Developer to restart work on 'unviable' Swiss Cottage tower block

What the new Swiss Cottage tower would look like

What the new Swiss Cottage tower would look like - Credit: Archant

Less than a year ago a developer told a planning inspector a housing scheme at Swiss Cottage was "unviable", but now it has announced will begin work again.

Essential Living wanted to modify the agreed planning application for 100 Avenue Road but was knocked back by Camden Council and then by a planning inspector.

Now it has said it will begin work once again on the 24-storey tower block of 184 flats next to Finchley Road.

Hoarding surround 100 Avenue Road where construction is due to begin in mid 2023

Hoarding surround 100 Avenue Road where construction is due to begin in mid 2023 - Credit: Andre Langlois

Development manager Camilla Lesser said: "As a build-to-rent developer who is also an operator and long-term investor in its sites, Essential Living has the opportunity to take a more holistic and longer-term view on its investments.

"Although a normal commercial return will still not be achievable in the short to medium term at 100 Avenue Road, we have decided to press ahead with construction of the approved scheme.

"We remain fully committed to the long-term future of the site and making a positive and sustainable contribution to local life in Swiss Cottage.”

Construction is expected to begin by mid 2023 and completed by 2025.

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The developer is returning to the scheme given permission on appeal in 2016, which includes a new community space for children's charity The Winch.

The block will include 184 new homes, 54 of which (30%) will be affordable.  

Of these 28 homes will be rented at a "council-determined affordable rent", 18 at a "discount market rent for a minimum period of 15 years", five "intermediate rent", roughly 80% of market share, and three "shared ownership". 

In early 2021 Essential Living sought to amend its scheme to include just the 18 "discounted market rent" units “in perpetuity” and changes to the facade, both rejected by Camden Council.

A planning inspector rejected its appeal for reduced social housing in January and approved changes to the facade in May.

100 Avenue Road

100 Avenue Road - Credit: Archant

The site is close to the Belize Conservation Area and Belsize Society membership secretary Anne Stevens said: "This thing has been on the cards for ages. 

"Their proposal to go ahead with it makes no financial sense, as far as we can see."

She said the inclusion of social housing makes it "marginally less unacceptable" but that the tower, while not in the conservation zone, "will dominate the green space there is in Swiss Cottage".

She added: "We were opposed to the proposal for that use of the Avenue Road site when it was first mooted.

"We supported Camden's refusal to grant the initial planning permission when it went to appeal. We were opposed to Essential Living's attempt to reduce the amount of social housing it contained.

"And while we accept that Essential Living has every right to go ahead, and they are at least providing the social housing which they were obliged to in the beginning, we still don't like it. We don't think it's the right development for that site because of the nature of the buildings proposed."

Cllr Danny Beales, Camden's cabinet member for new homes, jobs and community investment, said: “In 2016 the Secretary of State granted planning permission for this site on appeal after it was rejected by the Council.

"Since then we have been clear that the developer must deliver on their affordable housing obligations.

“I am pleased that the developer has now accepted our view and that, after a long period of time and delay, this development can get under way.

"It’s important that a line is finally drawn under this issue, providing security for the Winch, certainty for local residents, and much-needed affordable housing in Swiss Cottage.

“This sends a clear message to developers in Camden that they must deliver on their promises to residents.

"The council will continue to stand up on the side of our residents and challenge developers who seek to avoid providing the vital affordable housing our borough needs, which is secured through planning permission.”