‘We need affordable homes’: Fourteen flats overlooking special school win planning permission

A CGI visual of the new block. Image: Camden Council

The council has given a go-ahead for a block of 14 new apartments, including affordable homes, despite concern over “disruption” to vulnerable children at a nearby special school.

On Thursday, the Town Hall’s planning committee voted in favour of the plans for 31 Daleham Gardens, close to Gloucester House School.

Developed by NW3 Community Land Trust (CLT), the new six-storey block with bin and bike stores would sit on land where a building was demolished after being badly damaged in a 2017 fire.

The new block will contain a mix of one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments, and will provide over 50 per cent floorspace that qualifies as affordable.

Two out of the 14 flats will be offered for social-affordable rent, and some will be sold at a discount on market rate.

The application had received 67 objections from residents by the time it was put to the planning committee, including a submission by the chief executive of the Tavistock and Portland NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Gloucester House.

With parts of the building overlooking and casting a shadow into the garden and annex of the school, the main concern was the impact on the 20 vulnerable pupils with social, emotional and mental health difficulties.

The resident opposing the plan argued the “excessive” height of the building would result in “overlooking, shadowing and loss for privacy for the surrounding properties”, and it would have a “detrimental impact” on the pupils, for whom the garden is an “oasis”.

She claimed the “incongruous” style of the building was “totally out of keeping with the Conservation Area”.

However, councillor Danny Beales argued the building was of similar height and style to the previous building.

Planning officers said the main disruption to the children would be during construction, while the problem of overlooking was largely mitigated with obscured glazing on a majority of the windows towards the school.

Officers said their impression from the headteacher of the school was that the completed building was more manageable for them to deal with than the “uncertainty of construction”, although they were not “happy” about it.

Cllr Beales said any kind of construction would always have an impact, but the “core seems to be that the school is properly engaged with throughout that process and that there are strong conditions”.

Officers suggested the children could visit the construction site to “demystify” it and reduce the “perception” of being watched, and managing parts of construction around term times.

They noted engagement by the applicant with the school and suggested a construction working group to “minimise impact”, including safeguarding during construction.

Sanya Polescuk, one of the founders of NW3 CLT, defended the plan, saying they had been working for years “from within the community” to bring “innovative affordable housing” to an expensive neighbourhood.

“We need more affordable housing not just in Camden but London at large,” she said.

After agreement in the chamber that the most “critical” aspect of the plan was engagement with the school to help them manage the change, the planning committee voted in favour of granting permission.

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