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Uproar as modern Highgate home likened to giant toilet wins planning appeal

An artist's impression of the modern building father-of-two Iain Brewester wanted to build at the entrance to Highgate Village. Picture: Birds Portchmouth Russum Architects An artist's impression of the modern building father-of-two Iain Brewester wanted to build at the entrance to Highgate Village. Picture: Birds Portchmouth Russum Architects

Thursday, December 19, 2013
1:00 PM

A father has won his eight-year battle to build a “space age” house in the heart of historic Highgate Village – but furious conservationists could take their challenge to Secretary of State Eric Pickles.

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A mock-up of what the house will look likeA mock-up of what the house will look like

Iain Brewester, 44, has finally won permission to build a modern three-story home in Highgate High Street, after years of battling with Highgate conservationists and Camden planners who rejected the project in February.

But members of the Highgate Society, who are vehemently opposed to the development, said they were shocked by a government planning inspector’s “perverse” and “seriously flawed” decision to give the go-ahead on appeal.

The society is now gearing up to challenge the outcome and could call on the cabinet minister in charge of planning, Communities Secretary Mr Pickles, to overturn the decision. It is the first time the group has considered such drastic action in its nearly 40-year history.

Highgate Society member Michael Hammerson said the group had never “felt the need” before, but this time it is taking “professional advice” on its options.

“We have had some bad decisions, but one can almost live with them,” he said.

“But this one is so perverse that it’s got to be looked at with a view to being challenged.

“There’s a widespread view that it would destroy that part of the village.”

Designs for the building at the junction with South Grove, opposite The Gatehouse pub, have divided opinion, winning praise from the Royal Academy of Arts but being described by critics as looking like a “giant public toilet”.

The society’s biggest issue is that the size of the building, which in replacing a one-storey bungalow, will block views to Pond Square for people approaching Highgate.

Highgate Society spokesman Sue Vinson said it will “do away” with this “lovely approach”, adding that the design is “rather space age in more of a Georgian, Victorian architectural high street”.

Planning inspector Terry Phillimore noted that the view’s loss was a concern, but described the scheme as “high quality” and said it “appropriately acknowledges the surroundings”.

Mr Brewester, whose family has owned the land for nearly 40 years, said: “We have spent many years designing this. It has had a great deal of thought put into it and we have responded positively to the concerns expressed by the Highgate Society.”

He pointed out that the inspector said the scheme would “sufficiently preserve and enhance the character and appearance of the conservation area and preserve the settings of listed buildings in the vicinity”.

He added: “I really think it is time that no more public money is wasted on this and that we all get on with creating a more wonderful centre for Highgate.”

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