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 News Stories

14:23
Jonsson threw up in the back of a taxi and then refused to pay the cleaning bill. Picture: Jonathan Brady

An interior designer who was sick in the back of a taxi and yelled racist abuse at the driver when he asked him to pay the cleaning bill has been fined.

60 minutes ago
Tulip Siddiq

New Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq will sit on a newly-formed parliamentary select committee promoting women’s rights and equality.

12:23
Chris Martin with Claire Phillips of Cystic Fibrosis Trust at the Highgate School summer fair

Rock icon Chris Martin has seemingly thrown himself back into north London life after being spotted regularly on the streets of Hampstead and Highgate – in the same week that his first Spanish-made acoustic guitar sold for nearly £20,000 at auction.

Yesterday, 12:52

A planned anti-Semitic demonstration set to take place in Golders Green on Saturday has been moved to Westminster by police to keep Jewish residents safe.

Most read news

Property Newsletter Sign-up

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

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

Competitions

Good times with Greenall's!

Good times with Greenall’s, a Great British gin sponsors Great British racing.

Escape to the picturesque sights of Cornwall

Summer is finally here, and what is the number one holiday location in the UK during the warmer months? Cornwall, of course!

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Hampstead & Highgate Express e-edition today E-edition
Family Notices 24


Our trusted business finder