Draconian planning rules set for communities

CONTROVERSIAL planning rules labelled draconian by residents of the Holly Lodge Estate are set to be introduced in Hampstead, Belsize Park and Swiss Cottage. On Tuesday Camden councillors are due to approve the adoption of s

Susanna Wilkey

CONTROVERSIAL planning rules labelled 'draconian' by residents of the Holly Lodge Estate are set to be introduced in Hampstead, Belsize Park and Swiss Cottage.

On Tuesday (February 16) Camden councillors are due to approve the adoption of special conservation measures - known as article four directions - in these three areas.

The scheme will stop residents making minor changes to their homes, such as painting doors, installing satellite dishes or concreting front gardens without planning permission.

Last July, in a dramatic U-turn, the council ditched plans to introduce the scheme on the Holly Lodge estate after a vociferous campaign by residents who branded the plans power-grabbing and a breach of rights over property.

But in Hampstead, Belsize Park and Swiss Cottage residents welcomed the directions which are often a point of contention between conservationists and homeowners.

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Tony Hillier, chairman of the Heath and Hampstead Society, said: "We are very pleased about it. We have been pushing for this for years and it is only since the coalition in Camden came into power that it has been taken seriously. We need these measures because otherwise householders try to do things which are damaging to the locality.

"People mess around with their front gardens and things like that which spoils the area and it is really important to conserve the character."

And Gordon Maclean, the society's planning sub-committee boss and a member of the Belsize Residents' Association, said: "We have been campaigning for this for years and we are delighted the council has now come around to doing it. The consultation process went very well and I am sure this will be a great benefit to the area to protect it for future generations.

"The most important part of it is stopping people concreting over their front gardens for car parking space unless they have planning permission.

"We do not think these measures are draconian at all. It has been a loophole in the system for many years which will now be closed."

Other minor changes to the home affected by the scheme include the type of windows permitted, the appearance of front porches and rooftop alterations such as installing solar panels.

The council carried out consultations in Swiss Cottage, Belsize and Hampstead and around 90 per cent of the 800 who responded were in favour of the move.

Once approved by the council the measures need further approval by the Secretary of State before they come into effect.

Swiss Cottage councillor Andrew Marshall said: "It is good news. A lot of people have wanted this for a long time.

"It is pretty clear from the consultation that people are in favour of these measures and we had a good response from the consultation. It will certainly be helpful in preserving the unique character of these three areas for the future.

"It is not uncommon to have these measures in London and there has been one in Primrose Hill for 20 years. We hope the secretary of state will give approval quickly after the council votes on it.