Society criticises plans for tall tower blocks on Heath fringes

High buildings seen from Hampstead Heath.

Maintaining the openness of the Heath:
The skyline to the South and South East of Hampstead Heath is of vital importance to the amenity of Hampstead Heath . It has an immediate impact on long range views over the whole of London from both Parliament Hill and the fields and amenities beneath. These famous views are an invaluable asset to locals, Londoners and visitors to the capital alike and must be preserved.

The lower, Southern sections of the Heath are open grassed areas which allow tall buildings to the South & South East to be clearly seen. Currently, the pattern of development to the south of the heath is predominantly dense low rise buildings – generally 3 to 6 storey in height and these form a ‘soft’ horizon which permits longer range views beyond it. The prospect of replacing this horizon with high rise is a cause for concern.

The Royal Free Hospital and the 22 storey tall Bacton Tower at Lismore Circus are close to and loom over the Heath, providing evidence of the potential effect. Notably, they puncture the horizon line, spoiling long range views from the heath of London, and short and long range green views of Hampstead Heath from vast areas of London.

The draft Camden Local Plan states that the several key areas are designated for high rise, and there are 5 that will have direct impact on the current condition. Namely these are Murphy`s Yard, Regis Road, Holmes Road, The Wendling Estate, The area surrounding Bacton Tower on Haverstock Road & The West Kentish Town Estate. All of these individually would be clearly visible from the Heath if they were 30 or 40 metres high – and if all are implemented the effect would be astonishing, as the attached illustrations demonstrate.

The 12 and 15 storey blocks on the Wendling Estate already draw attention & the expansion of these areas will have a very harmful impact on views. We suggest a more bespoke approach to future development is considered to these above named zones in particular, and further suggest a new sub‐zone covering an area approximately 1 km to the South & South East of the Heath’s Southern Boundary. This is illustrated on the attached maps. We would request that specific local constraints on development are applied to this zone limiting development to 8 storeys, and arranged in smaller clusters. Such guidance will preserve the merit of this unique area of London, with the intention of conserving the amenity enjoyed by an enormous number viewing the skyline from the Heath, and viewing the Heath from their own homes.

A comparison mock up of the difference shown by 8 storey (approx24 metres) and 14 storey (approx. 40 metres) development is illustrated in the attached montage.

The recent development at Vicars Road, at a mix of 6 & 8 storey’s, is a very good example of how an appropriate low rise solution can be achieved with good design and a
balance of volume & massing.

Planning Subcommittee
The Heath & Hampstead Society

Camden with draft plan map overlay – showing designated zones of taller buildings.

Parameters of the common ‘skyline view’ from Parliament Hill lower path, with some existing ‘height markers’.

View from Parliament Hill showing the effect of 40 metre height development in zones f, g, k. l & n.

View from Parliament Hill showing the effect of 24 metre height development in zones f, g, k. l & n.