Long history and another side to the Montessori story

I was very saddened to read your story (Nursery threatened as neighbours fight, H&H May 14). I was part of that story until last year, since I lived in the flat that Dr and Mrs Flower bought above the Montessori school in Chalcot Gardens. I feel it s time

I was very saddened to read your story (Nursery threatened as neighbours fight, H&H May 14). I was part of that story until last year, since I lived in the flat that Dr and Mrs Flower bought above the Montessori school in Chalcot Gardens. I feel it's time the other part of the story be told.

Up until the end of 2007, there was no conservatory at the school. I lived there for 16 years and apart from the odd gripe about the increasing number of mothers who insisted on dropping their children off in what is a very narrow and quiet backwater off England's Lane, we lived there perfectly happily.

Over those 16 years, the school acquired a small lean-to, which was used to house the parents when it was raining. After a while, this needed attention. In the space of a week, the lean-to was demolished and a brutal aluminium and brick structure three times its size was built in its place so that the school could expand.

This shocked me since my precious view of the garden (which without putting too fine a point on it, was one of the unique features of the flat when I purchased it) was completely spoiled. More importantly, when sitting on my balcony, I now looked down straight into the school, and more worryingly for them, the children could look straight up at me.

This was totally unacceptable firstly on a legal basis, because this structure did not have planning permission. I would have objected strongly to it. and the new owners of the basement/ground floor flat suddenly found to their horror, a day after buying the flat, a structure being erected in which the children could look straight into their flat, too.

Part of the original agreement when the school was granted planning permission in the 80s was that it should keep within the physical limits of the building and not spread into the garden. In fact, it was listed as being a "Packaway Playgroup", but let's not argue about semantics.

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Secondly, on a purely moral basis, you would have thought that after 16 years of neighbourliness, I would have been consulted about any changes that affected my flat so deeply.

When I invited owners Joanna and Hazel Morfey up to my flat to see how terrible this structure was for me, they just shrugged their shoulders. I was amused to see Mrs Morfey claim that the "parents were delighted with the new conservatory because it was very light and spacious for the children"; well, that's fine for them, they don't have to live above it.

I realised that the problem with being a leaseholder is that the freeholder can seemingly do these things unless challenged by law and so I sold the flat to the Flowers (whom I have known for over 40 years) in the hope that they would buy the freehold to stop any similar future action.

Indeed, cynical readers might deduce that the Morfeys tried to increase the value of the basement flat by peremptorily building a conservatory. And your article is right in that when the enfranchisement process started, the Morfeys tried to include this illegal conservatory in their square footage calculation and then the fuss broke, resulting in Camden Council getting involved.

This came up before the development committee when the Morfeys tried to get retrospective planning permission for the new structure: 23 positive opinions on the new conservatory were submitted to the committee - mostly from parents of children who go to the nursery, ranging from "easy access to the garden for little people" to "the complaint was lodged by someone who doesn't like the school".

The six opinions against were all from people who lived at or next door to the premises. The committee rejected the request and have demanded that the structure be demolished.

Of course Hazel and Joanna feel aggrieved and have said that if the conservatory is demolished, that is the end of the school. Well, I don't see if that way. The nursery existed perfectly well without the conservatory for the 16 years I was there and indeed beforehand.

This is not a matter of disliking the school or 'wanting control of the garden' as was implied in your article. I ask the Morfeys to consider how they would have felt if the new owners of number 10 had arbitrarily constructed a huge structure in their back garden which impinged upon the nursery: that's how I felt when I lived there and that's what this dispute is all about.

G Posner

Crispin Mews, NW11


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