Published: 23rd June, 2011
EXCLUSIVE by DAN CARRIER
THIS is the development set to change the face of Camden Lock – a four-storey shopping centre-style market running alongside the historic Regent’s Canal.
Camden Market Holdings this week unveiled their plans for the site that was wrecked by the ferocious Camden Fire in 2008. Critics have already reacted by claiming the proposals will trigger a battle over the “soul” and “coolness” of Camden Town.
The company say the development will bring hundreds of new homes and jobs to the area, but opponents say the plans, which are due to be formally submitted to the Town Hall by the end of the summer, will simply be a moneyspinner for the owners of the land. And they claim Camden must prepare for a bland retail centre, despite the market area’s long-held trendy, offbeat reputation.
Drawings for the site seen by the New Journal – most of which is the area known as Hawley Wharf – show a four-storey brick building with a roof terrace that would house shops.
The developers have also bought up areas next door to the market in Hawley Road and their plans include smaller shops for butchers and bakers, an art house cinema, new public open spaces, offices and light industrial units to replace garages and workshops.
The developers say they have taken on board the public’s response to earlier plans to make them more acceptable. They say the scheme would deliver around 220 new homes and 900 new jobs – with the proviso that the amount of social housing will ultimately be dependent on what they can afford.
Camden Market Holdings project director Mark Alper said in a statement: “Camden Market is one of London’s premier visitor attractions, but it’s also the home to a vibrant community.
“We have worked closely with the community throughout the process and believe our proposals provide the perfect balance of improving the area for residents and bringing the necessary investment to improve Camden Canal Market. If the proposals receive planning permission they will deliver a new and improved Camden Canal Market.”
The company said that at a public exhibition last week, they received feedback that “residents welcome and recognise the changes made to the proposals as a result of consultation with the local community”.
But Camden Town and Primrose Hill ward Labour councillor Pat Callaghan said: “This will completely change the character of the area. This is an over large and bulky set of buildings and it will dominate the Castlehaven area, ruin green spaces opposite and ruin the iconic Hawley Arms pub.
“The most frightening aspect of this scheme is the designs for the new market, which completely dwarfs the canal. This is about the soul of Camden Town, and this is basically not a market but a shopping centre. This will ruin the coolness of Camden Town and is untenable.”
She also criticised the developers’ statement that they would look to provide as much social housing as was “viable” – insisting nothing but a 50 per cent mix of affordable homes, as the council’s development policy states, was acceptable.
Cllr Callaghan added: “Our analysis of what is viable may not be the same as the developers’. They mean profit while we mean quality of life.
“I want to see 50 per cent social housing, and, if the developer says it is not viable, then they need to look at the scheme again so it is.”
Castlehaven Community Centre chief executive Eleanor Botwright, who has also sat on the Hawley Wharf Working Ground that worked with the developers over three years to find common ground, said there was still a long way to go.
“Our concerns remain the same,” she said. “This is simply massive overdevelopment for the site. It makes our centre look like a little dimple.”
A secondary application may also be submitted to include a new primary school on the site – in place of some of the social housing.
Ms Botwright added: “We are worried about trying to shoehorn a school in. Instead we want some firm commitments to have the percentage of social housing.”
Labour’s Holborn and St Pancras MP Frank Dobson said the scheme must be designed to accommodate at least 50 per cent affordable homes – and that the developers need to shape their plans to make sure this happens.
He added: “The most pressing need in the area is affordable housing.
“We can do without a multi-storey market.
“The developers need to work within the rules and if the rules say that is 50 per cent social housing they need to cut their cloth accordingly, and come up with a scheme that means 50 per cent is viable.
“Until they do this the council should turn it down.”
Haverstock Lib Dem councillor Matt Sanders said he feared the development would ruin what would makes Camden Town unique.
“There is nowhere in the world like Camden Town,” he said. “It is special and we have to keep it that way.
“I do not see any attempt by the developers to solve the problems we face at the moment. Every weekend we have thousands flocking here and it has simply become a place for tourists not residents.
“When I see plans for a four-storey market, I can’t help but worry.”
Cllr Sanders said he feared the new market building would need to offer high rents to make it viable – meaning the small craftsman, bric a brac, independent designers would struggle to survive.
He added: “We already have a massive tourist attraction and we simply do not need more of that.
“We need something very different – and that is simply good business sense to say so.
“If this is just stall after stall after stall of the same things, we all lose out. This is about residents reclaiming Camden Town.”
THE huts and food stalls that have occupied the Hawley Wharf market site since the devastating fire of 2008 have been put there without planning permission – and now Camden Council have told the site owners they will have to go.
Two enforcement notices have been sent to Camden Market Holdings stating the huts must be removed. The documents say the huts ruin the look of a conservation area and are not accessible for people who are disabled.
The Town Hall has also told the company to remove a series of moped-style seats used for diners because they are attached to listed structures without the required permission.
The planning department, however, said they will give the market owners extra time to comply – as they know the site will be razed to the ground if they get planning permission to build a new shopping centre. This will mean the market huts could remain until next year. Haverstock ward Lib Dem councillor Matt Sanders said the Town Hall had acted sloppily by not making sure the owners toed the line and traded within the law. “If a home owner steps out of line and does something they do not have planning permission for, the council clamp down on them very quickly,” he said. “Here they have just dithered and this enforcement is long overdue. They need to follow this with tough action. They have sent a letter to the developers but what we want is action, not letters going backwards and forwards.”
Cllr Sanders said that Camden Market Holdings, who manage the site, had seriously undermined public trust in their actions as they gear up to submit a massive new planning application that will radically alter the face of Camden Town. He said: “They have shot themselves in the foot. They are trying to engage with residents about their new scheme but they have been flouting planning laws and that means people simply do not trust them.”
Despite repeated attempts by telephone and email to garner a response from Camden Market Holdings, project director Mark Alper and the firm’s PR consultants did not offer a comment.
A council spokesman said: “By serving this enforcement notice, the owners are fully aware that the council will not tolerate this situation indefinitely and in particular the stalls will not gain immunity from enforcement action.”
They added that market stalls in the Haven Street area must be removed within six months, that the moped bike seats must go within two months, and that the owners had two years to remove other stalls in the main section of the site.