CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Camley Street: ‘Don’t miss opportunity for homes on prime land’

Land trust will maximise social housing, backbencher tells his Town Hall colleagues

14 August, 2020 — By Richard Osley

Labour councillor Paul Tomlinson has emailed his concerns to all members of the ruling group

THE ruling Labour group has been urged to put a major opportunity to build new affordable housing into the hands of a community land trust (CLT). And the call comes from within their own ranks, as a backbench councillor made clear his concerns about how redevelopment sites in Camley Street, King’s Cross, are being handled.

In an email to all of his colleagues – seen by the New Journal – Labour councillor Paul Tomlinson warned that Camden needed to do everything it could to maximise the number of social homes.

He said: “We have around 6,000 people on our waiting list and large numbers of our properties are overcrowded. We are not able to offer much hope to people who are overcrowded and who want to remain living and working in the borough.”

The Town Hall has begun the process of recruiting an architect for the council-owned land, with a view to creating 350 new homes and commercial units.

But it has consistently been asked to consider uniting two sections of the site to create a bigger revamp: the southern area is currently let on long-term leases and council officers and cabinet councillors have so far not been convinced by the idea of buying them out.

Cllr Tomlinson, who represents Somers Town on the council, said: “We are at a crossroads with Camley Street. The council is in danger of missing a huge opportunity.”

He added that a community land trust could protect the land from developers who might be looking to capitalise on new fast-track changes to the planning process.

“A CLT is an option we should consider for Camley Street,” he said, adding it “would provide the maximum number of social rent homes – homes that would be outside the right to buy legislation.

Money can be borrowed at a historically low level and there are institutions interested in lending to such a project.”

Community Land Trusts hand control of land and assets to non-profit organisations, which are then worked on without the reliance on the private property market.

The Camley Street Neighbourhood Forum has been at odds with the council for several months about what guarantees would be given to businesses already on the site in any regeneration scheme.

Some critics say the Town Hall is intent on expanding the so-called “Knowledge Quarter” of academic and tech institutions in King’s Cross without considering the value of the food suppliers based in Camley Street.

The Forum has worked out how Camley Street could be mapped out to include more affordable homes and commercial space for the existing businesses with Karakusevic Carson Architects.

Their pitch said: “As well as strengthening the public realm and unique industrial character of the area, our proposal allowed for the creation of 750 new homes that will be offered for rent through the London Borough of Camden as 100 per cent affordable housing, a plan that not only provides much-needed housing for local residents, but will provide a long-term housing revenue for the council.”

A vision of Camley Street by Karakusevic Carson Architects

The firm said it had been approached by residents concerned that the area “was in danger of being lost to private development”.

Although Camden is offering a contract to an architects’ practice to draw up designs, Labour councillor Danny Beales said “no decisions are imminent” and that the council was working with a steering group – which includes the Neighbourhood Forum – that had so far given a “very positive” response.

He said: “We have so far developed a shared vision we all support – of a minimum 50 per cent new genuinely affordable housing, many more local jobs for new and existing employers, high environmental standards and new public space and access routes.”

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