Homes on Highgate Bowl would spoil historic land, inquiry hears

Controversial plans to build on a prized piece of open land would spoil a historic part of Highgate, a planning inquiry has heard.

Residents made an impassioned plea to the planning inspector to uphold Haringey Council’s decision to refuse plans for three luxury homes on the Highgate Bowl site behind Highgate High Street.

Jane Hill, who lives adjacent to the site at The Cottage, said the land was “rich with heritage” but has been the target of repeated development attempts over the past 50 years.

She said: “The bowl should not be built upon at all. Not become residential at all. We currently have black nights and all is quiet when the garden centre closes, except for the creatures who live in the bowl.

“We are very fortunate, as a London village, to still have backland, and may they remain.

“It would set a dangerous precedent to isolate this site from the others.”

The council last year turned down a bid by R&D developers to build on the 11-acre site, citing the existing owners’ failure to provide evidence that the garden centre business located there is no longer feasible.

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Mary Cook, representing the developers, warned the centre could close “within a year or two” because the building is deteriorating.

Speaking at the public hearing last week, Michael Hammerson, vice president of the Highgate Society, said the bowl was a “prized community asset” that residents were determined to protect.

He said: “It has significant potential for community use and should not be lost to a closed private development, however carefully designed, well-landscaped and putatively award-winning.

“There are few, if any, such assets in the Highgate area with such potential, and of such critical importance to the character of the area. Not merely for its openness but for the limited access which the public still enjoys.”

Mr Hammerson also said the society would set up a Neighbourhood Forum under the new Localism Act, which would give residents power to raise money to try and buy assets with community value – which could include the Bowl.

But Ms Cook said the housing development would enhance the conservation area and there was “no evidence” the Highgate Society had funds for such a takeover.

A decision is expected in early April after the four day planning inquiry finished last Friday (February 10).