Community stand against flats threat to West Hampstead slow worm reservoir

A West Hampstead community has issued a call to arms to fight plans which could destroy a unique wildlife habitat and an open space which will act as a “green lung” for future generations.

Residents from Gondar Gardens will march on the town hall tonight to plead with Camden Council to save a reservoir and its slow worm population from developers.

Critics claim that approving the plans tonight (Thursday, May 10) would make a mockery of the council’s planning policies which pledge to protect the borough’s open spaces and areas of conservation importance.

Despite rejecting earlier plans for “Teletubby” homes in the basin of the disused Victorian water supply, planning officials are set to approve plans for 28 flats on the western border of the open space.

Chairman of Gondar and Agamemnon Residents’ Association, David Yass, who will speak out against the plans this evening, said: “We want Camden to hold its nerve and stand by its planning policy.

“The council does not owe this developer anything and there is no reason it should accede to developers’ requests.

“It’s almost as if the council by recommending this application for approval is saying it cannot be bothered with this fight for years to come.”

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The council has received 117 letters of objection to the scheme from residents.

Developer Linden Wates has offered to relocate the slow worm population and hand over the rest of the reservoir to a wildlife trust, but the London Essex and Hertfordshire Amphibian and Reptile Trust said the new five-storey developments of 19 luxury and nine affordable flats could decimate the slow worm population.

An increased number of domestic cats, arson incidents and children collecting the wildlife could threaten their survival, according to the trust.

Cllr Flick Rea is waiving her voting rights on the issue to lend her weight to the decade-long campaign against developers.

She said: “In principle the council would be destroying the heritage of the community, even if it’s not heritage in the English Heritage way of thinking.

“It’s a green lung for everyone in West Hampstead.

“If the site is handed over, what will they be gifting to the community? A hole in the ground?

“The value will have gone and so will the species that are unique to that place. We humans go trampling all over the world and here is our chance in West Hampstead to say no.”

Developers are fighting a separate battle to overturn an original council decision to reject the “Teletubby” development at a planning inquiry later this month.