an excerpt for the minutes of the March meeting about use of the depot as a rendez-vous for work teams and vehicles and about noise of vehicles at all hours and driving too fast:

1. Spring Place/Holmes Road Depot
Angela Woods, from Stop Dustcarts Campaign, briefly summarised: From 5.30 am trucks from Brent come to the local depot to pick up crews very early in the morning. Recycling trucks also in and out of the area, plus vehicles based at the depot.

Mark responded for the council: some of this activity has now been relocated. Drivers have been instructed not to pick up their crews here, and the recycling drivers have now been given similar instructions. Drivers instructed to use Holmes/Kentish Town Road, not Grafton and Willes.

General agreement and appreciation that things are somewhat better, but there are still problems. These are mainly:
 Excessive speed, causing noise and heavy vibration
 Traffic calming measures not effective
 High sided (wire) vehicles extremely noisy (and shouldn’t just be relocated – their design is a fundamental problem)
 High concentration of vehicles in an inappropriate area.
 Unnecessary journeys (empty trucks sent out to collect complaints!)
 Veola cleaning trucks and building depot vans extremely fast
 Nuisance late (to 12) as well as early, 7 days pw

Responses, from council officers and police:

 Speed: take registration numbers and report speeding vehicles. Drivers will be reminded about speed restrictions and warned of local concerns. Sgt Ryan will let us have contact details for traffic control centre, who could come into the area.
 There is a borough wide review of depots and there are no plans to move this one in the next 3 years. Ralph Scott felt the Head of Property Services, David Tullis, might however be responsive, especially as this would clearly be a prime site for residential use and could provide 100 – 150 homes. Ralph will contact him.

Mixed views from the meeting – acknowledgement that there is light industrial use, not just residential, and depots need to be somewhere. More general view though is that the balance is wrong and there should be more done to accommodate increased residential use. Richard referred to the GLA’s London Plan which supports expansion of residential use, and pointed out that other local sites which would not have done so previously have got change of use for housing. He asserted that the depot would not now be granted planning use as a new development because of the shift locally to residential.

Some tentative discussion about removing speed bumps to reduce noise and vibration – meeting agreed that this could be looked at but only if there are viable traffic calming alternatives (chicanes etc.). Overwhelmingly, the feeling of the meeting was that more consultation is needed before any such changes are made, and that consultation needs to happen early in the planning process.

Strategically, there might be more major solutions to reduce traffic, such as changing the no left turn from Prince of Wales Road to Kentish Town Road and right from Castlehaven to Prince of Wales. However, the first has been floated many times over the years with no success and has been rejected by TFL, who control major routes.

One of the residents most concerned is Richard Ferraro in Willes Rd. He is an architect and planner and has prepared a study of the site and the more appropriate use of it for housing.

This is it:

I was asked at the IARA meeting of 31st March 08 to write a piece for the IARA website about re-location of the Holmes Road Depot – in particular Planning aspects under The London Plan. That follows, under several headings.
I am also sending a copy to Councillors Ralph Scott and Mike Greene, and Mark Hunt of LB Camden – in addition to the cc’s as above.
The piece illustrates that the Depot is in the wrong location, and that there are far more appropriate uses for the site. The most suitable use is mixed tenure, medium to high density housing – including the potential for a substantial quantity of affordable housing – of which there continues to be a chronic shortage in the Borough.
The arguments for relocation of the Depot and change of use of the site to residential are very strong in the context of current planning guidance, ie ‘The London Plan’.

PLANNING CONTEXT

The Planning context in London has changed in recent times, with the introduction of The London Plan, published and administered by the Greater London Authority (GLA). Its jurisdiction includes all London Boroughs, and Kentish Town is classified as an ‘Urban’ area under 3 new titles: Central / Urban / Suburban.

