We’ve compiled a list of some of the most frequently asked questions we’ve received over the past few months. If you don’t see yours here, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us here.
1) How big is this site?
The site is approximately 14 acres in size – equivalent to between six and a half and nine football pitches, depending on the field. It extends from Finchley Road and the O2 Shopping Centre to West End Lane. It really is a huge site and one of the largest earmarked for development in Camden.
2) How much open space would be provided here?
50% of the current masterplan is dedicated to public, open space. This includes four large areas – a town square at Finchley Road, a long-tree lined park connecting both ends of the site, a central square that could be used for community gardens, and a large new green at the west end of the site
3) Why are you proposing so many homes here?
The O2 Centre site is uniquely positioned in that it is bounded by five railway stations and plenty of bus stops. It is an ideal location for a new community, and this is why it is earmarked for significant redevelopment in both local and regional planning policy.
We know this is a big change and a significant number of homes – though we have dropped the overall total from 1,900 to 1,850 in response to local feedback – but the masterplan we’re consulting on also seeks to deliver much more a place that integrates and connects the communities of Finchley Road and West Hampstead. A new neighbourhood that reflects Camden’s unique culture and provides something for everyone – a mix of homes where people can stay and grow; jobs and local opportunities; shops, restuarants, leisure and community facilities; and new green public spaces to relax with friends and family.
4) How tall are these buildings going to be?
The buildings will range from 3 to 16 storeys. This will prevent the design from feeling too uniform or regimented whilst also allowing us to deliver the number of homes, including affordable homes, needed by the area. Taller buildings also mean we can use the rest of the site to create green open spaces and deliver other community benefits such as retail, leisure, a health centre and community centre.. The taller buildings will be focused to the north of the site, bounded the railway line, to ensure the homes and green spaces get lots of natural light. You can read more about our approach to height and what’s informed our thinking so far by clicking here.
5) How many affordable homes will be provided?
We are proposing 1,850 homes for this site, with a target of 35% of these to be affordable housing. This means around 650 affordable homes.
6) Why is this a car-free development?
Camden Council has declared a climate emergency and the area around Finchley Road suffers from high pollution levels and low air quality; a very real and urgent issue especially with so many schools and families here.
Car free development is therefore a requirement set by Camden Council and the Greater London Authority for major schemes in well-connected parts of London.
There will still be some parking – for instance for blue badge holders and service vehicles – and you can read more about this and why we feel so passionately about sustainability by viewing our latest proposals page here.
7) What impact will this have on local train stations?
We are in discussions with both Camden Council and Transport for London (TfL) to understand how this development will impact capacity and have already committed to safeguarded space for and contributing financially to station access improvements. We know one of the main concerns for local residents is queuing outside West Hampstead station because of a limited number of ticket gates and we’ll be exploring the best waysto improve this. This will be measured and calculated in detail as part of the Transport Assessment which will be submitted as part of the planning application. This will also be reviewed and assessed by both TfL and Camden.
We have also commissioned a series of technical and social impact studies on each of these things and more. These will also form part of our Environmental Impact Assessment which we will submit to Camden as part of the planning application.
8) What is going to happen to the Sainsbury’s?
We know how important the Sainsbury’s is to the local community and have committed to re-providing a supermarket in the new Town Square. We are in discussions with Sainsbury’s now about their requirements.
9) What other shops and services might we see here?
We will definitely have space for the leisure uses you have told us are important like a gym and cinema as well as restaurants, cafes and other shops including independent and local businesses. We have heard that you would like a book shop and a garden centre as well as family dining and a community and youth centre and we would love to hear more about what you would like to have here.
10) How will you prevent people parking on local roads?
11) Will these green spaces be open to everyone?
Yes, all of the new green spaces, connections and parks will be open to everyone.
12) How long will this project take?
We will be delivering the scheme in phases and estimate that the entire project will take around 10-15 years to complete. The first phase – which delivers around 650 new homes, shops, the community centre and community garden, could start on site in 2023 with the first homes ready in 2027.
For more detail on our approach to construction and what the early phase of this masterplan includes, you can visit our latest proposals by clicking here.
13) When might the O2 Centre be demolished?
The O2 Centre would not be demolished for some time. Our current thinking is that any demolition would come towards the end of the construction process so at least 5-7 years from now.
14) When are you submitting a planning application?
We intend to submit a planning application at the end of this year (2021) and we’ll update the website and everyone who has registered with us to let them know.
15) How can I have my say?
There are lots of ways you can feedback to us and have your say. We’re running an online survey on the latest plans which you can complete here. It only takes a few minutes and really helps us as we progress the designs. You can also get in touch with us directly by freephone, email and post and all of these details can be found by clicking here.
We would also encourage to attend our series of in person public consultation events within the O2 Shopping Centre where you’ll be able to view the proposals, meet the team and ask questions. The details for these sessions can be found here.
16) Why are you proposing taller buildings here?
We have carefully considered the location of buildings and in developing the latest masterplan have taken into account several important factors like sunlight, site levels and the need to deliver a significant number of new homes here along with public open space and community amenities.
The buildings will range from 3 to 16 storeys, so this will not be a uniform or regimented development but a varied design which also allows us to deliver the homes and affordable homes the area and London needs. The site’s nearest neighbour is some 60m away, and most surrounding buildings are further than this.
