Highgate sees off threat from housing developer

A controversial scheme to build three vast luxury homes on a prized Highgate green space has been rejected – to the delight of residents.

Plans to build on the sloping plot, known as the Highgate Bowl, sparked widespread protests last August. Many people were appalled at the prospect of the modern, five-bedroom homes being built on the 11-acre site. It is a much-loved part of the area’s landscape and dates back to the Middle Ages.

Objectors were also against the idea that the existing garden centre, Capital Gardens, off Highgate High Street, would be bulldozed in the process.

But last week their prayers were answered when Haringey Council refused the application.

Highgate Society president Catherine Budgett-Meakin said: “We welcome very much Haringey’s decision. It’s absolutely what we expected and hoped for. We hope this will be the end of applications to build on Highgate Bowl.”

Fellow society member Gordon Forbes added: “Over the last 50 years, there have been more than 10 attempts to develop and build on the land. But all have been successfully resisted by Haringey Council after vigorous campaigning by Highgate residents and the Highgate Society and often after lengthy debate at public enquiries.”

The homes developer argued that the site’s use needed to change as the garden centre was no longer viable.

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But planning officer Paul Smith said that this argument was not “adequately” demonstrated.

He said: “The proposed change of use would result in a loss of employment and the loss of a local facility which is of economic benefit to the local area.

“A change of use to residential would not protect the function, character and traditional uses associated with the site and setting of Highgate as a hilltop village and to the conservation area as a whole.

“The approval of such a development would set a precedent for the encroachment of built development into the Highgate Bowl.”

The landowner’s agent Andrew Warner told residents at a meeting in October: “The garden centre can’t keep going. At the moment, it’s being supported financially by other garden centres in its group.”

But Mr Forbes revealed that the Highgate Society would still make an effort to approach the developer to offer help with the garden centre.

He said: “The Highgate Society would like to explore with the owners of the land and business what can be done to help the garden centre keep going through these difficult times.

“While we are pleased that the land is not now to be totally lost to public access, we are aware that it must be used for some purpose.”