Neighbours at war over bid for ‘equivalent of housing estate on edge of Hampstead Heath’

Friends of Millfield Lane campaigners

Friends of Millfield Lane campaigners - Credit: Archant

The equivalent of a housing estate could be built on the edge of Hampstead Heath as soon as next year, according to campaigners at loggerheads with their future Highgate neighbours.

Water House off Millfield Lane

Water House off Millfield Lane - Credit: Archant

But the owners of both properties are fighting for their right to build their dream family homes against a 3,500-strong swell of opposition.

It has been six years in the making, but financier Paul Munford could soon see his ambitious plans approved for a four-bedroom home with basement to replace the Water House, opposite the entrance to Kenwood Ladies’ Pond, when the application goes before a planning committee on January 14.

But proposals submitted for 53 Fitzroy Park just yards away to build a mansion with a three-storey basement have prompted concerns of overdevelopment on this fringe of the Heath.

Karen Beare, Fitzroy Park neighbour and member of the Friends of Millfield Lane campaign group, said: “How can a normal, reasonable person think this is reasonable? It’s easy to characterise us as Nimbys but nothing could be further from the truth.”

Fitzroy Place

Fitzroy Place - Credit: Archant

Together, the proposed new homes total more than 22,000sq ft of development – the equivalent of a small estate of 23 three-bedroom homes each at the average UK size of about 925sq ft.

It could mean nearly 2,000 heavy-goods vehicles (HGVs) use semi-rural track Millfield Lane and Fitzroy Park over at least a two-year period – nearly 700 more than for the entire Hampstead Heath Ponds Project. The use of Millfield Lane in particular has infuriated residents and Kenwood Ladies’ Pond swimmers, who claim heavy lorries could damage the road and endanger pedestrians.

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But Mr Munford, of Hampstead, argues that the majority of works to the Water House will be done while the Kenwood Ladies’ Pond is closed for the dams project so as to cause the minimum amount of disruption.

He also claims that campaigners rejected his olive branch proposal for lorries to use Fitzroy Park instead of Millfield Lane.

The 50-year-old said: “All I’m trying to do is to create a beautiful house that will add to the unique and special character of Highgate and I will do this with minimal disruption to the Heath users in building my family a new home.”

Contrary to rumours, Camden Council and Mr Munford said Millfield Lane will not close during the two-year construction works.

The Water House bid, first submitted in 2011, has prompted nearly 3,500 people to sign a petition urging council planners to refuse the proposal. It was launched last month by the Friends of Millfield Lane, which is made up of various conservation and amenity groups including the Highgate Society and the Heath&Hampstead Society.

A spokesman for the owners of 53 Fitzroy Park, Svetlana Volossov and her husband, said: “There is existing permission in place for a contemporary-style building.

“This application seeks to provide a classical-style building. The officers have considered and assessed the plans and we are very pleased that there is a recommendation for approval.

“This application has to be considered in light of the existing permission, which was tested all the way to judicial review.”