Branch Hill House sale: Community concerned by loss of affordable housing

Branch Hill House in Hampstead. Picture: George Rex (CC by SA 2.0)

Branch Hill House in Hampstead. Picture: George Rex (CC by SA 2.0) - Credit: Archant

Neighbours and community groups have raised concerns over the sale of former Branch Hill House care home in Hampstead.

In May, Camden Council approved the sale of the building, but have yet to name the bidder they are negotiating with.

The Heath and Hampstead society fear the sale continues a worrying trend. They said: “The Heath and Hampstead Society was disappointed to learn of the council’s decision to sell Branch Hill House on the open market. The property is a Victorian building of historic importance and it is now running the risk of being demolished and turning into yet another exclusive residential development.”

The NW3 Community Land Trust (CLT) hopes to guarantee that any development on the Branch Hill House site includes affordable housing, but the group is pessimistic.

A spokesperson for the CLT told the Ham&High: “We are really concerned by the loss of affordable housing in high-value areas. Camden Council said they’ll put us in touch with the developers when the sale is completed, but by then it could be too late.”

The CLT explained it expects the council to include a requirement for affordable new homes in any section 106 agreement, but there would also be caveat allowing the developer to pay a sum in lieu of providing this.

Pierre-Antoine Boulat, who lives on Spedan Close next to Branch Hill, said: “Whatever they do, it’s going to have a huge impact on the community.”

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Janine Griffis, Chair of the Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum, said the Neighbourhood Plan - to be voted on today (Thurs) - will help protect Branch Hill. She added: “The plan also designates all of the areas around Branch Hill as a Local Green Space. This means that the site would have to be sensitively redeveloped while preserving and protecting the amenity and biodiversity of the area.”

Cllr Richard Olszewski, the council’s finance chief, confirmed that contracts had been exchanged.

Cllr Olszewski said: “The money raised from the sale will be used towards the cost of the two new care homes built by the Council at Maitland Park and Wellesley Road.”