Heritage fears over Highgate Bowl housing development

Jane Hill (right) outside Shepherd's Cottage with conservation consultant Conor Meehan

Jane Hill (right) outside Shepherd's Cottage with conservation consultant Conor Meehan - Credit: Jane Hill

An art historian says she fears for the future of the Highgate Bowl and predicts a “domino effect” of developments that will damage the area’s heritage.  

In November a planning application was approved to build seven mews houses in Townsend Yard on Highgate Bowl land - despite opposition including the Highgate Society and the Highgate Neighbourhood Forum. The site has been identified as suitable for development since 2017.  

Jane Hill, whose Grade II listed house of 20 years, Shepherd’s Cottage, will sit next to the development, said she was left “devastated” by the decision – and that the proposals are inconsiderate of the natural surroundings.  

But Stephen Davy Peter Smith Architects, on behalf of site owner Sean Meadows, said the plans are of “extremely high quality”, and that the mews layout will help create a “community atmosphere”.

The Highgate Bowl is a stretch of open backland running north of Highgate High Street, which campaigners have fought for decades to protect.

Jane said: “I think there will be a domino effect. Bit by bit, what is designated or understood to be the backland and the Highgate Bowl, is being whittled down.” 

She added: “It's absolutely not a case of ‘not in my back yard’.  

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“I've just always thought of myself as the guardian of this late 17th century building, and this rare place.”

Shepherd's Cottage resident Jane Hill

Shepherd's Cottage resident Jane Hill - Credit: Jane Hill

Elspeth Clements, chair of the Highgate Society, said the works could have a “highly damaging” impact on a listed building.  

“The granting of this application for seven houses up to three storeys in height was seriously flawed and needs further examination,” she said.  

Highgate Neighbourhood Forum committee member Martin Adeney said: “The forum is particularly concerned about its impact on one of Highgate's oldest and most historic buildings, the neighbouring cottage and its foundations.   

“It calls for a revision of the plans to reduce their proximity to the cottage and for a construction plan designed to protect it during operations.” 

Townsend Yard, where the development will take place

Townsend Yard, where the development will take place - Credit: Jane Hill

A Stephen Davy Peter Smith Architects spokesperson said a heritage consultant was engaged for the plans and that the development would respect Highgate’s history. 

They said that, being from Highgate himself, lead architect Stephen Davy is “very conscious of the sensitivity of the site given his own personal experiences of the yard going back to the mid '70s".

The spokesperson said the mews plan is "the best way to conserve the Victorian folly on the Eastern boundary of the site”. 

No date for building works has been set.