Athlone house original features are clear for all to see

I write with regard to your feature (Battle to save wartime RAF base begins, H&H November 19). The quoted spokesman for Athlone House Ltd asks your readers to believe that Athlone House is now neither Victorian in character, nor suitable for modern domes

I write with regard to your feature (Battle to save wartime RAF base begins, H&H November 19).

The quoted spokesman for Athlone House Ltd asks your readers to believe that Athlone House "is now neither Victorian in character, nor suitable for modern domestic use", which is why it is the intention of his company to seek to demolish it.

Yet this very same developer is quoted in the Ham&High's edition of January 21, 2005, as stating that under its plans "Athlone House will become a seven bedroom house".

Why was the restoration of Athlone House as a private residence the centrepiece of the planned development in 2005 when in 2009 the house is now said to be unsuitable for domestic use?


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Is it because in 2005 such a promise was a condition without which the developer would not have obtained permission to build a block of 21 luxury flats, the estimated profit on which is likely to have been in the region of �30,000,000 to the developer?

Or is it that since 2005 the condition of Athlone House has deteriorated, notwithstanding permission to develop the flats being conditional on the proper maintenance of Athlone House prior to its restoration?

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Visitors to the Highgate Society website are now able to judge for themselves the quality of craftsmanship still extant in the interior of the house. If Victorian detailing of this quality does not appeal to the developer's taste, many readers will question why he should invest �16million to acquire a building with which he has no sympathy?

And if the condition entered into with Camden in 2005 to restore the house is in 2009 now found too onerous, why does the developer not now sell it to one of the parties that have come forward with an interest in acquiring the building and restoring the interior to its original glory?

The groundswell of outrage at the proposal to demolish the house arises not just from the quality of the original features still surviving in its interior, which after all only one household at a time is likely to be able to enjoy, but equally on the basis of its exterior features, which are visible to the million people who visit the Heath each year.

The view of Athlone House from the observatory is remarkably unchanged since Victorian times.

Only from within its grounds do you see losses which are superficial and easily restorable.

Let the developer present his opinion that "Athlone House has lost most of the distinctive aspects of its original character and appearance that gave it is original architectural interest" to Heath users. On the evidence of comments from people questioned on this at the observatory this weekend, fewer than one in a hundred of the people I spoke to agreed.

Richard Webber

Broadlands Road, Highgate, N6

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