Stage is all set for a fight to the New End

NEIGHBOURS of a former nurses hostel in Hampstead are fuming at plans to replace it with a modern apartment block

Marc Mullen

NEIGHBOURS of a former nurses' hostel in Hampstead are fuming at plans to replace it with a modern apartment block.

Moon Investments Ltd has applied to demolish the building in New End that used to house nurses from the Royal Free hospital.

The developer wants to replace it with a new six-storey building containing 27 apartments and a two-level basement complete with a gym and swimming pool.

Residents in the conservation area fear building work will cause huge disruption on the narrow road and the development will look out of place with its surroundings.

Brian Daniels, owner of the Grade II-listed New End Theatre next door to the hostel, said: "It is mad. It will be crazy if they have trucks coming down this road.

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"It will disrupt any events we may have on during the day. And we have quite a few elderly people who come to the theatre and won't be able to park."

The Royal Free hospital in Hampstead closed the hostel in 2006. Some staff were moved out to Coppett's Wood while others were forced to stump up an extra £4,500 a year for accommodation in Queen Mary's House in East Heath Road.

In May 2007, Karawana Holdings, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands, bought the property for an undisclosed sum.

Chris Ely, who runs Ye Olde White Bear at the bottom of New End, said: "It's a shame that they got rid of it as a nurses' hostel.

"I just hope they will think about the disruption to residents and neighbours."

Richard Wooderson, landlord of the Duke of Hamilton pub on New End, added: "People quite like the existing building. Most people would have preferred it to stay as a nurses' hostel.

"It is a big old building. I don't know why they can't just change the interior."

Opposite the hostel, the former New End hospital was turned into luxury flats, where penthouses were snapped up by Spice Girls Geri Halliwell and Emma Bunton.

Neighbours say there were major problems and disruption during the work there.

Mr Wooderson added: "When they were working on New End hospital there were two entrances - one on New End and one on Heath Street - and even that caused problems. But with this they will only be able to have one entrance to the site."

Gordon MacLean, from local watchdog the Heath and Hampstead Society, said: "This one is a real shocker and it is right in front of Christ Church.

"To say it would be disruptive would be a gross understatement."

The developer's architect European Urban is presenting the plans to neighbours on March 1.

Architect Ulysses Sengupta says the new building will be no taller than the existing one and, although it is bigger, it will be less imposing than the hostel.

He said: "We are offering better than usual shared ownership, except it is split on two sites - some is at Holmes Road.

"It's a conservation area so I don't think we would have been able to do the affordable housing on this site."