by Green Cllr Maya de Souza
As the Camden New Journal reported, Camden’s Labour administration has proposals for the Highgate Newtown Community Centre site. The proposals, released for consultation last week, involve demolishing and rebuilding some of the centre and building substantial private sector housing. The downsides would be loss of the key part of the youth centre ie the old church on Winscombe Street, closure of a dedicated children’s centre, and construction of a large five-storey block of flats.
All of the homes are intended to be for private sale; none for the affordable housing so vital with the pay differentials and inequality we have in London. Immediately there will be a tension created between raising funds by selling these homes and having a community centre on site, with a tall building casting a shadow on the reduced courtyard of the Centre and buyers being put off by young people, children etc
So Camden Greens are calling for, not only a careful assessment of need for children’s services before a decision is made to lose this dedicated facility and protection of youth services in the area, but also an innovative approach to the housing development.
What we would like to see is this space used for innovative affordable housing which takes from the housing co-op movement and from the history of the nearby Holly Lodge Estate. This would involve space-saving apartments, built to a very high standard of design, combined with more communal space, for social activity and some spare rooms for hire for visiting children or grandchildren.
This would not only be for older people, but also for others who like to have some support or community activity. This site is ideal as some of the community centre space could be used out of hours. In this way, we could make these homes affordable appealing to those who struggle to live in the area, whilst improving well-being through addressing isolation. Homes would be to live in not for buy to lets, strengthening community and taking away speculation.
This closer community way of life worked well for Holly Lodge Mansions – hugely innovative in its time providing safe supportive housing for women. Once again we need innovation with our ageing population and ever increasing house prices, and I am confident that our many architects can come up with some excellent design.