High times ahead in Kentish Town?
Developer praised for ‘aspirational and respectful’ design, but some fear loss of Heath views
14 November, 2019 — By Dan Carrier
The area marked out for development in Kentish Town
UP to 750 new homes – many in high-rise tower blocks – could be built in Kentish Town, prompting fears of overcrowding and the loss of protected views.
The development, on land owned by construction firm Murphy Group, is set to be redeveloped. This week, civic groups and neighbours attended workshops to hear how the project was progressing – and were told that one idea would be to place blocks up to 18 storeys in height.
The land covers seven hectares and stretches from Gospel Oak to Kentish Town alongside railway lines.
It was identified by both the Kentish Town and Dartmouth Park neighbourhood forums as an area that could be redeveloped. Now, ideas that were first made public in the summer are being firmed up to create a master plan.
The global construction firm has been based in NW5 since the early 1960s and runs its operations from the site. It says if the scheme goes ahead, heavy construction vehicles will be moved to depots elsewhere, taking traffic off neighbouring streets, while maintaining Murphy Group offices there.
The development would also create new public spaces and include a pedestrianised, green walking route from Kentish Town to Hampstead Heath.
It could also boast an arts centre in a restored Victorian railway work shop, shops, light industry and offices.
Kentish Town Neighbourhood Forum chairman Roger Winfield said: “The Forum welcomes Murphy Group’s engagement over the future of its site and are pleased to see that current proposals are for a mixed use development that is broadly in line with the Neighbourhood Plan.
“At this stage we say that we expect the scheme to include green and fully accessible public spaces, and not to obstruct the view of Parliament Hill from the canopy area by Kentish Town station.
“We also hope Camden Council will give careful consideration to the level of Community Investment Levy that the developer would have to pay; otherwise it could be unviable to produce an environmentally attractive scheme for Kentish Town.”
Caroline Hill, of the Kentish Town Road Action group, warned the project could endanger the protected views from Kentish Town to Hampstead Heath.
She said: “Having high buildings could conceal part of the view. We feel very strongly that this is protected.”
She added that she understood why they were exploring high buildings, as the numbers of homes requested by the Town Hall and the GLA meant looking at all options – but said the site was large enough to find alternatives.
She added: “There is the protected nature reserve, which could be opened up to the public, meaning other areas could be used for low-rise housing without losing green space.”
Dartmouth Park Neighbourhood Forum member Kelly Pawlyn said: “I was impressed. In an ideal world this project could be incredibly exciting as the architects are landscape-driven and the proposals offer a meandering route to the Heath, through a series of changing urban landscapes and gardens.
“It is aspirational and respectful at the same time, conscious of the history of the site, but offering a contemporary vision of how live/work spaces and accommodation could create a vibrant – potentially car-free – garden city/village.
“There is a concern about the high-rise nature of the buildings to the north-west of the site but the architects are aware of the desire to frame the ‘view’ of Hampstead Heath and are considering how to not only break up the massing, but perhaps consider terraces of green incorporated into the buildings themselves.”
Forum chairman Ben Castell told the New Journal the Forum’s starting position had not changed since the first public exhibition in July.
A Murphy Group spokesman said: “The workshops presented the latest thinking on how to bring forward a mixed, sustainable development in line with priorities and the local and regional policy context.
“Although the designs are at an early stage, Murphy’s were delighted with the turnout and the willingness of the community to engage in this exciting project.
“Common items of discussion were around how preserving the viewing corridor from Kentish Town would affect the height of the buildings, access to and from the site, the look and feel of the open space and how the new community will complement not compete with the local high street.”