Hundreds mount campaign to save Highgate parade from bulldozers

A campaign to stop a parade of independent shops from being knocked down and replaced with a block of flats is gathering pace as hundreds of people pledge their support to save Swains Lane.

More than 300 people attended a public meeting at St Anne’s Church, in Highgate West Hill, on Wednesday of last week to discuss the controversial proposals.

Shopkeepers and residents believe the development will destroy the area’s village feel and charm.

Members of the audience gasped in shock as architect drawings were presented during the meeting which planning consultant, Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners, chose not to attend even though they were invited.

Among the speakers was a local resident who said: “In 1865 Hampstead Heath was designated as fair ground and preserved for the city as a place of escape. A place to unwind.

“It was nicknamed the lungs of London because people came here to breath. And if the Heath is the lungs of London, Swains Lane is a vital airway.”

He added: “We have a responsibility not just to protect this area for our local community, but for many other Londoners too.”

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Gordon Forbes, of the Highgate Society, said: “The existing building has been run-down and architecturally they are not worth saving.

“The four-storey building would detract from the view of the spire of St Anne’s Church, thus changing the character.

“St Anne’s spire is so cherishable. Nothing should be done to detract from that view.”

Tony Edwards, an architect, said the area did not need a “fake neo-Georgian building” declaring: “If we build fakes, future generations will only remember us for fakes”.

Jack Shorn, owner of Fitzroy’s estate agents, added: “If this development goes ahead we will lose not only the shops directly affected by the developer but also the other shops along Swains Lane.

“The butchers won’t survive, the chemist will suffer. The florist will go. There are a number of people who will lose their livelihoods.

“If we do take one of the units, where will we go for two years while it is being built?”

At the end of the meeting, there was a general feeling of disappointment that after two previous unsuccessful attempts to submit a plan on the site, residents were not consulted before the new designs were unveiled at an exhibition in July.

There is also a desire for the community to be part of the design process.

The campaigners have now set up a Facebook group, Twitter feed and website which has been inundated with support.

Robert Schoenbeck, from Swains Lane Residents’ Association, said: “Things are really gearing up.

“The general feeling is, we will not accept what has been put forward.

“We are willing to work with the developer to come up with an alternative, but everyone raised their hand in opposition at the end of the meeting.

“We are opposed to this.”

To keep up to date with the campaign visit Save Swains Lane Facebook group, follow on Twitter hashtag #saveswainslane or email