No room to walk? West Hampstead residents warn of squashed pavements and dangerous crush at station
MP Tulip Siddiq investigates rush hour congestion on West End Lane
21 November, 2016 — By Richard Osley
Commuters on the packed pavement outside West Hampstead tube station
THE Town Hall has been warned that parts of West Hampstead are struggling to cope with the number of people moving into the area, with pavements too crammed to walk down and an underground station which has become dangerously busy.
The latest alert comes amid objections to the proposed overhaul of a corner block in Broadhurst Gardens, best known locally for once being the home of Mario’s restaurant.
The site’s owners, brothers Duncan and Nick Gilbert, are seeking permission to demolish the current building and put up a block of 30 new flats. They have been in negotiations with the council for two years and held a public exhibition in which they told how the current building was structurally unsound.
The case, however, has reheated a growing argument that more money needs to be spent on the infrastructure around West Hampstead, particularly the tube station, to accommodate an increased local population. Several major housing schemes have either begun or are in the pipeline for the area.
Last week, Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq visited the station, alongside Lib Dem councillor Flick Rea and London Assembly members, to see the crush and called for investment to ease the rush-hour congestion.
Ms Siddiq said there was a “desperate need” for an upgrade and called on the London Assembly to work on a plan.
James Earl, chairman of the West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Forum, said: “We would argue that it needs to happen now, or at least as soon as possible. The point of the meeting was to impress upon TfL and elected representatives that it’s a pressing issue – particularly because of the scale of development in the area and the large numbers of people interchanging between the three West Hampstead stations.”
He added: “We were assured that the issue of an upgrade of WH tube station is now on the TfL priority list.”
Planners are looking at consent for the work in Broadhurst Gardens.
Mr Earl said that if they do, then a “community levy” – payments made when planning agreements are hammered out – should contribute towards the station.
In papers filed at the Town Hall, meanwhile, the CRASH (Combined Residents Associations Of South Hampstead) group warned that the station had become “dangerous at peak times”.
It also warned that any bar or restaurant moving into the ground floor of the new block proposed for Broadhurst Gardens must not be allowed to put tables and chairs for drinkers and diners outside because it would be “further encroachment onto the already overcrowded pavements on this street”.
Other letters and emails sent to the council reveal concerns about West Hampstead losing its “vibe”.
Among the messages published on Camden’s planning website, Belinda Tang, who lives close to the development site, said: “What attracted me to West Hampstead is the character and quiet-yet-lively atmosphere it provides for residents, independent shops and local, family-run businesses. Definitely not the overpopulated, lavish apartments and big commercial restaurants and shops. Already the development on West End Lane will bring an influx of residents.”
Other critics in the area say that more joined-up planning of the different developments should have been in place, and that it would be unfair to pick out the new scheme in Broadhurst Gardens for rejection just because other, larger projects have been approved. Rush-hour congestion on pavements and the station has been brought up in other cases too.
Architects for the Gilbert brothers’ company said: “The existing site is car-free and the new proposal will not change this position. However, 34 cycle spaces are provided which will further encourage the use of sustainable transport methods in addition to the bus, train and walking”