Search

Legal loophole has left council ‘powerless’ to stop demolition of Athlone House

16:00 16 January 2014

Camden councillor Phil Jones, cabinet member for sustainability, transport and planning, with Athlone House in the background. Picture: Polly Hancock

Camden councillor Phil Jones, cabinet member for sustainability, transport and planning, with Athlone House in the background. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

A leading Camden councillor has said he is “frustrated” the council is powerless to stop applications to demolish the much-loved Athlone House because of a loophole in the law.

Athlone HouseAthlone House

Labour councillor Phil Jones, cabinet member for transport, sustainability and planning, hit back at claims that the local authority has been “feckless” in its dealings with the owner of the 19th-century mansion on the edge of Hampstead Heath.

The owners plan to knock down Athlone House and rebuild it as an eight-bedroom luxury home even though they are obligated under an historic planning agreement to restore the former NHS hospital and RAF intelligence base.

But the council has been unable to enforce the agreement because there has been a planning application or appeal relating to Athlone House ever since the agreement was made.

“It gets my goat that the developers are playing this game,” Cllr Jones said.

“I can completely understand how the campaigners feel and if we had the opportunity to enforce the restoration, we would do so immediately. It’s incredibly frustrating. I believe it demonstrates a loophole in the law that needs to be closed.”

More than 4,500 campaigners have signed a petition to save Athlone House from demolition and around 3,500 wrote to Camden Council about the proposals before the public consultation closed on Friday.

The fight to protect the 150-year-old building has even won the support of Monty Python legend and film director Terry Gilliam.

As a condition of building Caenwood Court, a multi-million pound housing development in the grounds of Athlone House, in 2004, the owners were bound by law to refurbish the derelict Victorian mansion.

The obligation, called a section 106 agreement, required the owners to restore the house within 42 months of building works at Caenwood Court.

But a council spokesman says that a legal loophole means it would be “almost impossible” to convince a court to carry out enforcement action while a planning application for Athlone House is being considered.

Cllr Jones wants the council to be granted the power to enforce outstanding planning obligations.

“I can assure residents that the council shares their ongoing concerns as this is a really important site and we have long fought to preserve it,” he said.

“I think local authorities should have the power to enforce section 106 agreements, but how that is changed is something we need to explore further.”

In a letter to the council, carer Claire McArthur, 50, who has lived close to Hampstead Heath all her life and recently moved from Highgate to Crouch End, said: “It is deeply concerning to me that Camden Council has been so feckless in dealing with this 
developer and holding to personal account those who make agreements with them.

“You have severely let down not just the residents of Camden and the surrounding boroughs but all those residents of London who 
enjoy the Heath and those to whom preservation of our historic buildings matter.”

The council has carried out nine maintenance checks since 2009 to make sure Athlone House is wind and water tight and is not falling into further disrepair.

An Athlone House spokesman said: “It is unrealistic to expect the new owner to implement the existing planning consent given the very poor condition of the building and the need to provide a very high quality living environment.

“The Planning Inspector accepted this reality and concluded that a new house would be acceptable subject to a high standard of design, which we believe [architect] Robert Adam has produced.”

0 comments

Latest Hampstead & Highgate News Stories

18:32

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq has said she is willing to leave the shadow cabinet to vote against Brexit following the Supreme Court decision today that the matter must be put before Parliament.

11:15

Friends of George Michael were today gathering outside his Highgate home to create a tribute garden to the singer on the green opposite his house.

12:33

Ricky Gervais provided a “fantastic” surprise for an East Finchley dog charity by donating the proceeds of a warm-up gig held at the Arts Depot.

Yesterday, 17:59

Devotees of the late pop star are asking the City of London for a commemorative bench in George Michael’s “favourite park” for his fans to pay tribute to him

Yesterday, 17:32

Cllr Claire-Louise Leyland will join traders and members of the Camden Neighbourhood Policing team this Wednesday in the Belsize Kitchen.

Yesterday, 17:02

A man was beaten to death with a shopping trolley handle during a row, between two groups of youths in Willesden, a court heard.

Yesterday, 16:30

An influential publisher and Samuel Pepys enthusiast who lived in Hampstead Garden Suburb for 50 years has died.

Yesterday, 15:38

Theodore Johnson, 63, appeared at the Old Bailey this morning charged with murdering the 51-year-old last month.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Most read Hampstead & Highgate news

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot

Competitions

Having a brand new kitchen is something that lots of people want but can only dream of. Sadly keeping up to date and making our living spaces as nice as they can be is a costly and incredibly stressful business. Even a fresh coat of paint makes all the difference but isn’t easy or quick.

Who wouldn’t love the chance to go on a shopping spree. Imagine being able to walk into a shop and choose whatever your heart desires without having to worry about how much it costs.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now