The London Plan is the new over-arching policy document for future strategy and planning decisions, and there are numerous new policy initiatives, eg:

A drive for regeneration in urban areas
Promotion of higher density housing in appropriate locations
Optimum and rational use of land
Re-use of brown field sites
Sustainability

One thrust of policy is to create new higher density housing throughout London, in appropriate locations, to avoid as far as possible the need to build housing on green field sites at the edge of London, or further afield in the countryside. It’s argued that higher density use of the city’s land and infrastructure represents more economical and more sustainable development. There are predictions of increasing demand for additional housing in London and the SE, and the GLA has imposed targets on all London Boroughs for the creation of additional housing over the coming years. A high proportion (50%) must be ‘affordable housing’ – either for rent, for keyworkers, or as shared ownership housing.

GLA policy pushes for optimum and rational use of land. Where land is appropriate for housing, the GLA will normally support this use, providing various criteria are met and there are no significant local conflicts. Therefore there’s good scope for the use of well located sites in urban areas for new housing, where previously there might have been protection for other uses, eg employment (even if badly located for that purpose).

Sites considered of particular interest for new housing are those close to town centre or local shopping areas, also close to other facilities (eg schools and GP surgeries), and with good public transport connections. Transport factors are measured by a ‘PTAL rating’ for a site, and there is no doubt that the Depot site has a high (good) PTAL rating – probably 5 or 6, on a scale of 1-6. Suitable housing densities for sites with different PTAL ratings in different locations are set out in Table 4B.1 of The London Plan, on page 177. (Table 4B.1 is attached to this e mail as a PDF.)
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THE DEPOT SITE

The Holmes Road Depot buildings are a curious collection – built in the 1960s. There are open vehicle areas and workshops – also residential flats, which are above and next to offices and staff facilities serving the Depot. I’ve been told by other local residents that originally it was entirely a housing maintenance centre, and its use as a Depot for refuse work and street cleaning operations is much more recent – from which time the noise, nuisance and traffic have been considerably worse than in earlier years of operation.
The Depot facility is much more intensively used these days than in the past, with a large number of noisy commercial type vehicles supporting its more recent uses. The concentration of noise, pollution and disturbance is unacceptable by today’s ‘normal’ standards for a residential area. There are also road safety issues in the local residential streets created directly by this heavy commercial traffic, with several primary schools closeby (with children who walk to school), and other community facilities. This high level of vehicle movements carries high risk and creates local hazards.
In short, the Depot is badly located for its current use, as a noisy industrial type site requiring much vehicle access with long hours of operation, 7 days a week. Apart from the unacceptable long hours and noise, the Depot has no direct road connections to the main road network in the Borough, and all of its traffic must pass directly through local residential streets.
In the context of Planning and Development Control, a ‘light industrial use’ is defined broadly as one that can be located satisfactorily in a residential area without causing negative impact – and on that basis the current operations at the Depot fail on many counts. The Depot operations cannot be considered as ‘light industrial’ (ie Use Class B1C), and more likely fall under ‘industrial’ (ie Use Class B2), or ‘Sui Generis’ use within current Planning classifications. On that basis, given the location of the site in a predominantly residential area, if the suitability of the Depot operation was to be considered in a fresh Planning Application today, with all the associated traffic and disturbance, it would NOT be granted Planning Permission.

Under the GLA criteria set out in The London Plan, the Depot site is very well located for local shopping and other local facilities, and local public transport connections are excellent (both rail and bus). Taking these factors into account, the Depot site would be viewed very favourably under The London Plan for change of use to 100% residential.

It’s also notable that the the area surrounding the Depot has changed in recent times. Many older ‘light industrial’ sites have now disappeared, in favour of new housing. Since the Depot was built the previously mixed use character of the area has changed to one where housing very much predominates, therefore with a greater number of residents adversely affected by noisy facilities with traffic problems.
THE POTENTIAL FOR NEW HOUSING

Table 4B.1 in The London Plan indicates that the PTAL rating of the Depot site would be 5 or 6, and with it’s ‘Urban’ classification, the Table indicates that the density for the site would be considered in the range 450-700 habitable rooms per hectare for a development predominantly of flats – or 200-450 habitable rooms per hectare for a development of mixed terrace houses and flats . (NB A habitable room is a bedroom or living room, not a kitchen or bathroom. So a 2 bedroom dwelling has 3 habitable rooms, ie 2 bedrooms and 1 living room.)

