CCTV identifies mysterious fly-tipper as chair of Hampstead residents’ association and Royal Free doctor
PUBLISHED: 07:00 27 June 2019 | UPDATED: 14:14 27 June 2019
The chair of the Gayton Road Residents’ Association has faced calls to resign after he was caught on camera throwing rubbish bags over a neighbour’s fence.
Dr Robin Woolfson, who is head of the Gayton Road Residents Association (GRA), offered his resignation in January after he was seen lobbing rubbish bags over agent Barry McKay's fence. But the GRA declined his resignation - and Mr McKay wants them to think again.
As it happens, the fence itself, which is 7ft high and has a "rusted" effect, has spent months at the centre of a bitter planning dispute between the GRA and Mr McKay.
But Dr Woolfson was at pains this week to say the rubbish incident had nothing to do with the fence and was simply caused by his frustration about bin bags being dumped outside on the wrong day.
Presented with the damning footage, Dr Woolfson admitted responsibility and apologised for his "intemperate and spontaneous" actions.
The clip, obtained by the Ham&High, shows a man and a woman stood outside Mr McKay's home on January 4 at 11.18pm. The man, seemingly on the phone, puts it down as a nearby car drives away. Then he attempts to throw two rubbish bags over the fence while the woman looks on.
The first two attempts see the bags fall back down on top of him, but on the final attempt they go over the top of the fence. The duo then walk away down Gayton Road together.
Mr McKay's daughter returned home afterwards, and was startled to see the bags on top of a skylight the other side of the fence.
Ironically, in the days after it occurred, the former music boss emailed Dr Woolfson as chair of the residents association to ask for his help in identifying the culprits.
"Fed up" of not hearing back, he spoke to others on the street in the hope of finding out who was responsible. One neighbour told him it was Dr Woolfson himself, and his wife, Victoria. CCTV footage confirmed the claim.
Challenged by email, Dr Woolfson told him: "The return of your household waste to your property on Friday night [...] was a spontaneous aberration for which I sincerely apologise. This is not something I have done before."
He also said he had acted because other people in Gayton Road were "upset" by fly-tipping and that it was not unusual for them to respond by "returning prematurely deposited household waste bags to the offending property" - albeit usually via the front step.
It had indeed happened before, without Mr McKay identifying the culprits, but there is no evidence Dr Woolfson was involved in any of the previous incidents. It has not happened since.
A week later, Dr Woolfson told Mr McKay he had resigned from the GRA, saying his "intemperate action" had caused him "embarrassment" and "comprised the Gayton Residents' Association".
He added: "It is important to preserve my integrity and undo these circumstances. I have informed the committee [...] of my actions."
Yet when the Ham&High contacted Dr Woolfson - a consultant nephrologist for the Royal Free Hospital - it turned out he was still chairing the group.
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The residents' association committee had in fact turned down his resignation in February.And while he had chosen to step back as the Planning Inspectorate considered Mr McKay's controversial metal fence, the matter has now concluded (albeit in Mr McKay's favour) and so Dr Woolfson has resumed duties.
Mr McKay, who promoted bands such as Lindisfarne during his career, said: "He told me he was resigning. I feel we have been misled and lied to about this. We are incredibly upset that neighbours were doing this.
"When I discovered it was him, we were shocked. He is the chair of the GRA. It's a prominent position in Hampstead. There is an overriding feeling of injustice about how we've been treated. I was very upset, as was my daughter.
"This has also caused great distress to my wife, who has been in hospital for three weeks this year. I think if he had any integrity he would resign."
Dr Woolfson told us this week: "This was a single aberrant action on my part for which I sincerely apologised. From what followed, it appeared to me that Mr and Mrs McKay were keen to link my personal action over his rubbish with Gayton Residents' Association's earlier objection to their planning application despite the fact that the two actions had nothing to do with each other."
This isn't the first time Mr McKay's home, Bosinney, has been at the centre of a planning row in the last decade.
When he bought the previous house on the plot for £850,000 in 2007, its derelict state was criticised by the founder of the residents' association Dr Michael Black as "an eyesore." But the GRA objected to his plans to replace it, saying the new design was not in keeping with the character of Gayton Road.
"Bosinney" is a reference to the late Hampstead writer John Galsworthy's Forsyth Saga series.
"It was an opportunity to build something modern and amazing inside," he said. "It was the only location where you could build a house from scratch in the middle of Hampstead."
Since then he has faced another battle with the council and the GRA - this time, over the fence, which will eventually have a Balinese-themed water garden behind it and plants hanging over the top of it.
The garden has been designed by Hampstead-born Anthony Platt, who did special effects work on Casino Royale and Netflix's the Crown.
Town hall planning officers initially refused Mr McKay's application for retrospective planning permission for the fence. He said he hadn't realised he needed to apply to build it in the first place.
The GRA objected to the proposal, with Dr Woolfson complaining about its distressed appearance.
With what might now be deemed a degree of irony, he also said Gayton Road didn't have any problems with litter or flytipping in the front of gardens, so such a high fence was not needed. The council agreed and said the fence had to be torn down.
Mr McKay appealed to the Planning Inspectorate, which, at the start of this month, overruled Camden Council and said it could stay. Inspector Amanda Blicq praised it for being "entirely harmonious with the host dwelling and a confident piece of contemporary styling." Mr McKay also said he has had compliments from many locals about it.
"At the time I felt sorry for him," he said of Dr Woolfson. "He listened to our story about the 12 years of grief we have suffered and all the rubbish that had been getting dumped, and he told me about his 20 years at the GRA. I didn't want him to resign.
"But he had no right to be throwing rubbish over our fence."