Development poses 'fire risk' to historic Highgate home

Hoarding at the Townsend Yard development has been described as a fire risk to Shepherd's Cottage

Hoarding at the Townsend Yard development has been described as a fire risk to Shepherd's Cottage - Credit: Peter Cassidy

People living in a historic house in Highgate say they are at risk from a nearby planned development as the fire service cannot enter their property.

Hoarding has gone up in Townsend Yard, where the construction of seven mews houses is planned by developer Sean Meadows.

Shepherd's Cottage, a Grade II listed house in Highgate High Street, is next to the development and inaccessible to the London Fire Brigade (LFB) from that main road.

The hoarding is blocking Townsend Yard and opponents to the plan say the development will create safety risks for Jane Hill, who lives in the property and other neighbours.

A LFB spokesperson confirmed that following a site visit "concerns have been raised with the local council planning office regarding firefighter access to this development".

Jane said as a consequence of the hoarding, "the cottage is now landlocked and no longer accessible by the fire brigade from Townsend Yard".

"This will continue to be the case if the proposed development is allowed to proceed," she said.  

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"London Fire Brigade has already determined that the cottage is too far from Highgate High Street, behind which it sits, to be accessed from the Highgate High Street.  

"Whereas, I previously felt safe in my home, the inaccessibility created now and in the future places me and my property at real risk.

"I have put Haringey Council on notice that any damage to property or personal injury (or worse) will be down to it.”

Haringey Council approved the plans in November 2020.

Sean Meadows has since submitted an application for listed building consent – which he requires to begin construction – for works "abutting flank wall and garden wall of 36a Highgate High Street in association with demolition of garages”.

There have been multiple objections to the plans from bodies including Historic England and the Highgate Society.

Peter Cassidy, a member of the Highgate Conservation Area Advisory Committee, said Haringey Council should deal with the fire safety issues by instructing the removal of the hoarding and rescinding the permission granted for development.

“In the second draft of its construction management plan, the developer again failed to address the significant criticisms of the London Borough of Haringey transportation about the absence of consideration given to the safety of those living in neighbouring properties," he said.

The transportation document made multiple references to liaising with neighbours, users of Townsend Yard and the emergency services on access issues.

But Peter said: "There was no liaison whatsoever and the newly submitted plan is devoid of any reference to emergency services." 

He said: "Transportation also made reference to the findings of London Fire Brigade, in particular, the reduction in the time available for a fire crew to attend an incident and the fact that the access provisions do not meet the regulatory requirements.

"Those requirements include the need to ensure the safety of occupants, firefighters and those close to the building in the event of a fire.

"This includes inhabitants of neighbouring properties, including but not limited to the cottage.  

"London Fire Bridge has already confirmed that it would be unable to attend a fire at that property from Highgate High Street." 

He said objectors had made it clear to Haringey that if it allows the current hoarding to remain in place and the development to proceed, as envisaged by the applicant, "the cottage and anyone within it is exposed to potential property damage, personal injury or death".

A Haringey Council spokesperson said hoarding does not require planning permission, adding: “As part of the proposal, the applicants are expected to provide a construction management plan to demonstrate how construction will be managed to ensure the relevant vehicles and emergency services can access the lane safely.

"The London Fire Brigade has raised concerns about this, and the applicant is currently seeking to address these concerns.”

Stephen Davy Peter Smith Architects, Mr Meadows agent, has been contacted.