Camden planners ignore massive opposition over Belsize glass houses

PLANS to knock down the Belsize Park glass houses and build two four-storey homes on the site are set to be approved despite more than 100 objections by residents, experts and heritage groups.

English Heritage, the Twentieth Century Society, local campaign groups and 126 out of 129 residents who contacted the council have all objected to the plans to demolish the glass homes, designed in 1980 by architects Robin Spence and Robin Webster, and have recommended they should be listed to protect them from future threats.

Last month Richard Rogers, the co-designer of the world-famous Pompidou Centre, wrote to the council protesting against the proposed development, recommending that the glass houses be listed rather than bulldozed.

Radio 5 Live presenter Richard Bacon has waded into the row by tweeting his disgust about the proposals to his following of more than one million people.

But despite all of this, planning officers have recommended that councillors at tonight’s development control meeting overrule the objectors and vote to give developers Papa Architects permission to destroy the one-storey glass houses and build two basement to fourth-floor family homes on the plot.

Danielle Tinero, who is leading the residents’ campaign group Save Belsize, said: “We can’t really understand how the planning officer’s view is completely opposite to all expert opinion and local opinion.

“The Save Belsize group agrees with English Heritage that the houses are of listable quality and should be kept in order to safeguard our modern architectural heritage and the character and appearance of the conservation area.

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“The loss of the glass houses would be detrimental to the green and open character that contributes so positively to the Belsize Conservation Area.

“The proposals are inappropriate in scale, mass and materials for this garden site, and would block views and reduce daylight, thus impacting on amenity and privacy, cause overbearing and remove much loved mature trees and greenery.”

Tweeting last week, broadcaster Mr Bacon said: “Two architecturally renowned houses are to be demolished for a modern place near me. 126 of us opposed it. Three supported. Camden Council said yes.”

He later added: “If anyone who works in planning follows me, just explain how that works. Again, 126 opposed. Three supported. Is it not meant to be democratic?”

A report to tonight’s planning meeting at Camden Town Hall states that despite the opposition, the new homes fit within the council’s Local Development Framework.

It says: “The existing building, while of interest, could not reasonably be considered to make a positive contribution to the conservation area, since it is not visible and in this respect the demolition cannot be resisted.

“The proposed building is a modern interpretation of the 19th century villa which dominates the area and is considered to be appropriate.”