Residents step up fight against major development to Highgate centre

The Friends of Highgate Newtown Community Centre hand in their petition. Photo: Jon Levy

The Friends of Highgate Newtown Community Centre hand in their petition. Photo: Jon Levy - Credit: Archant

As plans to demolish a well-loved Highgate community centre are put forward, neighbours are making their opinions clear to council planners

The site of the Highgate Newtown Community Centre and Fresh Youth Academy in Bertram Street will be demolished if a Camden Council scheme is given the go-ahead.

Architects RCKa hope to provide new “fit for purpose” buildings, providing space for the community centre and increasing the size of the Fresh Youth Academy, a young people’s support service.

There will be a sports hall as well as rentable space, to raise funding for the community centre.

Most controversially, there will also be 31 private homes, to bolster funding for the community services, but no affordable housing.

Planners argue the housing is needed to help fund the community benefits and support.

The Friends of Highgate Newtown Community Centre (HNCC), a group of neighbours, delivered a 320-strong paper petition to Camden Council on Thursday last week.

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They also gave in 60 private letters of objection at the same time.

Campaigners say they are “unequivocal” about their support for the community centre, which holds well-being sessions and arts and crafts.

But they object to the bulk of private housing that is planned for the site.

They are concerned it will dwarf the other Bertram Street buildings, a conservation area.

And they feel they cannot support a development which offers no affordable housing.

Campaigner Mal Mitchell said: “The strength of feeling and the wide range of concerns about the council’s latest proposals for the centre are shown by the petition signatures and letters now going in Camden’s direction.

“If Camden is genuinely interested in what kind of facility local residents would like to have, and if it really cares to know what we’re making efforts to avoid being imposed on the neighbourhood, it should do what it too often only pretends to do – and actually listen.”

The architects say they plan to build a “high quality design that is both respectful of, and distinct from, the historical context.” It will be a contemporary brick building.

People can view the designs and submit their comments on the planning application on the Camden Council website until December 22.

Andrew Sanalitro, director of the Highgate Newtown Community Centre, previously came out in support of the development.

He said he felt “lucky” to have the investment and the chance to have a brand new building and increase the community offering.

Camden councillor Phil Jones said: “The new Highgate Newtown development will provide a brand new sustainable community centre with a large hall capable of delivering a wide range of activities as its centrepiece.

“We have made several changes to the scheme to date to take into account local residents’ opinions, including lowering the proposed buildings’ height. Now is the time for residents to give further feedback by taking part in the planning consultation.”