This, in addition to the site being bounded by the railway line, forms a natural buffer zone. The taller buildings will therefore be focused to the north of the site, where the buffer zone between neighbouring buildings is the furthest. This will also ensure the homes and green spaces benefit from lots of natural light.
We know some of you are very concerned about the prospect of taller buildings here but it is important to recognise that by including taller buildings, we can make better use of this site and deliver a greater social and economic impact. We can provide more affordable homes, keep over 50% of the site as public open space (which we know from your feedback is very important locally) and the community and retail spaces people want to see.
17) What materials will you use to ensure the designs are in-keeping with the area?
We’re very clear as a team that the buildings we design here should be of a very high standard and respond to the character of the area. Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM) are the architects leading the designs and they have a tremendous amount of experience in Camden. They have looked closely at the architecture of the area and how we reflect the character as well as the historical uses of the site. We’ll be making use of brick and will also be re-using existing materials from demolished buildings wherever possible to reduce our carbon emissions. You can read more about the proposed architecture and inspirations here.
18) Will the new homes be affordable for local residents?
We know you want us to prioritise affordable housing that includes a range of properties to buy and to rent. We are proposing 35% affordable homes here, including in the first phases and 60% of these will be low cost rent and 40% at intermediate rent and there will be mix of 1, 2, and 3 bedroom homes for families. We’re keen that this is an inclusive development, with homes for all and are looking at how we can market them to local people first.
19) Why are you only committing to 35% affordable housing when Camden’s target is 50%?
We are committed to providing 35% affordable housing here, of which 60% will be low cost rented homes, and this is part of a much larger and substantive package of benefits that we are proposing for the area and trying to find the right balance between.
This includes dedicating over half the site as public open space, with two large new green spaces, a linear park and a town square. We will also be providing new community spaces, affordable workspaces and a new health centre within the site and have committed to safeguarding space for and financially contributing to local station access improvements.
20) How will this impact local services like schools and GP surgeries?
The impact on local social infrastructure is tested through Environmental Impact Assessments, which will form part of our planning application.
We know this is a big change and that people are worried about services like schools and GP surgeries. We are carefully considering both and are already speaking to the NHS, the local Clinical Commissioning Group and Camden Council about providing a health centre or GP surgery on site.
Our initial studies have shown that there is enough capacity in local primary and secondary schools, but we are looking at this carefully and all of our data will be tested by the Council. If a need is identified, we will be happy to contribute to this.
21) What will happen to all the current tenants and facilities in the O2 Centre?
The replacement of the O2 Centre comes in a later phase of the development and so it is likely that nothing will change at the centre for at least 5-7 years after we start on site. However, we are already talking to all the businesses and organisations that are in the O2 Centre now about the future.
We want this to be a place that has everything that local people want and need and it’s been really useful to hear what local people like about the O2 Centre now and what could be improved on.
22) Will you provide space for a Cinema, Gym and Cafe?
We’ve heard during this consultation just how important a cinema, gym and cafe are to local people, with over 40% of respondents requesting these each. We will ensure that we provide space for all of these, along with a supermarket in the new Town Square, which will be brought forward in the later phases of development.
23) How will I shop at the supermarket without a car?
Planning policy clearly requires that major schemes like this in well-connected parts of London are car free, which is why we have been very open from the outset that this will be a car free development. Camden Council has already declared a climate emergency and the area around Finchley Road suffers from high pollution levels and low air quality. It is for this reason that Camden Council and the Greater London Authority have stipulated that developments like this must be car-free. We will be providing blue badge parking for disabled residents and shoppers, as well as pick-up/drop-off spaces for taxis and ride shares but planning policy will simply not allow us to provide lots of parking.
24) How big will the new supermarket be?
We know the Sainsbury’s is a really well used and liked local asset and we are already in discussion with them about coming back into the transformed space, at the Finchley Road end of the masterplan. We are still talking to them about the exact size of the store, which will depend on their needs and future demands.
25) Will you be improving access and capacity at local stations like West Hampstead?
We know this is a really important issue and so we have committed to safeguarding space for and financially contributing to local station access improvements. We are therefore working closely with Transport for London (TFL) and Camden Council to understand the issues at play and how we might best mitigate them as there are a number of complex challenges to consider; access and ticket hall capacity, platform capacity, interchange capacity and frequency of the trains (or a combination of factors). The impact of the proposals will also be assessed and scrutinised in the Transport Assessment, a key part of our full planning application.
26) What will you be doing to keep this area safe?
This is something we feel very strongly about. We asked several questions about this in our most recent survey, and you were clear that we need to ensure this development is well lit, well signposted, includes CCTV in key areas, and doesn’t include any dark corners or blind spots. You were also clear that this should be a well-maintained site and that we should speak to local people, particularly women and young people, to ensure this is a safe place. We’ll be doing just that, as we are committed to being long-term custodians of this new neighbourhood.
27) The recent floods in the area have shown that this area is at risk, surely a development of this scale will make things worse?
Currently, this site is dominated by materials like concrete and tarmac which do not allow good drainage, and therefore the risk of flooding is heightened.
Greening, and especially the inclusion of rain gardens and swales (sunken marshy borders), is the best possible way to mitigate flood risk. We are working with landscape and biodiversity specialists including the London Wildlife Trust on this and will also be including green roofs and sustainable drainage along with many other best practice sustainability and environmental measures across the new buildings. You can read more about our sustainability proposals here.
We are also doing a full climate assessment, Health Impact Assessment and Environmental Impact Assessment and the findings will be published as part of the planning application.