It’s impossible to miss. Passing under the railway bridge emblazoned with the colourful, globally recognised Camden Lock sign (itself only recently saved from destruction as part of the government’s HS2 folly), a vast gaping hole has appeared at the heart of NW1’s famous canalside market landscape.
But do pause before your knee jerks. The devastation of the Hawley Wharf area – which is fairly total, bar one listed Victorian villa and the Hawley Arms pub – shouldn’t be viewed as a Bad Thing.
With inevitable cries of “save our Camden” still echoing across the flattened site, and the public’s natural resistance to change being sorely tested in the wider capital right now, we still can’t help but see what’s taking place here as genuinely exciting.After some fairly awful earlier plans by the previous owners were chucked out, what will now rise in this cleared space –including 170 new homes and a new school – has got to be an improvement on the listless (and illegal) collection of trinket huts that sprang up after the famous fire, and assorted crumbling 60s offices, no?
Okay, so we’ve lost this amazing art, a terrace of pretty-if-ruined Victorian houses and the community of workshops in the arches, which is undeniably a Bad Thing, but the demolition represents the most dramatic part of series of plans to make Camden Town as exciting for locals again as it is for all those bloody tourists.Still not sure? Well, just over the road, proposals for a slick redevelopment of Camden Lock itself have just been unveiled too, exactly a year since the last lot. What’s changed in that time is the unification of all the markets under the auspices of Market Tech Holdings, meaning the whole area is no longer made up of a series of warring factions.
The new plans involve less bulldozing, and more of a joined-up feel across the Lock, Stables and forthcoming Hawley Wharf market sites, with a strong emphasis on arts and crafts studios returning to Camden, reflecting the character that made the area world famous in the 1970s.
It also means a much bigger area for tomorrow’s free Lock Live event, which should showcase just how exciting the changing face of Camden actually is.