Athlone House campaigners: ‘Developers bidding for house’s demolition have led us a merry dance’
On July 31, Camden’s planning committee retrospectively refused the latest monstrosity but weakly conceded that they can no longer oppose demolition of Athlone House – a betrayal of the 458 objectors and 5,000-plus petitioners who opposed demolition.
The Athlone House Working Group, English Heritage, the City of London Corporation, Save Britain’s Heritage, the Ancient Monuments Society, the Victorian Society, even the Greater London Authority all sent letters opposing demolition.
Dismayingly, Camden’s legal adviser said that, since it was considered acceptable by the previous appeal inspector, the council can no longer resist demolition – leaving Camden looking like rabbits in the inspector’s headlights.
We emphasised that, while an inspector’s decision carries weight, it is not holy writ.
We were particularly angered by the case officer’s description of the house as “derelict”. It was not when we last saw it. If it has deteriorated, planning guidance stipulates that this cannot be taken into account.
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We are dismayed at Camden’s lack of resolution to oppose demolition, which the law says they cannot permit without an acceptable alternative.
Also critical is enforcement of the section 106 agreement to restore the house, on which Camden have prevaricated for four years while the developer runs rings round them.
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Camden cabinet member for planning, Cllr Phil Jones, has said it was grotesque how the developer has tried for years to evade their legal responsibility, led the council a merry dance and insulted the community.
Cllr Sue Vincent urged that the council oppose demolition, but Camden’s legal advisers warned against it, “because of the costs risk”.
We were assured that Camden will pursue enforcement of the section 106 agreement.
That all now depends on persuading the Planning Inspectorate that the previous decision was flawed – or the developers will simply come back repeatedly with a slightly smaller scheme, until Camden give in and the Heath is dominated by an eternal monument to greed, the unacceptable face of the development industry and a planning system which encourages both.