The Community Investment Program

Introduction

The Community Investment Program is a Camden initiative to destroy communities and prostitute our heritage and public assets to raise funds – their ‘answer to austerity’.

It has raised over £400M. To put that figure in perspective, that is half of Camden’s current budget.

Whilst Camden claim that playing the property market and auctioning off our public assets is necessary to pay for ‘community investment’, the stark reality of the matter is that only a minority of funds raised in this way goes towards community investment.

As an example, £14.4M of these funds went towards the West End Project over the past year.

The Program works in two ways.

Firstly, Camden have been selling off public assets – property and land – to raise money. At the same time, land is advertised to investment companies with assurances that their planning department will allow incredible overdevelopment. This artificially inflates the cost of the land.

Camden also encourage all types of development to grow to excessive scales. This is because through two taxes, Section 106 and the Community Infrastructure Levy, larger development carries larger payouts for Camden.

Section 106 can earn Camden up to £2M in a single payment.

Unsurprisingly, this practice has been called ‘leglised bribery’ by many.

The amount of money raised through the program is significant – more than £400M, with more than £100M coming from Section 106 payments. About £200M has come from south of Euston Road.

And whilst communities and heritage have already been destroyed by stupendous overdevelopment as a result of the program, Camden have begun an ‘ambitious’ plan to increase these earnings significantly over the next decade.

No community is safe. As a result of this program, we have seen an office block approved in the courtyard of a listed building, and a luxury tower block approved on a social housing park. The safeguards in place to protect our heritage, our communities, and our most vulnerable members of society are ignored in favour of raising the maximum Section 106 payment possible from any development site, and a place near you might be next.

Whilst Section 106 payments are ring-fenced by national regulation so that they are only spent on communities affected by a development, in practice Camden ignore this and instead keep the funds in savings and spend them on other projects.

How bad is It?

Case Study 1: Somers Town

Just to the north of Bloomsbury, Somers Town is a run-down social housing estate, but a place with a strong community, yet to be invaded by gentrification.

This community is set to warmly welcome a 25-storey luxury tower block built on one of its parks.

How the tower block might look

Opposed at great length by the community, they raised money and filed to take the decision to judicial review, but were refused a hearing.

The whole area of Somers Town is a social housing estate run by Camden. The park, exclusively for residents, was advertised to foreign investors and sold with assurances that such overdevelopment would be approved.

Whilst the applicant is also required to build various community facilities as part of the application, and 44 ‘affordable homes’, Camden also received £1.7M as a legalised bribe for the development through Section 106.

Case Study 2: Derby Lodge

Derby Lodge surrounds a courtyard, which is also enclosed by Georgian terraces on King’s Cross Road.

Derby Lodge itself is Grade II listed, and is home to vulnerable social housing tenants, some with mental health difficulties.

An office block was approved within its courtyard, despite huge uproar from the community and heritage advisories, almost entirely blocking light to windows on the lower floors.

The block under construction in 2019

In exchange for the destruction of this community’s wellbeing, the horror of which we have been closely involved with, a measly payment of about £130,000 was raised. When residents asked for double glazing to offset the harm caused by the noise of the development, they were refused ‘on heritage grounds’.

Despite receiving further payments specifically for the enforcement of building regulations, Camden have failed to even ensure that the contractors make noise within the permitted times. Residents have reported that when they make complaints about noise, the contractors in response begin work earlier than permitted. Residents have simply been asked to record breaches themselves, but when they have done so, they have been ignored.

Despite the consultation highlighting how residents with mental health difficulties might be violent towards contractors, this was ignored and there was indeed an incident of assault upon a contractor.

This horrific development has seen absolutely no benefit towards those affected.

How can Bribes be Legal?

There are two modes of payment in exchange for approval of a development – something called Section 106, and also the Community Infrastructure Levy.

Both were introduced as a way for local authorities to make developers pay to offset the harm caused to a community by a development. They both act largely as percentage payments, so a large development will carry a larger payment. This is why Camden encourages larger development.

After raising funds in this way, Camden then do not spend the money on offsetting the harm caused to a local community as they are required to do, but instead pocket the funds.

You can learn more about how this all works here.

Where Does the Money Go?

Funds raised from a development through Section 106 payments are required to be spent on offsetting the harm caused by a development. The Government gives an example as follows: if new housing is built near a gym, potentially increasing the demand for the gym by 20%, then the developer can be required to make a payment to increase the capacity of that gym by 20%.

Camden pervert the system by instead requiring a lump sum to be paid in lieu of such local improvements, which is then stored in a multi-million pound savings account.

Camden claim that destruction of communities in this way is necessary in order to invest in communities. The poor logic of this is evident. The way that Camden achieves this is by essentially destroying some communities in favour of improving others. Invariably that means that communities south of Euston Road are destroyed to improve communities further north.

