Trust hits back after residents’ complaints
�Besieged by angry residents, the Suburb’s Trust is in its strongest and yet most fragile state for years, according to its boss.
The Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust is a quirk of legislation, a unique conservation body and a bit of a mystery to anyone who lives beyond its borders. Although it owns 26 roads, tennis courts, allotments, more than 40 patches of open space and the freeholds to 500 houses and 1,000 flats, the Trust’s influence extends to more than just its land.
Backed by the High Court, it has a legal right to impose a fee on all freeholders within its geographical borders and any planning application must be approved by both Barnet Council and survive the scrutiny of the Trust’s council. These powers are enshrined in legislation, helped along by the then Prime Minister – and coincidentally a Suburb resident – Harold Wilson.
While the Trust has strong legal backing, it has come under fire from a growing number of dissenting voices who dispute the high fee rises in recent years. A member of the Concerned Residents group is expected to be named among the candidates for the upcoming – and hotly-contested – Trust council elections.
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Although an election contest is rare, Trust manager Jane Blackburn explains it is a sign of the interest and a recognition of the power that the Trust wields.
“People are beginning to feel the Trust is effective and it’s worth being concerned with how it’s run. I think people recognise it is an important force in the area and the trustees are the people who can exercise that power,” she said.
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Around 20 other conservation bodies exist across Britain, but the Suburb is unique in the way it has retained its importance. Even so, Mrs Blackburn said the Trust’s survival could be threatened if residents are successful in undermining its authority.
“Most of the others (conservation bodies) have decayed over time because they’re not as closely run as they were intended to be. This one still operates as it was intended to and you can see it when you walk into the suburb.
“You can see that something unusual is going on. But if it ever disappeared it would never come back into being again.
“The Trust was subsidising the scheme of management and we’re still making a loss each year. But we’re closing the gap very fast.”