A neighbourhood’s dream vision for Highgate: a bat haven, mushroom farm, and a green festival

A haven for bats, a green festival and a mushroom farm – the people of Highgate have spoken and this is what they want for their neighbourhood.

An army of volunteers have published a unique vision for how they would like the community to look over the next 15 years as part of a government-approved pressure group known as Highgate Neighbourhood Forum.

More than 50 people have worked tirelessly for nearly three years to write a 100-page plan detailing opportunities for new housing developments and community facilities – including grassy walkways and an educational centre for children.

Their suggestions range from how to protect the area from so-called “mega-mansions” to more fantastic ideas for environmental projects, such as a nature reserve for bats currently housed in a disused railway tunnel along the Parkland Walk, and a fungi farm.

Forum chairman Rachel Allison said: “I think it does reflect the Highgate community.”

The former Haringey Lib Dem councillor added: “It’s about proving that Highgate isn’t full of nimbys and that we are happy to see housing here, providing it is reasonable and it is in keeping with the area. Most people here have had enough of basements and mega-mansions.”

The neighbourhood forum was the first of its kind to be set up in Camden and Haringey in 2012 under the Localism Act, which gives residents the power to shape the future of their communities.

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It is also one of the first in the country to cover two boroughs, after the Highgate Society successfully lobbied the government to amend the Localism Act to allow cross-borough forums to exist.

The plan, published on Monday, highlights the need for more affordable housing and specialist developments for older people.

However, it stresses the need to protect the area’s precious open spaces such as Hampstead Heath and Highgate Woods and to ensure any new development enhances Highgate’s beloved semi-rural feel.

Ms Allison said: “We need to keep the unique nature of our open spaces. What we don’t want to happen is turn them into Central Park with skyscrapers surrounding it and a green space in the middle.”

Potential sites for development include the former Highgate Railway Station off Archway Road, which the Forum proposes could be transformed into a business or educational centre.

The volunteers also suggest that the stretch of open land known as Highgate Bowl, on which developers have unsuccessfully tried for 50 years to build luxury housing, should be kept as publicly accessibly open land.

A six-week consultation on the plan began on Monday. Comment by visiting highgateneighbourhoodforum.org.uk or by going to workshops at the Highgate Society in South Grove from 2pm until 4pm on Saturday or at Jacksons Lane centre in Archway Road from 3pm until 5pm on Saturday, January 17.