Inquiry into New End nurses’ hostel plans renews fight for schoolchildren’s safety

Primary school pupils protest against the New End development inside Camden Town Hall. Picture: Diet

Primary school pupils protest against the New End development inside Camden Town Hall. Picture: Dieter Perry - Credit: Archant

A battle to protect the safety of hundreds of schoolchildren was renewed this week as opponents turned up in their droves for the start of a planning inquiry into luxury flats plans.

Developers are bidding to overturn a unanimous decision by Camden Council last year to stop them demolishing a derelict nurses’ hostel in New End, Hampstead, and replacing it with a seven-story block of 17 luxury properties and a triple-depth basement car park.

The plans sparked about 50 parents and residents to come out fighting once again on the first day of an eight-day planning inquiry in Euston on Tuesday.

They are furiously opposed to the development proposals from Karawana Holdings Ltd, which is based in the British Virgin Islands.

Barrister Mary Cook, who spoke on behalf of opponents to the scheme, said: “The appellants seem to be walking along a narrow tightrope.”

She argued that the developers downplayed the importance of the building’s history as housing for NHS nurses, and its contribution to the Hampstead streetscape.

Barrister Russell Harris QC, on behalf of Karawana Holdings Ltd, dismissed the claims.

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He said the development would provide “much-needed housing” in Hampstead.

Opponents object to the scheme’s lack of affordable housing, design, large number of car parking spaces and the size of the proposed 36ft basement.

However, their principle concern is for the safety of the hundreds of schoolchildren who attend one of three nearby primary schools - New End, Heathside and Christ Church.

They fear that a child could be seriously hurt by one of the trucks which would drive in and out of New End every 11 minutes, if plans were approved by the Planning Inspectorate.

It led schoolchildren, parents and teachers to cry “We don’t need no excavation” at a protest at the planning committee hearing last year before plans were rejected by Camden Council in November 2013.

The inquiry continues until December 12.