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55 Fitzroy Park: Community petition over Heath-side development gets 3,000 signatures but developers ‘don’t want a fight’

PUBLISHED: 16:42 06 March 2019

Campaigners from regular Heath users including swimmers, runners, dog walkers, residents and allotment holders petition to prevent exessive development of nearby plots in Fitzroy Park. Pictured front Mary Powell and Nicky Mayhew from KLPA

Campaigners from regular Heath users including swimmers, runners, dog walkers, residents and allotment holders petition to prevent exessive development of nearby plots in Fitzroy Park. Pictured front Mary Powell and Nicky Mayhew from KLPA

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Community groups in Highgate are up in arms over plans they say will “irrevocably damage” Millfield Lane on the border of Hampstead Heath.

An artist's impression of one of the homes planned for 55 Fitzroy Park. Picture; Adam ClemensAn artist's impression of one of the homes planned for 55 Fitzroy Park. Picture; Adam Clemens

The Turner-Stokes and Springer families have submitted a planning application that would see five new homes built for them on the plot of 55 Fitzroy Park.

The site currently has one home and a tennis court on it. The plans would see Geoffrey Springer build three homes for Professor Lynne Turner-Stokes and her daughters, in return for space to build the other two for his own family.

But groups including the Heath and Hampstead Society, the Highgate Society, the City of London Corporation, and even the women of the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond Assocation have all spoken out against the plans, and a petition started by a new coalition group, the Friends of Millfield Lane, has gathered more than 3,000 signatures.

The Heath and Hampstead Society’s planning committee chair David Castle told the Ham&High: “The gardens are one thing we worry about. It’s actually got a spring-fed pond, and the environment of it hasn’t changed since Victorian times.

An artist's impression of plans for 55 Fitzroy Park. Picture: Adam Clemens / Fathom ArchitectsAn artist's impression of plans for 55 Fitzroy Park. Picture: Adam Clemens / Fathom Architects

“The proposal is to tear down the existing house and build five new detached ones. I think that’s rather a pity for Fitzroy Park.

“Two will be close to and seen from Millfield Lane – really, that’s a development of Millfield Lane.”

David added he also had concerns over whether these two properties would be using access points on Millfield Avenue, but the developers reiterated to this newspaper that this is not going to be the case.

Highgate Society vice-President Michael Hammerson confirmed the society was also standing alongside the other community groups against the development.

He said: “The society is certainly supporting the petition and working with other local groups and the City of London to oppose what we believe is a significant overdevelopment which will not only be against local policies but will cause significant harm to Hampstead Heath.”

Nicky Mayhew of the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond Association added: “I am very concerned that was is being proposed – building such a density of houses on that site and particularly the two facing Millfield Lane will be a profound change to the environment of Millfield Lane.

“I think it will be irrevocably changed. Most of our members care very deeply about the Heath and are protective of it. ”

The City of London confirmed it was opposed to the plans.

A spokesperson said: “The City of London Corporation objects to the 55 Fitzroy Park Planning Application.

“The proposed development could cause substantial negative impacts on the adjoining Hampstead Heath, a site of interest for nature conservation that is of national and regional importance.”

Geoffrey Springer told the Ham&High:I’m not out for a fight – we want to work with the council and the community, but of course we want to build this.”

The petition cites a number of missing documents that residents’ groups claim should have been submitted to Camden Council.

But Geoffrey disputes this, and has written to the council disputing more than 100 complaints made in relation to the plans.

He said: “We have nothing to hide. We have done the basement impact assessments, we have done the hydrology assessments. I have responded to every point made and referenced where we deal with it. Someone said the basements would be 2.5 to 3m – that’s not the case, and we’ve shown the measurements.”

The developer said the project came about after Professor Turner-Stokes was impressed by a property further up the road that he had built.

Geoffrey added: “What’s a pain is that you’ve got people who are always going to object to development when it backs on to their gardens.

“The City of London opposes everything that borders the Heath. Find me a development they’ve supported! It’s a deterrence strategy.”

The families are waiting for lawyers to give opinions on how this alters the officially designated “private open space” on the site, but expect to make final submissions on that in the next week. They argue the plans will improve access to this, as the public will be able to see the historic pond from Fitzroy Park, and even see through to the Heath, but campaigners are concerned that building on the space would be detrimental to the area.

The plans are expected to come before the planning committee in May or June this year.

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