Blow for Dartmouth Park community as council loses planning appeal on bowling club

Mansfield Bowling club

Mansfield Bowling club - Credit: Archant

Camden council are being hit with costs after losing an appeal to keep a much loved bowling club in Dartmouth Park for the community.

Labour Highgate councillor Sally Gimson

Labour Highgate councillor Sally Gimson - Credit: Archant

The long battle to preserve the 100-year-old Mansfield Bowling Club in Croftdown Road ended on Friday when a planning inspectorate ruled in favour of developer Generator Group LLP.

The company has a green light to demolition the bowling club and build 21 homes, three tennis courts, a sports pavilion and community garden on land in the Dartmouth Park Conservation Area left to the public by philanthropist Angela Burdett Coutts.

Council officers in Camden initially approved the application for housing but it was refused by councillors in the planning committee.

Generator Group lodged an appeal, upheld by the inspector, and as a result the developers are seeking costs from the council who they said “unreasonably refused” the application for planning permission.

The inspector found the council “incurred unnecessary and wasted expense” by not addressing relevant parts of the policy which allowed for the loss of leisure facilities under certain conditions.

The report states “there is no demand for an alternative leisure use of the site which would be suitable.”

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Samuel Kay, of Dartmouth Park Residents CIC, said: “We are extremely disappointed that the appeal has been lost. It is sad that a site with over a 100-year history of community use, which was protected as an ‘asset of community value’, will now be turned to residential development and lost for good.

“We are also shocked that the planning inspector gave so little weight to the views and opinions of the council’s planning committee and the local community; his decision may be within the boundaries of the policy statements but it falls well outside the boundaries of natural justice.”

Cllr Sally Gimson, Labour representive of Highgate Ward, added: “The community worked incredibly hard and campaigned to keep the site for leisure use but now it’s going to be turned into a gated community.

“They say they will build garden to which the public will be allowed in and build three tennis courts for the tennis club and we welcome that but we wanted that whole space to be used for community and leisure space.

“Now it’s been given planning permission for housing, the price of that land will go through the roof and certainly that space, the hall, is lost to the community forever.”

A spokesman for Camden Council said: “We are extremely disappointed that the planning inspector has granted permission for this development in spite of the council’s strong efforts to fight the appeal and a robust defence put forward by the local community and local ward councillors.

“The council reviewed the reasons that the planning committee refused planning permission and sought independent legal advice from Counsel. Counsel advised that the policy interpretation was sound and attended the appeal hearing to assist in presenting the council’s case. The council also worked hard to assist and co-ordinate the presentation of representations from the local community at the hearing.

“We are carefully considering the Inspectors decision and will seek further legal advice on both the planning judgement and the decision to award costs to the appellant. The precise award of costs has yet to be determined and will be the subject of a separate process.”

Paul Isaacs, managing director of Generator Group said:“We are obviously delighted that the planning inspectorate has found in our favour and granted our appeal against the committee’s refusal of our planning application.

“Our planning application for the redevelopment of Mansfield Bowling Club is fully policy compliant and will create good quality and much needed housing, publicly accessible open space for recreation and general enjoyment and a community tennis club available to all.

“This is a brownfield site which will deliver an efficient and long-term sustainable use on the site that will enhance the relationship with its surroundings and improve the character and appearance of the Conservation Area through the demolition of derelict buildings.”