South Hampstead families are 'collateral damage' in council development

Susan Zur-Szpiro and her son Saul who is autistic, stand in their garden in Goldhurst Terrace

Susan Zur-Szpiro and her son Saul who is autistic, are frustrated by Camden's development work to their garden's rear. Saul has a medical condition which means he's hypersensitive to noise and their garden has become unusable - Credit: Polly Hancock

Families in South Hampstead are upset after work on a Camden Council development allegedly caused cracks to appear in their garden walls – and after the council revealed plans to move a noisy heat pump closer to their homes. 

Neighbours Anna Nasser and Susan Zur-Szpiro are among those whose homes back on to the health centre being built as part of phase two of the council's Abbey development. 

A cracked garden wall in South Hampstead

Susan Zur-Szpiro and Anna Nasser are both adamant that Camden construction work has caused cracks in their boundary walls - Credit: Polly Hancock

The development is focussed around the junctions of Abbey Road and Belsize Road, and received planning permission last autumn.

Anna and Susan say little attention has been paid to the impact on those who live backing onto the construction work in Goldhurst Terrace. 

Susan's son Saul is autistic and hypersensitive to sound. He is reliant on the garden for vital physiotherapy, which will put him close to the heat pump's planned location. 

She said: "He finds most noises really impossible. He'll struggle to use much of the garden because of this. The council should make a reasonable adjustment because of this."

A new health centre towers over gardens in Goldhurst Terrace, South Hampstead

South Hampstead neighbours were surprised when Camden decided to build its new health centrefor the Abbey Estate right above their rear gardens - Credit: Polly Hancock

The council's contractor has now applied to put a heat pump previously planned for the building's roof at ground level next to back walls on Goldhurst Terrace.

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Susan added: "It's the imposition of a building that's so out of place. We have lived in this house since 1986 and it towers over our garden."

The neighbours say consultation around the development did not see them contacted, although the council says it sent letters to Goldhurst Terrace addresses.

Planning permission for the centre was granted in November 2020. This application surprised residents as the health centre was much closer to their homes than had been previously suggested. Outline permission for the wider Abbey redevelopment – including homes on the other side of Abbey and Belsize Roads – was first granted in 2013. 

Anna said: "They've cracked our walls, and said it wasn't their fault. But it's like we are collateral damage for what they are trying to do."

A Camden Council spokesperson said the development would deliver "much-needed community facilities", and added: "As part of the sheet piling works, we received reports that existing cracks have widened, along with new cracks developing. Our contractor appointed an engineer to attend the site and completed a survey report so we can assess any damage caused by the works and agree how best to fix it."