Reality check on the Abbey regeneration

One of the big issues on the horizon which could change Kilburn – in a positive way – is the proposal to regenerate the area around the Belsize and Abbey Roads crossroads.

Camden is in dire need of new council housing, so the central idea is to redevelop the site where the multi-story car park (pictured) on Belsize Road currently stands, with new flats.  Some of these will be sold privately, to fund the building of new council flats, improvements to existing blocks, and improve the look of the surrounding area.  Options are currently being reviewed, with no final deicsion made yet.

That’s a very quick précis.  There’s much more detail on the Council’s website, here.

Unfortunately, some of the local media’s reporting has been a tad sensationalist.  This week’s front page of the Kilburn Times is a case in point.  I can understand them wanting to big up a story, and I’m certainly not denying that many people were dead against the idea of a tower block the same height at Snowman, Mary Green and Casterbridge, but it’s not really correct to say that this was the only idea the council had, and that this has now been defeated.

The truth, as ever, is more prosaic.  I’ve written to the Times to explain my perspective on the process and the issues.  I don’t know if they will print it, but I’ve pasted it in below, so at least readers of this blog can get a different (and I would say more accurate) perspective:

Dear Sir

I’m afraid your story about the Abbey regeneration simply created a paper tiger and then knocked it down (‘Victory’, Kilburn Times 23 Sep).

The tower block option for the project was never more than that: just an option put forward on paper by architects.

At the start of the year, the council secured funds from the GLA to look into redeveloping the car-park and surrounding site at the crossroads of Abbey and Belsize Roads. This money was used to see what was feasible. One suggestion was a high-rise block, but it became clear talking to local people that no-one wanted to see that. Fair enough – we asked, people said no, we move on to look at the other options which are left.

However, I do want to correct one impression given in your report. We are emphatically not doing this simply to build private properties. We are in dire need of additional council flats in Camden and we have chronic over-crowding in many homes. This is an opportunity to build new council homes, renovate flats in existing blocks, bring new shops to the area and improve the look of the surroundings. Sadly, we can’t afford to do this without building private properties too, and using the proceeds from their sale to finance the rest of the development. Most sensible people understand that.

However, the council is pursuing this development itself, rather than giving the opportunity to a private firm who will cream off the profit. This way, all the money made from sales of private flats will be ploughed back into the area.

As I said when I last wrote to the Times on this issue, I would really welcome any residents who have any concerns or questions about this project to get in contact with me by phoning me on 07881 515260, emailing me at mike.katz@camden.gov.uk or by writing to me at Camden Town Hall, Judd Street, London WC1H 9JE

Yours

Cllr Mike Katz

 I hope that puts the record straight.  But I’m afraid I won’t be wholly surprised if it doesn’t…

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