Harry Hallowes: Former squatter’s plot of land sold to private bidder at auction
- Credit: Archant
A half-acre plot of Hampstead Heath was sold to a private buyer for £154,000 in an auction today, adding fuel to conservationists’ fears that it could be developed
The plot, which is below the private gardens for Athlone House, was auctioned by homelessness charities, Shelter and Centrepoint to raise money. It was bequeathed to them in 2016 on the death of Harry Hallowes, a homeless man awarded squatter’s rights to the land after living there for 20 years.
The charities elected for a public auction, rejecting a private offer from City of London Corporation (CoL) and the 121-year-old Heath and Hampstead Society, who wanted to acquire the land to incorporate it back into the surrounding Heath.
CoL’s Hampstead Heath management committee chairman Karina Dostalova said: “We are very disappointed that the land has been put up for public auction.
“This land is entirely surrounded by Hampstead Heath which must be protected from the threat of development to safeguard the ecology and unique character of the Heath.
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“We will vigorously enforce all legal restrictions possible which are in place to protect Hampstead Heath. Any requests for vehicle access to the land via the Heath, and any applications for underground supplies for power, water and gas will be refused.”
Planning laws prevent any development on the plot, meaning it can only legally be used as a garden.
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Heath and Hampstead Society chairman Marc Hutchinson said: “There is always a risk that, if the land remains in private hands, it will become subjected to attempted development, contrary to Harry’s known wishes and to the detriment of the surrounding Heath.”
However, Ms Dostalova added that even legal alterations to the land, such as chopping down the trees, could do ecological damage to wildlife species.
The charity, which spends more than £5m a year to maintain the Heath, said it made its original offer based on independent evaluations.
In a joint statement, the charities said they would put funds raised by the sale directly into the vital work that Harry wanted to be his legacy.