Campaign launched to protect historic barracks
Sanchez Manning THE family which owns St John s Wood Barracks has been accused of betraying its own heritage by selling off the historic site to build modern flats. Residents claim the Eyre Estate, which controls the famed Army grounds on Ordnance Hill, i
THE family which owns St John's Wood Barracks has been accused of betraying its own heritage by selling off the historic site to build modern flats.
Residents claim the Eyre Estate, which controls the famed Army grounds on Ordnance Hill, is forcing out the soldiers and horses that have been part of the community for 200 years to make a quick profit.
They believe the landowners have hiked up rents to such exorbitant levels the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery which occupies the barracks cannot afford to stay.
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The prestigious ceremonial unit, which accompanied Princess Diana's coffin in 1997, is now set to move to Woolwich in 2012 to make room for a new development.
A plan, revealed last November by the Wood&Vale, was submitted by the Eyre Estate to Westminster Council to build 139 private apartments and affordable homes.
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After the submission planning officers received more than 100 letters of objection to the proposals and scores of residents, including celebrity hairdresser Nicky Clarke, have now launched a campaign against the development.
One protester, Val Howarth who lives in nearby Ordnance Mews, said: "The Eyre Estate is asking for a huge increase in the current rent. It is because of this extortionate rise that we are losing 200 years of history.
"And by asking for this amount they're basically asking the taxpayer to cover the costs for the move to Woolwich, which could be tens of millions of pounds.
"As for the Eyre family, I think their ancestors would be horrified to know the barracks was being removed by the younger generation. Over the last 25 years 17 local pubs have gone so for the barracks to go is ripping the heart out of St John's Wood village."
Three day public exhibitions of the designs proposed by the Eyre Estate were held in July and November last year.
Residents have also complained the shows were not held at times they could easily attend.
David Forster, who lives opposite the barracks on Norfolk Road, said the 7.30pm cut off point made it impossible for him to attend. However, he said, once the residents did see the plans after asking the council for an extended consultation period they had serious concerns.
He said: "The thing that's concerned people is that the design is very anti-social and inward looking, with a minimum of green space and with its outward face looming over the surrounding residential properties. I can't imagine any reason you would venture into that estate unless you knew someone. And one of the other major concerns is the overspill of the car parking on the street."
Eyre Estate chief executive Ted Johnson insists the peppercorn rent the Army has been paying was not sustainable. He also made clear that it was the family's legal right to develop the land.
He added that the only reason residents are making a fuss is due to the romantic image the horses give to the barracks. "If it was a government building rather than horses no-one would care," he said.
He also branded the row over the Troops move as "irrelevant" because it was the Eyre Estate's right under law to develop the site.
An MOD spokesman said: "The Woolwich site provides a secure and stable future with more modern facilities and offers the best long-term solution and value for money for the Troop.