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

00:01
An international poker player is locked in a row with his Highgate neighbour over a driveway. Picture: Nigel Sutton

An international gambler is locked in a row with his Highgate neighbour because his driveway belongs to the house next door – meaning he can’t legally access his own home.

Yesterday, 19:03
Thieves have been stealing post in the Frognal and Fitzjohns area of Hampstead

A gang has been stealing private school bills from doormats in Hampstead and doctoring them to make unwitting parents pay thousands of pounds into the fraudsters’ accounts, police have warned.

Yesterday, 18:38
Belsize Park Gardens

A terrified mother told how she was strangled until she lost consciousness and robbed in front of her two-year-old daughter.

Yesterday, 17:26
The Magdala. Picture: Polly Hancock

Hampstead’s world famous Magdala pub has closed its doors as its current landlords say they have been “unable to agree terms and conditions” on the lease with the company that owns it.

Yesterday, 16:37
Michael Otshudi, of Highgate, has been jailed for violent disorder

A 37-year-old from Highgate Village has been jailed after a man was shot at a wake for trying to break up a fight.

Yesterday, 13:31
Jonny (left) and Ruth Tamir (right) with Noam (centre)

A Belsize Park father has spoken of his pride after his son donated 61 per cent of his liver to save his life.

Yesterday, 12:56
Hodaya Mason (left) and Maryam (right) at an interfaith cultural exchange visit between the London Islamic Cultural Society at Haringey Mosque and Muswell Hill Synagogue

Muslim and Jewish women and girls came together to learn from one another’s culture and religion, with high hopes of kick-starting joint initiatives to help the refugee crisis.

Yesterday, 12:48
A  fire at a sheltered housing block in Belsize Park was apparently caused by a cigarette which had not been properly extinguished

A partially sighted man was led to safety by firefighters after a fire broke out in a sheltered housing block in Belsize Park yesterday evening.

Most read 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

Champagne experience

This Valentine’s Day, the Coca-Cola London Eye is the perfect destination for lovebirds, offering a range of romantic experiences from Friday 12th February - Sunday 14th February 2016.

Sony Smart Ultra HD 55'' LED TV

Enjoy the ultimate entertainment experience in your living room with the Sony Smart Ultra 55’’ LED TV. Be the envy of all your friends with this huge TV- you can change your living room into your own cinema! Get the boys around to watch the football or get the girls around to watch the DVD of 50 Shades.. this is a prize that everyone would enjoy! Stand a chance to upgrade your current entertainment system by wining this fantastic prize.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe