Site of fatal fire in Daleham Gardens to be demolished

The fire at Daleham Gardens in 2017.

The fire at Daleham Gardens in 2017. - Credit: Archant

Camden Council has resolved to demolish 31 Daleham Gardens, which has been sitting derelict since it was struck by fire in 2017, leading to the death of resident Magdalena Fink.

Council officers moved to reassure Camden’s planning committee on December 17 that the demolition of the building was to the public’s benefit, though concerns were raised over the potential for the plot to sit empty for an extended period.

Investigations are said to have been undertaken on a rebuilding plan which would have seen the building’s façade retained, but were dismissed due to health and safety concerns.

READ MORE: Woman dies in Hampstead blaze

In an introduction to the application to demolish, planning officer Josh Lawlor wrote: “On 21 November 2017 the building suffered a devastating fire which lead to it and adjoining properties being evacuated, and tragically one fatality. The building has been uninhabitable since and remains dilapidated.

“The demolition of the building will allow a vacant site to be released for residential redevelopment. It will also remove ongoing concerns of health and safety around the site in terms of structural instability and contamination.

“These are public benefits delivered by the proposal. Balanced against this is the fact that if we did insist on reinstatement or ongoing façade retention, there would not be any great gain – most of the original has already been lost and all that would be secured would be a basic façade retention that would make little contribution.”

The fire caused the building’s roof, upper floor and some of its chimneys to collapse into the building, with the council explaining that plans for what to do with the site have been delayed over the past three years as officers sorted through the “legal complexities” of ownership and rehousing the three council tenants and eight leaseholders who lost their homes.

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Lawlor pointed to ongoing fears over contamination from the structure as it stands, with the fire having exposed asbestos, as well as concerns over how stable the remnants of the building will remain if not pulled down.

The plans had seen a number of objections, with calling the demolition of the building “premature” without full details of what would replace it, with residents pointing to the fact that no part of the building had collapsed since the fire, though the council’s engineers found that it is “deteriorating”, and reliant on being propped up by the retaining scaffolding.

Concerns have also been raised over heritage, given the original building’s links with initial residents Annie E Ridley and Jane Taylor Ridley, who helped set up Camden School for Girls, though officers said that as a result of the fire the building’s contribution to the conservation area has been “significantly depleted”.

The council's environment chief, Cllr Adam Harrison (Labour, Bloomsbury), called for a retention in future plans of the heritage links to the Ridleys in the form of a name or a plaque, with officers responding that they were in “complete agreement” with the proposals.

The regeneration strategy put forward for the site are said to see a minimum of 50% affordable housing, the replacement of all the lost residential floorspace, a zero carbon scheme, and the disposal of the land to a community trust, meaning the community could develop it to meet local need.

The current site of Daleham Gardens, five months after the fire

The current site of Daleham Gardens, five months after the fire - Credit: Harry Taylor

Cllr Andrew Parkinson (Conservative, Frognal & Fitzjohns) said: “Obviously we haven’t got detailed plans for the redevelopment. It’s important for NW3 in particular that we have family housing.

“The second thing is: I’m concerned the site is not left vacant for a considerable period of time while the council develops its plans for the site. If plans are stalled, can we consider providing public open space on the site, for example a pocket park?”

While officers would not be drawn on Cllr Parkinson’s suggestion, planners responded that they had the same concerns as the Conservative councillor on an extended period of disuse for the plot, with “landscaping” deliberately included in the scope of the plans to allow flexibility for how it can be used by the community.

Cllr Flick Rea (Lib Dem, Fortune Green) said she was relieved that the historic nature of the building would be recognised, but added: “We need some sort of assurance that whatever replacement building the community land trust comes up with will be appropriate and fit in, and will not be some sort of mini tower block.”

READ MORE: ‘Would woman who died in Hampstead fire be alive if Belsize Fire Station still open?’

READ MORE: Daleham Gardens fire: Coroner rebukes council over lack of fire checks which led to death