Neo-classical mansion 'will dominate Heath'

PLANS for a huge, controversial development on the fringes of Hampstead Heath were revealed to the public last week

Marc Mullen

PLANS for a huge, controversial development on the fringes of Hampstead Heath were revealed to the public last week.

Athlone House Limited, which bought the Victorian house from Dwyer Investments two years ago, is set to apply for planning permission to raze the former nursing home to the ground and replace it with a neo-classical pile more than twice the size.

Last Thursday and Friday, the public were shown designs for the new house at the Holly Lodge Community Centre ahead of the planning application.

The new house, which amenity groups fear will dominate the views from Hampstead Heath, will have underground parking for 18 cars, an underground swimming pool, cinema and gym, a ballroom as well as huge drawing and dining rooms, six bedrooms, two 'belvederes' and staff and guest quarters around an ornate fountain.

Tony Ghilchik, chairman of the Heath sub-committee of the Heath and Hampstead Society, was one of the first to see the plans on Thursday.

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He said: "I don't like to discuss design particularly, as that isn't what we should be basing any decision on. The primary concern is that I can see it dominating the Heath.

"If you look at the pictures based on the view from the Heath, you will see a very large expanse of building from the Stable field just outside Kenwood House. I was rather impressed with the original design of Kenwood House."

Four years ago Dwyer was granted planning permission to build a modern block of 25 apartments, designed by Camden Town architect David Chipperfield, in the grounds of Athlone House and was to renovate the house to its former glory.

The modern flats are still to be built but Athlone House Limited now claims it is not economically viable to renovate the original building.

The Athlone House Working Group, which was set up with various members of the Heath and Hampstead and Highgate Societies to keep a watch on Dwyer's proposals, has lodged a stinging objection to the plans ahead of Camden Council receiving them.

Martin Humphery, vice-president of the Heath and Hampstead Society, said: "The judgement we received in respect of the Garden House is particularly relevant here. This building on the fringes of the Heath is materially larger.

"Camden Council is now aware of the exact legal position with regards to building on Metropoli-tan Open Land since the judgement in the Garden House case."

The new building has been designed by Robert Adam and would have four green copper turrets and be made of a light Bath stone.

Mystery still surrounds the new owner. A spokesman for Athlone House Limited refused to reveal this person's identity but said the new house would be used as a family home.

Robert Bulford from Robert Adam architects said: "It will be a family house satisfying the needs that a wealthy family has. They plan to take part in local activities, particularly to do with the Heath, which they see as something worth cherishing."