Doctor calls for 200-year-old East Finchley villa to be spared demolition

Now you see it. Valona House (behind the tree) when still the site of minicab firm GLH. Picture: GOO

Now you see it. Valona House (behind the tree) when still the site of minicab firm GLH. Picture: GOOGLE MAPS - Credit: Archant

A developer has been urged to spare a 200-year-old Georgian villa from the wrecking ball.

Valona House in East Finchley faces demolition after Barnet Council approved developer Safeland Plc’s bid to bulldoze the house – also known as GLH house and The Shrubbery – to make way for two blocks of flats opposite East Finchley station.

In an open letter to Safeland boss Larry Lipman, resident Dr Ruth Brown stated: “Your plans are to demolish a high-quality, historic building and replace it with a design that residents have condemned as ugly.

Dr Brown added: “The house has an elegant Georgian style that is popular today, but done to a quality that’s hard to replicate.”

But Safeland boss Larry Lipman said Dr Brown had mistaken the current design for an original which had been substanitally amended.

“The current design is very sympathetic to the surrounding street scene,” Mr Lipman said.

According to Dr Brown, the threat to the house – built in the 1820s by brickmaker Nevil Smart – saw a petition gain 1,000 signatures with the Finchley Society, which counts actress Joanna Lumley as a patron, also opposed to the demolition.

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But Mr Lipman said there was nothing left from the original building: “All that side of the argument is irrelevant,” he said.

Dr Brown said last July’s decision to approve the new-build was made by outsourcing giant Capita, which runs Barnet Council’s planning service, whilst consultant firm GL Hearn acted as Safeland’s agent. Capita is GL Hearn’s parent company.

“This is a conflict of interest, which cannot be avoided by any supposed ‘Chinese walls’ in the planning department,” Dr Brown stated in her letter.

However, Barnet disputes Dr Brown’s version of events saying the decision to grant the planning application was taken by a cross-party group of democratically elected councillors and not Capita. A Barnet spokesman said it was inaccurate to suggest Capita made the decision.

Mr Lipman said: “This application has gone through a most rigorous review. We will do the right thing at every corner.” He added the Hampstead Garden Suburb based firm had carried out a large number of “sensitive schemes”.