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Highgate residents fight 'time warp' rules

PUBLISHED: 16:25 21 May 2009 | UPDATED: 16:13 07 September 2010

Katie Davies Residents on a Highgate estate are opposing proposals for rules preventing them from making minor changes to their homes without council permission. The Ham&High exclusively revealed in January that the planning restrictions – called Article

Katie Davies

Residents on a Highgate estate are opposing proposals for rules preventing them from making minor changes to their homes without council permission.

The Ham&High exclusively revealed in January that the planning restrictions - called Article 4 directions - were being put forward by Camden Council for Belsize, Hampstead, and Highgate's Holly Lodge Estate conservation areas.

The rules mean they would have to get permission for changes such as installing burglar alarms and satellite dishes or painting front doors.

Since then the Holly Lodge contingent has surveyed all residents and hosted a series of meetings to plan how they can oppose the move.

Resident Chris Jackson, 45, said: "The feeling is that these measures really are a step too far. These are people's homes and they will, in effect, be turned into listed buildings.

"You wouldn't be able to change your windows or porch without employing an architect or a draftsman to make scale drawings to submit to the council for permission.

"Stainless steel letterboxes wouldn't be allowed or modern lights. The planning department complains that it is overstretched but they are buying themselves work with this."

The council gave a presentation last month pointing out the difference between well-preserved homes and "carbuncles" in consultation with residents.

Even that initial move met opposition - upsetting residents who hadn't been asked for permission for their homes to be photographed and included.

The consultation questions were also accused of being leading. The first asked if residents agreed it was "important to protect the special appearance and historic features of the Holly Lodge Estate". The second asked the extent to which residents "support the proposals to introduce special planning measures to protect the appearance of the Holly Lodge Estate".

Residents plan to take their own survey results to the town hall today (May 21) for the consultation deadline, as well as responses to the questionnaire.

Estate resident Frances Haig, 52, said: "Everyone buys a house here for the Heath, for the fact it is close to schools and the easiness to get to the West End - not the colour of their neighbour's front door.

"One man said at our meeting that he wants to live in the 21st century and have things that make his life comfortable. But the council wants us to go back in time. The houses here are now very expensive and people who spend more than £1million on a house don't want to live in a time warp so they will stop buying."

The controversial plans have also strained relations between residents and those who lead their conservation committee.

Some claim that the committee's insistence on opposing development in the area has made councillors presume residents want tighter rules.

In April 2008, the committee also discussed the Article 4 measures with ward councillors and suggested their support. But at a public meeting last week, most members of the conservation body were won round by those opposing the measures. Now the mutual aim is to get the rules stopped.

Camden councillor Andrew Marshall said there may need to be a review of the policy given the opposition from residents.

"It was our understanding that there was local interest in doing this in the Holly Lodge Estate among those most involved in conservation," he said.

"This is why we are consulting on it. If they are not in favour, it is not going to happen.


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