Former architect slams ambitious plans for school

A LEADING environmentalist from Hampstead has lodged a four-page objection to ambitious redevelopment plans for a school on his doorstep

Ben McPartland

A LEADING environmentalist from Hampstead has lodged a four-page objection to ambitious redevelopment plans for a school on his doorstep.

Dr Mayer Hillman, who lives in Netherhall Gardens, has written to the council in opposition to South Hampstead School's plans to demolish its old Victorian building as part of a multi-million pound revamp.

The redevelopment at the £10,500-a-year independent in Maresfield Gardens will double the size of the school, whose alumni include actress Helena Bonham Carter.

But Mr Hillman, a former architect and planner who is the author of numerous reports and books on ecological issues, said: "We are in a conservation area and if that means anything, it means you have to preserve or enhance and these news proposals can hardly be described as enhancing the area.

"The site is just not big enough for so many pupils and it's extra-ordinary they should attempt to do this. It is like trying to fit a quart into a pint pot. There isn't enough room to swing a cat in there."

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The application was supposed to be filed with Camden Council last autumn but was delayed because school bosses and architects wanted to discuss the scheme with residents.

Mr Hillman sent his extensive objection letter to the Town Hall last week, since he believes nothing has changed since the original proposals were shown to local people.

"In the architects' report they mention 'after consultation with residents' but that is a bit cheeky. They organised two meetings and on the basis of a few people turning up, they say that was consultation. They certainly didn't change plans in light of comments we made," he said.

Ian Williams from Haskoll Architects and Designers is the man behind the scheme and has defended his plans.

He said: "We did make a lot of amendments and Mr Hillman was the instigator of many of those changes. He did very well.

"We have done a lot of consultation and we have taken on board some of the comments made. There is still misinformation and rumours out there. I can never say we have satisfied the local residents because they hear what they wish to hear.

"We have tried to consult with 1,500 residents but very few actually turned up to our two public meetings."

Mr Williams wanted to make clear that any trucks coming and going from the site would do so from College Crescent and not Maresfield Gardens as some residents have feared.

The proposals are due to go before Camden Council's planning bosses in the coming weeks.