Heath road plans scuppered
Susanna Wilkey PROTESTERS against the proposed tarmac road on Hampstead Heath claimed a huge victory this week when the City of London Corporation was denied vital funding for the project. The Parliament Hill triangle masterplan now looks unlikely to go a
PROTESTERS against the proposed tarmac road on Hampstead Heath claimed a huge victory this week when the City of London Corporation was denied vital funding for the project.
The Parliament Hill triangle masterplan now looks unlikely to go ahead after the Heritage Lottery Fund rejected the Corporation's application for �2.6million through its Parks For People scheme because it offered 'limited value for money'.
More than 10,000 people who joined the Say No To The Road petition, including comedian Michael Palin and Madness singer Suggs, now hope the plans will be scrapped.
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Campaign organiser Ros Bayley said: "We are very relieved that the City will have to rethink its plans. Ten thousand people have said no to the road by signing our petition. The Corporation cannot continue to justify its proposal to build the road on the strength of the 132 people who responded to the 2008 consultation.
"And questions must be asked about the effectiveness of the Heath Consultative Committee as official guardian of the Heath. The committee was still endorsing the road proposal without question as late as March, despite overwhelming evidence that Heath users in their thousands were vehemently opposed."
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Campaigner Stephen Greensted said: "Common sense has prevailed. Our campaign has all been worth it and it could not have happened without the help of the Ham&High.
"There seems to be a huge pressure to build on the Heath these days and it is very alarming. People feel really passionately about this much-loved open space. They call it the green lung of London, and we are all very relieved by the decision."
Campaigners handed their petition to the Corporation and the Heritage Lottery Fund in March in a bid to stop the road, which was one part of a 20-year masterplan which also included improving the entranceways, an upgraded lido, relocation of the Parliament Hill depot to Kenwood Yard and office space for the superintendent's management team as well as work on the athletics track.
It would have been part funded by the lottery with an additional �1.7million from the Corporation. Objectors felt the Corporation steamrollered the plans, consulting people in August when many people were away on holiday.
Residents objected to the proposed road not only because it is not environmentally friendly but also because it would cut through a footpath linking Lissenden Gardens with the Heath. It is used daily by hundreds of school children, mothers with buggies, dog walkers and pedestrians.
Objector Jonathan Futrell said: "We are pleased someone has thought twice about this and said that this is the wrong thing to be doing on Hampstead Heath.
"We were all surprised by the level of support from the public who really got behind it. Hampstead Heath is a really lovely part of London and totally unique - there is nowhere else like it and people are afraid that the special nature of it will be chipped away by schemes like this. We are delighted that lottery money is not going to be spent on this plan."
The corporation is now reviewing the plans. Chairman of the Hampstead Heath management committee, Bob Hall, described the decision as 'disappointing.'
"Although the funding we sought is not available on this occasion, we will be reviewing what might be done to implement the overall direction of the plan which formed the basis of the application.
"The City of London is committed to ensuring improvements and developments which take place at Parliament Hill Fields and across the Heath not only respect the environment but contribute to progressive implementation of sustainable ways of managing the Heath, and allow as many as possible to enjoy their visits."
Mr Hall has reached the end of his period in office and a new committee chairman will be elected on May 22.
Among the front runners is Michael Welbank, currently the deputy chairman.