Arts centre? Rock'n'roll museum? What future for Hampstead Police Station?
Sam Volpe and Michael Boniface
- Credit: Jill Furmanovsky
Hampstead's old police station in Rosslyn Hill is up for sale again, with the Department for Education (DfE) giving up on its battle to turn it into a home for Abacus Belsize Primary School.
Now Hampstead figures are calling for any buyer to make sure the building is open to the community - while a music photographer is keen for it to be come a rock'n'roll museum.
It is understood that an commercial estate agent has been engaged and will market the property in the coming months.
Former Hampstead councillor Linda Chung told this newspaper: "It would be disastrous is it was sold for luxury housing as is the way with many of these properties.
"Any buyer will need to consult with the community about what it would like to have - frankly I think it should be a public building.
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"There could be affordable work space for people, and it could also be a community arts centre - the old magistrates' court is especially suitable for that."
The music museum plan is a passion of Jill Furmanovsky, who founded the rockarchive.com website. A photographer who's snapped some of music's biggest names over the decades, Jill was allowed to take photographs inside the old police station - and her shots highlight the vandalism committed when hundreds of young people held an illegal rave their in October 2020.
Jill snapped the old magistrates' court room - where graffiti including the words "bloodrave" is daubed - and the old police cells.
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She believes that with the music heritage in the area, and the building being owned by the DfE, it's the perfect location for a rock music museum.
She said: "I have campaigned for the police station to be a rock'n'roll museum and been supported by a lot of rock musicians, some local, like Madness, John Etheridge, and Nick Mason of Pink Floyd.
"There are a number of reasons it should be there; partially because it belongs to the Department of Education - and education is what it should be used for.
"In fact it could also be a desk hub for local people too, as some other campaigners have suggested - as it's a huge building."
David Castle, the Heath and Hampstead Society's planning chief, said: "I suppose if it's sold then any developer would now try to put housing there because that's what makes the money.
"But we would like to see at least the lower floor used for some sort of public use. It's very definitely a public building and was designed as a public building."
In December a planning inquiry rejected the DfE's bid - with the Anthem school trust who run Abacus - to move into the police station.
The DfE and Anthem had appealed Camden Council's rejection of a planning application a year earlier.
Andrew Neale from the Hampstead Community for Responsible Development - an interested party in the planning inquiry - said: "We are keen to see the disposal of the site to a responsible developer whose scheme will respect the listed building and conservation area, and the amenity of neighbours, whilst helping to fulfil the local needs of Hampstead.
"To this end various suggestions have been made on beneficial uses, including a local business hub providing a local employment base, and including some community services."
Stephen Taylor, chair of the Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum, added: "The police station has been in public ownership for over a century and could remain so to serve a public purpose.
"To revive Hampstead as a place to work as well as to live, the forum would like to explore ideas about using it as a combined arts and community centre and a business incubator, in line with the mayor’s strategy for high streets and town centres.
"The old normal is now the past. It might be in the public interest for our police station to remain in public hands."
The police station has been empty for the best part of a decade
The DfE said it is working with Anthem to find a new potential location for Abacus.
A Camden Council spokesperson said: "The council would welcome this vacant listed building being brought back into use, any future use would need to be appropriate to the location and preserve the special architectural and historic interest of the building."