New homes in London: communities from Camden to Cricklewood and Barnet to Battersea telling developers what they want
Can-do communities are growing rapidly across the capital, driven by residents who feel increasingly “cut off” from their local government.
There are now 79 officially recognised London community forums designing neighbourhood plans, bidding for land and taking control of community assets.
A new report by the Centre for London think tank finds 65 per cent of people polled want to have a say in local decision making, but a third believe they have no influence whatsoever.
When it comes to planning and development in their areas voters feel disregarded, the study reveals.
This breakdown in trust follows a prolonged period of austerity and local government cuts, which has galvanised local residents into taking a more active role in shaping their neighbourhoods.
“There is a sense that our democratic institutions and processes are too distant from us, the people they represent,” says Joe Wills, a director at Centre for London. “Neighbourhood participation can play an important role — this is untapped potential.”
Neighbourhood groups need government funds to build
At the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester this week, Centre for London is calling for a new national Community Wealth Fund to help neighbourhood groups buy sites and buildings.
Residents have the right to bid for land and assets, the right to build and the right to challenge — but Joe Wills says it’s still too difficult for communities to take control. He wants local groups to have first refusal rather than being caught in a bidding war with private developers.
Planning expert Tony Burton says it takes, on average, 49 months for a group to get up and running and action is patchy.
“Despite successes, nine London boroughs still have no designated neighbourhood forums,” says Burton. He names Harrow, Redbridge, Newham, City of London, Merton, Barking & Dagenham, Havering, Bromley and Croydon.
New homes in Camden
So where are the can-do communities? Camden leads the way with four completed building plans devised by neighbourhood groups and then adopted by the council.
The Kentish Town Neighbourhood Plan must be consulted by Camden council whenever a planning application is submitted.
There are five stylish new apartments left for sale at Bourne, a development that’s part of The Camden Collection, on a newly converted Grade II-listed Edwardian estate close to Russell Square, Fitzrovia.
Prices start from £800,000 through Savills (020 7409 8756).
There are one- and two-bedroom shared-ownership flats in Caledonian Road, a stone’s throw from Camden Town but over the border in Islington.
Prices at Market Gardens by Peabody start at £125,000 for 25 per cent of a one-bedroom home. Call 020 7021 4842.
Local priority: Emma Nutbrown bought in Camden through shared ownership having rented in the borough for eight years
Primary school teacher Emma Nutbrown, 28, had been renting for eight years in Camden and was reluctant to move out of the area to get on the property ladder.
She bought a 40 per cent stake of a flat at Regent Canalside through the shared-ownership scheme for £520,000.
“I feel incredibly lucky, I love Camden, and I love that I can walk everywhere,” she says.
As a local renter Emma was prioritised when buying in the complex built by Origin Housing. Call Origin on 0300 323 0325.
Cricklewood’s new homes get a library
In Cricklewood, community leader Sally Long has worked tirelessly for eight years to save the local library.
Closed by the council then demolished, the site has now been bought by Octavia Homes, a not-for-profit developer.
Sally and Friends of Cricklewood Library have raised £300,000 through crowd funding and grants to build a new library as part of the new homes scheme, Chronicle Heights.
They are now just £30,000 short to finish the build. There are three main spaces for events and courses and a café, and Octavia is building five affordable homes on top, all of which have sold off-plan. And the library has been saved.
On the other side of Cricklewood train station to the library, which overlooks Gladstone Park, is The Broadway by Fairview Homes. Two-bedroom apartments start from £490,000 (020 3813 4791).
Community Land Trusts
One of the main purposes of a neighbourhood forum is to make sure homes are built for local people.
This is taken one step further by Community Land Trusts, or CLTs, run by volunteers to develop and manage property.
London CLT has built 23 flats in Mile End in a structure that means prices will stay pegged to local wages, and volunteers in Tottenham have followed suit.
Four years ago the 11-acre St Ann’s Hospital site was sold to a developer who gained planning permission to build 425 homes, with just 14 per cent affordable.
Given the 10,000-person strong waiting list for homes in the area, a Community Land Trust was quickly formed.
The members crowdfunded £25,000 to pay for architects and proposed an alternative vision, entirely comprising affordable homes with sheltered accommodation.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan was so impressed that he bought the land using a new £250 million land fund, and the CLT and City Hall will develop the scheme in partnership.
Priority for local buyers
Housing associations-turned-developers, such as L&Q, are now building homes that prioritise local buyers.
The Timberyard is L&Q’s latest scheme in Deptford. The one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom homes sit next to 28 acres of parkland.
Initial priority of the shared-ownership homes is being given to residents of Lewisham, Southwark, Greenwich, Bexley and Bromley.
From £101,250 for a 25 per cent share of a one-bedroom flat. Visit lqhomes.com/timberyard for more details.
The same is true at The Forge in Upton Park. One- to four-bedroom homes that surround communal courtyards and have private balconies will go to Newham buyers first.
From £96,875 for 25 per cent of a one-bedroom flat. Call 0333 003 5091 or visit lqhomes.com/theforge
Creating community from scratch
Most neighbourhood forums are set up in well-established residential areas, but a sense of community can also be fostered in the many new regeneration schemes across London.
Before a shovel broke ground at Grand Union in Barnet, developer St George set up a community board to include local residents and council members and they have helped plan the 22-acre scheme.
Grand Union village will cover 5,000sq ft with a community hub, co-working space, a bowling alley and landscaped gardens as well as homes.
There will be a nursery and healthcare centre, plus a gym with discounted rates for residents. Prices for a studio flat start from £350,000. Call 0808 1788 838.
It has taken forethought and huge investment to create community spirit at Battersea Power Station, says Sarah Banham, the scheme’s head of communities and sustainability.
Early in the planning stage, locals asked for a theatre, more public loos, cafés and independent restaurants, all of which have been delivered.
The Battersea Academy of Skills and Employment was also launched to run courses and training, while 37 per cent of people working in the new retail and leisure facilities live locally.
Marking Harvest Festival this month, there are free bread-making sessions at on-site restaurant Fiume. Battersea Power Station Community Choir will perform this Christmas at the V&A and Royal College of Art.
Homes are available from £510,000 for a studio. Call 020 7501 0678.
Community groups are just that, groups that all support each other — the council, residents, new homes developers and local business people — to shape their neighbourhoods.