Camden Council under fire as BBC presenter wins loft conversion row
PUBLISHED: 18:31 19 January 2012
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A senior BBC news presenter has been spared the distress of having to knock down her extension by Camden councillors.
Officers were sharply rebuked for “failing a resident” after it emerged that Zeinab Badawi, a BBC World newsreader, had sought the council’s advice before building the disputed loft conversion on her Belsize Park home.
Ms Badawi contacted Camden Council in October 2010 and told a duty planning officer of her plans to build the extension to her million pound home, off Haverstock Hill, in the Belsize Park Conservation Area.
Yet despite inspecting the property several times, it was not until May that she was eventually told the extension breached planning rules.
Speaking of the great “anxiety” the saga had inflicted on her and her four children, Ms Badawi told the council: “I feel very much that I come before you as a victim of a lack of communication, cooperation and coordination on the part of officers.
“I had recently separated from the father of my four children. They are now at a very critical time doing their exams. The child that lives in the room I just built is taking her GCSEs and living with some anxiety.
“Camden Council had ample opportunity to bring to my attention that this violated their regulations.
“I was not told for four-and-a-half months and tens of thousands of pounds later.”
Planning officers had recommended that the council turn down the newsreader’s bid to obtain retrospective planning permission for the extension because it flouted conservation area planning guidance.
They also insisted that the information she had been given from the council’s duty planning office was informal and not binding.
But councillors took the unusual step of voting against the recommendations as they felt the newsreader was let down by the council.
In their ruling, councillors said the fact that the disputed extension overlooked a car park was a material consideration.
Hampstead Cllr Chris Knight, who defended the presenter, said: “It is about time the council started acting as one body.”
Speaking after the meeting, Ms Badawi said: “I’m obviously very pleased because it has meant a great deal of anxiety for the family and for me.”
A Camden Council spokeswoman said: “The assistant director of regeneration and planning apologised to the applicant for the delay in informing her that her roof extension was unauthorised and was considered by officers to be unacceptable.
“The council does not consider that it has been negligent or that it has any legal liability.”