School's bid to use former West Hampstead recording studio rejected

The rear of Lilian Baylis House in early 2021. 

The rear of Lilian Baylis House in early 2021. - Credit: Nick Awde

A private school's application to turn the former Decca Studios into a school without needing to apply for planning permission has been rejected.

Lilian Baylis House, in West Hampstead, is owned by the English National Opera (ENO) and since February 7 has been marketed by Lambert Smith Hampton.

North Bridge House school, which has sites in Hampstead, Regent’s Park and Canonbury, submitted a "certificate for lawfulness" application in October to Camden Council to convert the Grade-II listed Lilian Baylis House into a site for 300 pupils aged 13-18. 

In its application, North Bridge House school argued that the existing use of the site falls within Class F1, which means buildings that are non-residential institutions used for learning. Examples include museums, public libraries and schools.

If the school could demonstrate Lilian Baylis House fell within that category, it would not require planning permission. 

After a site visit in November, and looking at floorplans and evidence given by nearby residents, the council found the English National Opera did not use the site as a school to teach opera singers but more as a rehearsal space for the singers to practice.

The school's application did not go to committee and Camden Council refused the certificate for lawfulness on March 25.

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One West Hampstead local, who used to live on the Mews right behind Lilian Baylis House, said he is "relieved" that the school's application has been rejected. 

"It's the most bizarre place that you'd ever want to put a school," he said. "It's a tiny one-way street, there's no parking, the road's busy."

"Like Abbey Road, this building has got a famous music history and some of the locals think it's really sad that it's come to this."

Liberal Democrat candidate for West Hampstead Janet Grauberg said residents "have welcomed the decision".

"We were really worried about extra traffic along the already congested West End Lane, and the impact on the C11 bus route which stops right outside," Janet said. "We really hope that a buyer will be found for this historic building to bring it back to life."

ENO were contacted for comment.