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Legal steps in Camley Street redevelopment row

Council leadership and neighbourhood forum split over prime site

18 July, 2019 — By Richard Osley

Alex Smith from the Camley Street Neighbourhood Forum addressing Camden’s full council meeting earlier this month

BUSINESSES operating on public land in King’s Cross have made the first steps towards a legal challenge over the council’s handling of a proposed revamp of the site.

The Camley Street Neighbourhood Forum is at odds with the Town Hall over what guarantees will be given to existing businesses when a regeneration scheme is finalised.

The council wants to press ahead with a masterplan for two sites but is not currently assuring companies – many of which are food suppliers – the same space when the work is complete.

The Forum has called for a pause so that its alternative plan for Camley Street is fully considered.

It involves securing funding for buying out longer leases on a third site with Greater London Authority “grants and loans” and creating a “mixed industrial and residential zone”.

Camden, in contrast, wants to move ahead with the two sections of Camley Street it is clear to work on due to expiring leases.

Appearing before last night’s (Wednesday’s) cabinet meeting, Alex Smith, who has worked on the site for more than 40 years with his health food company Alara and is a founder member of the Forum, said Camden had compiled a report on the site that “contains no information about the existing businesses at all or the fact that they already employ 500 people”.

He said residents and businesses wanted the companies already there to be retained.

A sticking point between the two plans has been how much social housing would be provided and at what rent – the Forum says its plan allows for 1,000 new homes but Camden says their proposals will provide more affordable rates.

Some critics say the Town Hall is set on expanding the so-called “Knowledge Quarter” of academic and tech institutions in King’s Cross further into Somers Town, without considering the value of existing business that do not want to be displaced.

The clash comes with the backdrop of firms talking about the area becoming a new “Silicon Valley” in recent weeks, following the arrival of Google and Facebook on the nearby King’s Cross railway lands regeneration site.

One of the Forum’s suggestions is to create a “fruit quarter” of fresh food operators instead Members of the Forum appeared at both a scrutiny committee on Tuesday evening and the council’s cabinet meeting to argue for a delay – and revealed they have sought advice from legal firm Leigh Day & Co.

The possibility of a judicial review was raised on Tuesday, although committee members, including former housing chief Julian Fulbrook, questioned whether there would be any grounds.

Regeneration chief Councillor Danny Beales said he would like to see “makers and creators” come to Camley Street and said the council was committed to ensuring their were “more jobs, and more local jobs” on the site.

He said: “All businesses will have to move to enable their buildings to be developed. We will work with them individually, based on their circumstances, to find potentially temporary decamp space – ideally as near as possible – and to find a space suitable to their needs.”

Cllr Beales added that he wanted to see “a full and fair support package” and “ideally we would love them to return”.

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