Draft IARA response to the Planning Application for Murphy’s Yard’

We will shortly be sending out an email with more general updates, including one on planning an Alma Street Fair, but we feel that the Murphy’s application has such importance for Kentish Town that we are focussing on this single issue in this update.

As a Residents Association, we need to have a statement of our views about the Murphy’s Yard planning application.
Feedback prior to our Annual General Meeting showed us that the consensus was strongly against what was seen as potential over development of the site. Many people expressed opposition to the fact that the site contains 19 storey tower blocks as well as large 8 storey buildings much closer to the High Street. The net result will be to block the view of the open space leading up to the Heath. There were also fears expressed about overdevelopment generally. 

At the AGM we agreed to consult more widely, and we subsequently circulated a draft letter prepared by the Dartmouth Park Neighbourhood Forum, which covers the northern part of this development. This was a document that local residents and community groups in the area were invited to sign. Although the feedback we had was mainly strongly supportive, there were two objections from members so that we cannot in all honesty claim sufficient consensus to add our names.  (The Dartmouth Park Neighbourhood Forum has in fact now produced a fuller and more detailed analysis of the site which we will put on our website for people to consider)

There is support for the promised green aspects of the site and in particular the plan to open a walkway and cycle route away from the High Street all the way up beside the railway lines to Hampstead Heath on Gordon House Road. There is also support for the creation of affordable housing.

Nobody suggested that that site could be left in its present condition which is effectively a car park for Murphy’s.

There were also comments about the fact that the scheme does not appear to have taken on board Camden’s announced Climate Action Plan as there will be extensive use of concrete and what planners call “intensification“.
The planning application is now on the Camden website and there are a lot of comments, most of them negative in line with the concerns already expressed, as well as a number of positives, in particular regarding the provision of accommodation.

IARA now needs to file its views on the Camden website. We hope that the following document is a balanced one reflecting the advantages and disadvantages of development and the mix of views of our members. We hope many individuals will also do so. Just to remind you, the link is here: View Application and the deadline is 21 February.

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Draft comment by IARA. We need your views.

The Inkerman Area Residents Association represents the area directly to the south of this development site. We have a high level of participation from our resident members and this has been accepted by Camden for many years, and our views taken into account on planning matters.

Our members are concerned about general planning issues for the whole of Kentish Town and the impact on our High Street.
Murphy’s Yard has clearly been a site that has been ready for development for many years and it is unthinkable that it remains in its present state.
1. It is an opportunity to create an economic stimulus for the area as well as housing.

2. We are well aware of the need for housing in Camden which has a council waiting list of many thousands, causing great distress for those waiting.

3. We are also aware that Camden‘s budget has been repeatedly cut and that economic growth offers the opportunity for increased income to the borough.
4. We welcome the promised green aspects of the site and in particular the plan to open a walkway and cycleway from the High Street all the way up beside the railway lines to Hampstead Heath
However, we have very serious reservations about some aspects of the project.
1. The “intensification“ of the site threatens massive over development. In particular the construction of 19 storey tower blocks and bulky eight story units close to the High Street means that the open aspect from the High Street up towards the Heath would be destroyed.

This would have a hugely detrimental effect on the High St and most of our members are dismayed at this prospect.

The Kentish Town Neighbourhood Plan was the subject of exhaustive public consultation and formulation and was voted on at a referendum. Its principal planning policy is the protection of the view from the High Street up to the Heath. The Kentish Town Neighbourhood Forum spokesperson has confirmed that this will be largely obstructed. The Forum however has not so far raised this objection to the plan.

2. We are concerned that the housing proposed does not in fact meet the needs of Camden properly. Camden‘s policy says that 35% of homes should be affordable but the planning application claims that this amount is not viable, so there is no certainty what, if any, affordable housing there will be.

3. We note that “affordable“ does not mean affordable by the majority of people in the borough. 14% of the proposed housing will be let at “intermediate rent“ which is considered to be affordable by people with an income of around £60,000 per annum. These are all one bed flats, which is not what is needed for most people on the housing waiting list.

The remaining 21% are described as “social affordable“ which can mean anything between 50 and 80% of the very high local market rents which again is beyond the reach of many people, particularly those most in need of housing.

Crucially the number of family size units with more than two bedrooms is extremely low – in fact just 14 homes will have four bedrooms. This is 1.5% of the proposed development and contrasts with Camden’s stated need for 16% of housing stock to be family units.

4. The majority of the housing on the site will be sold on the open market and the developer’s viability assessment assumes that a two-bedroom flat in one of the towers will sell for about £1 million.

From experience of other developments, many of these will be sold to absentee owners and possibly to overseas investors.

5. There is considerable concern from our members about the impact on the area of the development. Obviously, any development will have an impact in terms of traffic during the construction phase but the size of this development means that it would be a nine year program with at times over 100 lorries making two-way journeys every working day. These will be diesel lorries coming out onto the High Street or the busy Gordon House Road.

Camden’s own independent Design Review Panel say that “the bulk, height and massing of residential blocks is excessive and will have significant and unacceptable impact on important views from Parliament Hill to the north [of the site].“

The developer has argued that the overdevelopment of the site is as required by Camden and the Greater London Authority. However the 2021 London plan contradicts that and there is no policy requirement for this intense level of development as Kentish Town is classified as “a district town centre with low commercial growth potential.“

On balance the IARA opposes the plan in its current form.