The site area of the Depot is approx 0.78 hectares, ie 1.93 acres, so the ‘allowable density range’ for the site is maximum 546 habitable rooms all up for flats, or maximum 351 habitable rooms for mixed houses and flats. (NB This site area includes the area occupied by existing housing on the site – it might be preferred to consider redevelopment of part of the site only, in which case the relevant smaller site area would be used in the calculation.)

None the less, for the sole purpose of illustration of density potential, if the whole site was to be re-developed for example as all two bedroom flats, the maximum number allowed would be 182 dwellings. With mixed houses and flats the maximum number would be well over 100 dwellings. And in all cases, a minimum of 50% of new dwellings would be ‘affordable’ dwellings. Given that the Council already owns the Depot site, they could choose a higher percentage of affordable dwellings, even 100%.

The result of a density calculation such as this under the London Plan has to be tested in design solutions, to take account of local conditions, surrounding development etc, before the final suitability of a proposal can be decided upon. However, whichever way you look at this, the potential for housing on the Depot site is substantial.

OTHER LOCAL DEVELOPMENT

Apart from the existing housing in close proximity of the Depot site, there are other substantial new housing developments (recently built, under construction and planned) – all built on former industrial sites very close to the Depot – eg several significant sites in Spring Place and Holmes Road. The recent housing next to the sandwich shop on Grafton/Athlone was a builders yard, as was the site now being built into flats in Spring Place by a Housing Association. The large new blocks of flats and student housing on both sides of Holmes Road were previously a motor repair garage and the premises of a windscreen wholesaler, etc. All these new housing developments have been granted planning permission by Camden Council.

Therefore, in addition to the older housing in the area, the new housing is also adversely affected by Depot operations, plus the unacceptable levels of traffic, noise and disturbance in the surrounding residential streets. And, as new housing gets built, more and more residents are adversely affected by the Depot.

It’s very likely that several further developments will follow – for example there’s a current planning application for housing development on a former industrial site off Holmes Road, and in due course it’s expected that the Kingsway College site at the west end of Holmes Road will be sold for housing development. This would most likely result in the conversion of the listed Victorian buildings plus some new build, eg similar to what occurred at Camden’s Richard of Chichester School site on Prince of Wales Road.

COUNCIL INACTION

To reduce the probability of re-location, it’s a pity that back in the late 1970s/ early 1980s, the Council didn’t take the opportunity to obtain a short road link from the rear of the main courtyard of the Depot directly into Browns Lane (off Regis Road) – to alow the traffic to and from the Depot to use Regis Road. The new industrial estate at Regis Road / Browns Lane was created as a separate area at the time, with no housing included, with its own new roads linked directly into the main road network, not via residential streets.

More recently, it’s a great pity that the Council didn’t consider re-locating the Depot in their discussions with the Kings Cross developers, as there are a number of suitable industrial type sites there, all with direct road connections into the main road network of the Borough.

It may not be too late to obtain an appropriate industrial site in the Kings Cross area (or elsewhere), and / or split down the Depot facility into smaller operations at various locations, to avoid a concentration of all the vehicles in one place.

CONCLUSIONS

– What was suitable in the 1960s when the Depot was built is no longer appropriate in 2008 – with substantial noise, nuisance and danger from the Depot site – and intensified residential development in the area.

– The Depot function should be relocated to an industrial type location (one or more), with direct links to the main road network of the Borough. There must be an urgent Borough wide review to find possible new locations for the Depot operations.

– Good housing land is in short supply, and the Depot is an excellent residential site. An attractive medium/ high density scheme with a mixed tenure approach would be fully in step with current GLA policies – regarding re-use of brown field sites, the rational use of land, increased residential density in London, and sustainability.

– In short, the Depot site should be redeveloped (or partly redeveloped) for new housing to a sensible higher density, following the removal all non-residential uses. All to occur as quickly as possible.

– These challenges require imagination on the Council’s part to grasp the nettle. As a first step the Council should commission a Feasibility Study for 100% housing development on the site, to include the preparation of a draft Masterplan for consultation with local residents.
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