Campaigners battle developers at public hearing
Ben McPartland A TRANQUIL rural lane on the edge of Hampstead Heath will be turned into the slow lane of the M1 if developers get their way, a planning inspector has been told. Residents, conservationists and Heath users turned out in force at a public
A TRANQUIL rural lane on the edge of Hampstead Heath will be turned into the "slow lane of the M1" if developers get their way, a planning inspector has been told.
Residents, conservationists and Heath users turned out in force at a public appeal hearing to battle proposals by Isle of Man-based company Millamant to send 24-tonne trucks up and down Millfield Lane in Highgate.
The company, believed to be controlled by a Russian billionaire, has permission to demolish a house at Fitzroy Farm and replace it with a neo-classical pile nearly three times the size along with a two-level basement.
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In April last year, councillors rejected the construction plan which would have seen trucks travelling to and from the site for almost three years along a road used by children and swimmers from the nearby ladies' pond.
At last Thursday's hearing in Tavistock Square, developers stunned campaigners - who included Monty Python star Terry Jones - by suggesting the inspector should ignore environmental issues when making his decision.
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Millamant solicitor Mark Harnett said that the inspector should only consider the impact of the plan on 'residential amenity' as this was the only proviso laid down by Camden Council.
He said: "I think you should be slow to refuse the plans for reasons like impact on users of the Heath or ecological reasons. It would be highly inappropriate to bring these conditions in by the back door."
The construction scheme would see trucks over 22 tonnes trucks travelling up Millfield Lane every 12 minutes during working hours. They would each be led a by a steward driving a golf buggy to ensure a maximum speed of 10mph down the 250m long gravel track.
The plan would also see hundreds of lighter lorries and other construction vehicles travel along the privately-owned road Fitzroy Park.
Much to the amazement of protesters, developers said congestion would be avoided by trucks "circulating around local roads" until the path was clear.
During the day-long hearing, which included a site visit for all interested parties, numerous protesters spoke up to pick holes in the plan.
Jeremy Wright, of the Heath and Hampstead Society, brought up the problem of safety when parents and children met trucks.
He said: "The mother would be terrified and the child would be too. She would be terrified the lorry would start to move and the child would be crushed under the wheels.
"The document is completely lacking in any mention of how it would be managed."
Fitzroy Park resident Harley Atkinson asked the developers to go away and think again.
He said: "There's going to be nothing on our road apart from construction traffic and that is totally deplorable."
Kenwood Ladies Pond Association chairwoman Jane Shallice raised concerns over pollution caused by the construction traffic, which she said would wreck the delicate eco-system of the pond.
Resident Karen Beare, of Fitzroy Park, said: "We are all caretakers of this area and to sit back and allow this to happen really would horrify us."
But Mr Harnett said that Millamant's proposal's represented a "sensible balance" between the conflicting interests.
Planning inspector Stuart Hall is expected to make his decision over the next two weeks.