A street divided: Highgate pleas to save offices on only one side of road

Highgate is famously divided down the middle, its high street marking the border between Camden and Haringey.

For decades, traders and villagers have bemoaned the bureaucratic nightmare that results from two councils controlling two sides of the same high street.

And now once again, the fight is on to have the same rules applied to both halves. Haringey Council is being urged to follow in Camden’s footsteps and save businesses on one side from being turned into flats without planning permission.

Camden Council has granted special protection to offices in swathes of the borough from October 19, including sections of Hampstead, Highgate High Street, Finchley Road and Primrose Hill.

The new rules mean that permitted development powers would not apply, which allow developers to turn offices into homes without the need to obtain planning permission.

Highgate Society vice-president Michael Hammerson is leading calls for Haringey to bring in the same measures, to ensure businesses on both sides of Highgate High Street are protected.

He said: “It would be ludicrous to have protection on one side of the high street and not on the other. This is one of the reasons for the formation of the Highgate Neighbourhood Forum, so we could get more co-ordination between the two local authorities.

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“Haringey need to do something as soon as they can before the developers move in.”

Haringey’s Highgate ward councillor Bob Hare supported the call, and said: “We need to, as far as it is possible, bring in the same planning rules, programme and guidance across the boundary, which is really just bureaucratic and not a real boundary in the real village.”

A spokesman from Haringey Council said: “While in Highgate we haven’t seen the scale of changes that neighbouring boroughs have experienced under permitted development rights, we are continuing to monitor the situation.

‘‘We’re committed to protecting Highgate’s unique character, which is why we’ve designated it as a conservation area, and we’ve worked closely with the Highgate Society and other local groups to produce dedicated design guidance on acceptable development.”

Permitted development powers were extended by the government in 2013 to allow offices to be turned into flats without planning permission. They currently apply to the whole of Camden.

But in April, the council secured an exemption for several parts of the borough, called its Central Activities Zone.

Community figures have praised the authority’s Article 4 Direction to protect offices. Phil Cowan, a member of the Primrose Hill Town Team, fought furiously against plans to turn 22 businesses in Primrose Hill’s Utopia Village into 53 luxury flats using the permitted development powers.

As the Ham&High revealed in April, the business complex is now due to remain as offices after being bought by the billionaire owner of Camden Market.

It also falls within Camden’s protected area, and planning permission would be required to turn the offices into homes.

Mr Cowan said: “I feel really encouraged that Camden has done this. It will help employment, help local economies, and stop the tide of luxury apartments, turned from offices into homes.”

Hampstead community activist Jessica Learmond-Criqui also celebrated the news in a weekly newsletter to residents.