Fury as AIR studios basement petition backed by George Michael could count for nothing

A petition backed by George Michael may not be valid

A petition backed by George Michael may not be valid - Credit: Archant

An 11,000-strong protest against a basement development that could force Hampstead’s AIR studios to close may be completely meaningless due to a planning loophole.

A basement excavation could put the famous recording venue AIR studios out of action

A basement excavation could put the famous recording venue AIR studios out of action - Credit: Nigel Sutton

As reported in the Ham&High, more than 11,000 people have signed a petition with popstar George Michael and actress Joanna Lumley among scores of others who have objected to the scheme.

The plans were submitted last April by Andrew and Elizabeth Jeffreys, to build a swimming pool, gym, sauna and cinema under their Georgian house in Rosslyn Hill next to the world famous studios,

Studio bosses fear the noise and vibrations from the excavations means they will be forced to close for up to six months which could threaten its future.

But in December, the Jeffreys submitted a brand new application without any consultation.

According to planners, all correspondence and objections to the first application cannot now apply to the new application, rendering it meaningless.

Air studios boss Paul Woolf said: “It was submitted just before the Christmas holiday period. We came across the new application purely by chance after the New Year.

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“Mr and Mrs Jeffreys have been quoted as saying they are committed to working closely with all their neighbours during the planning process. But we were not consulted.”

When Mr Woolf approached Camden council to check if the petition and letters would be carried over to the new application, they wrote: “Objections to one application are not automatically copied over to subsequent applications as the Council cannot assume that the original objector wishes to object to the subsequent application. So if people are consulted about a new application they would have to lodge an objection about that application, even if they had already objected to a previous application”

Mr Woolf said: “It is a logistical nightmare. We have spent £40,000 on fighting the first application in legal fees and experts reports. Now we are having to ask them all to look again at the new application. On first glance they cannot see any differences to the first application”

Mr Woolf has sent out a letter to as many supporters as he can urging them to resubmit their letters of objections with the new planning applications numbers 2015/7079/P & 2015/7300/L. The petition has been adjusted to refer to the new applications in the hope that it can then be considered.

Hampstead solicitor Jessica Learmond-Criqui, who has helped coordinate the protest, said: “This shows that planning laws are not fit for purpose and need to be changed to stop people exploiting them.”

With its unrivalled acoustics, AIR Studios, based in the Grade II-listed former church and missionary school Lyndhurst Hall, is one of only two recording studios in the UK to provide score recording services to the major film industry.

Mrs and Mrs Jeffreys architect, Thomas Croft, said submitting a second application was “standard procedure in a project of this nature” and that the current application had been revised in response to objections already recieved.

He said: “We are more than happy to ask the council to append all petitions and comments to the second application to ensure they are heard.”

“We would like to underline that we have made numerous requests in writing to meet AIR Studios’s owners in full listening mode to discuss how disruption to them can be minimised, but to date AIR Studios have refused to meet with us. Our strong objective throughout this process has been to find a way to accommodate the work with the absolute minimum of disruption to any other party.

“With this in mind the current planning application has already been substantially revised in response to objections we have received. We remain very keen to meet with AIR Studios’s owners to find an amicable and practical solution to ensure the building work can be carried out whilst the studio stays open.”