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Chairman's Report: Athlone House plans defeated… for now!

posted 13 Dec 2010, 22:34 by Stephen Taylor   [ updated 13 Dec 2010, 23:37 ]

Three very important applications for development on the fringes of the Heath have been turned down as a result of representations from ourselves and others. The two biggest stand in the area of the Highgate Society: Athlone House (which the Society has been fighting to save for eleven years) and Witanhurst are going to appeal. A second application for Garden House was also turned down on grounds of material increase in size, as before, and a design which is inappropriate for the Vale of Health setting.

Plaques, ponds and restoration plans
In Hampstead, following the taking down and cleaning of the Society’s existing black plaques, a new one has been put up in Heath Street to Sir David Low, the cartoonist. Others have been planned. The exciting renovation project at Whitestone Pond started in December 2009 and is due to be completed in July 2010. After many years of prevarication by Camden and Barnet, across whose boundaries the Toll House lies on Spaniards Road, a restoration plan has been prepared by Camden in consultation with the Society and English Heritage. We must hope that next year’s budget cuts will not intervene. We have worked with two Camden Councillors and, following a generous anonymous gift stimulated through the pages of the Ham & High, a plan is in hand to restore the War Memorial opposite Jack Straw’s.

On the Heath we remain critical of the failure of English Heritage to ensure that the grass in the area below the Henry Moore sculpture was quickly and effectively restored after last summer’s concerts; the problem has only been tackled shortly before the 2010 season begins. We are disappointed also that the general quality of the Kenwood gardens has deteriorated.

Memorial and cycling 
We were pleased to be able to assist the City with the original wording to restore the memorial to the distinguished open spaces preservationist, Sir Lawrence Chubb, overlooking the South Meadow on the edge of Kenwood. Work to widen and make the Viaduct Path, up from the Highgate ponds past Tumulus Hill, safer for shared cycling and pedestrian use has gone ahead in keeping with the extensive consultation on Heath cycling conducted last year by the City.

We have been busy on many aspects of planning in addition to the challenges with basements referred to above. We began a campaign in 2000 to persuade Camden to introduce a legal requirement, known as Article 4 Directions, that a wide range of “minor” (but still crucial to the look of our neighbourhood) works, such as parking in front gardens, can in local conservation areas only be carried out with planning permission. This has now received approval following extensive consultation, for which we thank members’ support, in Hampstead Conservation Area - Belsize and Swiss Cottage were also successful pilot areas - and we hope and expect it will be extended to all the other Conservation Areas in Hampstead as soon as possible.

Local Development Framework
Our extensive comments of the draft Local Development Framework received broad support from Camden and have to a large extent been included in the final version, which has gone forward to the Inspectorate for final review in May 2010, before going to the Minister for full enactment later this year. There are some vital policies covering Metropolitan Open Land, Conservation Areas, basement and flood risk, which we are standing by to defend before the Inspector, if necessary.