Camden council has voted to approved Landsec’s 1,800-home redevelopment of the O2 shopping centre in north London.
Councillors voted to back the planning officer’s recommendation to approve the AHMM-designed scheme at a planning committee meeting yesterday evening.
It was the latest large project in the capital to be sent back to the drawing board so that second staircases could be added following mayor Sadiq Khan’s new fire safety ruling.
Revised plans were lodged with the council last month after the government’s proposal to ban single staircases in blocks above 30m in December was followed by Khan’s announcement that the rules would be brought in with immediate effect in London.
Khan’s move means that all planning applications for residential buildings above 10 storeys would need a second means of escape before going to the Greater London Authority for second stage approval. The rule applies to all applications not approved before 23 December 2022.
Camden council said the second staircases had been added with “relatively minimal” impact on layouts, which has been achieved by removing pressurised stairs and lift systems.
The redevelopment consists of 10 development plots spread across a 6ha site, with the application’s detailed component set to include just over 600 homes in blocks ranging from 30m to 60m in height.
Two further components which have been submitted for outline approval would see the construction of a further 1,200 homes. Around 35% of homes across the site would be affordable.
Construction is expected to last around 10 to 15 years. Also on the project team is programme advisor Mace, planning consultant Gerald Eve, transport consultant Arup, sustainability consultant Buro Happold, MEP consultant Hoare Lea, civil and structural engineer Pell Frischmann, landscape consultant East and accessibility consultant David Bonnett Associates.
The scheme has already stoked controversy due to the intention to demolish the HOK-designed O2 shopping centre, which was built in 1998 and purchased by Landsec in 2010.
Nearly 1,000 letters of objection were received by the application, with many locals raising concerns about sustainability and the loss of the O2’s retail space which includes a gym, a swimming pool and a large Sainsbury’s.
Local group, Combined Residents’ Associations of South Hampstead, criticised the demolition of the “nearly-new” shopping centre and its replacement by “grotesque Soviet-era towers”, while the West Hampstead Gardens and Residents Association said the new buildings were uninteresting, incoherent and failed to integrate with the mostly low-rise Edwardian and Victorian housing stock of the area.
Local MP Tulip Siddiq also said she had “repeatedly” raised her constituents’ concerns with Landsec, which included worries that the buildings were too tall, incongruent with the surrounding area and dismay over the loss of the O2.
Camden council’s planning officer admitted the demolition of the shopping centre was “regrettable in sustainability terms” but said it could not be suitable repurposed for residential use.
The officer’s report added that the building was of “low quality in design terms” and does not make efficient use of its land, while the replacement buildings would be much better integrated with the nearby Finchley Road town centre.
A condition on the application commits Landsec to divert at least 95% of demolition waste from landfill for either reuse or recycling.
Other buildings on the site set to be flattened under the plans include a Homebase store, two car showrooms and a builders’ merchants yard, while two car parks with a combined 630 spaces will be built over.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Foster & Partners has said a three-month delay to the submission of plans for Lipton Rogers’ £1bn 18 Blackfriars Road scheme, which includes two residential towers, has not been caused by the requirement for second staircases as both towers already included them. “The two residential towers have two staircases as they always had,” she added.