Over the past year £31M of Section 106 funds were spent. £14.4M of this went towards the West End Project, a project intended to ‘rejuvenate’ a strictly commercial area, Tottenham Court Road. This accounts for an astounding 46% of funds supposedly ring-fenced for community investment. The rejuvenation mainly involves the removal of all the concrete paving slabs and replacing them with granite slabs, and has been met with huge opposition from the communities in the area that have been adversely affected. The project is estimated to cost a total of £35M. Which community exactly this benefits is beyond anyone’s guess.

To give an idea of how much £35M is worth, it could have have been used to pay the salary of 25 police officers for 25 years. Given Camden’s knife crime epidemic and Bloomsbury’s skyrocket in crime over recent years, every community must agree that 25 police officers for 25 years are more valuable than a mile of granite.

Only £9.6M actually went towards affordable housing, just 31% of expenditure.

A measly £670,000 went towards community projects. These figures give an indication of how immoral the scheme is, and how little the community are actually benefitted by the destruction of their neighbourhoods. This money was spent on things such as contributing towards the installation of a lift in the Chinese Community Centre on Tavistock Place.

You Could be Next

With open spaces being sold off to investment companies, there are no bounds to what Camden might transform into a luxury apartment block. Look around your neighbourhood and take stock of which spaces could be next. Over the coming decade, you might see a tower block arising just feet from your window, as has happened to many others already.

So what can you do?

The Community Investment Program is a flagship program of the Cabinet. Whilst they misleadingly advertise their petty investments, a small proportion of the public really understand where their money comes from. Camden have spent years advertising their Community Investment Program, trying to convince the public that the destruction of communities around Camden is necessary to raise money, whilst hiding well the fact that hardly any of the funds raised through destruction are actually spent on the program. How can we stop this from getting even further out of hand?

The only thing which makes politicians flinch is public support for a movement, especially one which exposes them. That is why we need you to support us, and to raise awareness of our work and particularly the Community Investment Program. With Camden promising to raise £1B over the next decade through the destruction of communities and heritage, no place in Camden is safe.

Don’t wait until a planning application lands on your doorstep – resisting the Community Investment Program now may save your community before it is too late.

Save Bloomsbury works with Bloomsbury Residents’ Action Group, and the Bloomsbury Conservation Areas Advisory Committee, to tirelessly resist and oppose this program, whilst supporting residents through construction when they are inevitably hit by a development. We all need your following and support. There are occasions where we need the support of our followers, during consultations and petitions. These can be for particular developments, or can be for action across the whole of Camden. Save Bloomsbury posts on all things relating to all three of our organisations.

As a Resident:

As a bare minimum, you should spread knowledge to your friends and family of the Community Investment Program, and how it could affect them.

You can become a part of our movement by joining as a member. All this means practically is that you will receive updates on our work – posts in our News and Opinion sections – which may be of importance to you.

Whilst the problems which we are working to fight may seem remote to you now, there is no telling when an application may land on your doorstep. None of those working in our organisations joined them as a hobby – they were forced into it by the emergent threat to their livelihoods posed by a new development or project proposed by Camden. It is best to be prepared for that eventuality well in advance, by following our work and research. By supporting us now, we can support you when you are affected by the scheme.

We will post on our work in resisting the Community Investment Program, and also other campaigns which we are currently involved in.

You could also visit our partner organisations, and learn about their work:

Bloomsbury Residents’ Action Group

BRAG have been working for years to oppose the Community Destruction Program and to support residents through the horrors of construction in Camden. BRAG are there to turn to for help when Camden assault your community.

Bloomsbury Conservation Areas Advisory Committee

The BCAAC work to preserve the heritage of the Bloomsbury Conservation Areas, the seven Camden conservation areas of Central London. Their section on the planning system explains in more detail how the planning system works and how it is subverted by Camden.

Naturally in protecting heritage, the BCAAC also work to oppose the Community Investment Program.

Whilst the BCAAC and BRAG have their own news sections, Save Bloomsbury posts on all things important relating to their work, beyond that which appears on their websites. For that reason it is best to keep tabs on our updates primarily.

As a Residents’ Group or Society:

You should sign up for updates and get in touch with us directly if you wish to become one of our partner organisations. We regularly reach out to organisations across Bloomsbury and Camden when we feel that something of importance requires their attention, whether that be a petition, letter, or consultation. We wish to build a network of groups across Bloomsbury that can be easily contacted so that we can more effectively resist Camden when necessary. Together, we can lend support to each other’s causes, and be stronger as a result.

You can contact us here.

Learn More

Learn more about how Section 106 works, and how Camden mutilate it to extract millions from developers.

You can also learn more about the planning system here, on the Bloomsbury Conservation Areas website, particularly in regard to heritage matters. It is useful for those affected by a planning application and needing a guide to understand what is going on, and how best to proceed.

Find out exactly how much Camden have raised for the CIP.

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