Two down, one to go: precious facade falls

AS another Hampstead Victorian facade collapses, residents and councillors are demanding action against the hapless developer

Marc Mullen

AS another Hampstead Victorian facade collapses, residents and councillors are demanding action against the hapless developer.

Three weeks ago the front of one of three houses being renovated on Fitzjohn's Avenue collapsed. And last week another came tumbling down.

Residents are furious that the historic buildings at the gateway to Hampstead have been allowed to crumble and they want the council to force Mayfair Property Developers to rebuild the facades brick by brick.

Gordon Maclean, chairman of the town sub-committee of the Heath and Hampstead Society, said: "I think it is quite disgraceful. It has fallen down due to neglect on the part of the builders.

"They were supposed to have propped the walls up, but they didn't. It is very convenient for the developer not to have bothered.

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"We have written to Camden Council demanding that they take enforcement action. They need to rebuild both facades brick by brick."

Mayfair was demolishing the three houses, which were formerly used as a hostel, and building a block of 22 flats and an underground car park for 21 cars behind the original frontages.

The buildings date back 120 years and the one remaining facade was at the former home of early 20th century portrait painter Philip de Laszlo.

Frognal and Fitzjohn's councillor Martin Davies said: "Other developers on Fitzjohn's Avenue have taken everything down apart from the facade and rebuilt the houses properly. I am surprised that it wasn't properly secured and fell down.

"I am not clear about what action the council can take, but they should take this very seriously. When someone seems to breach their planning conditions they should be made to comply with the planning conditions."

Work started on the site in January and is expected to take more than a year.

Camden Council granted Mayfair permission for the scheme on condition that the developer provided affordable housing.

This will be built in a house further up Fitzjohn's Avenue, which was previously a hostel for single women and more recently a squat.

On Tuesday Camden Council sent a letter to Mayfair demanding the historic fronts are rebuilt as close to the original as possible.

Environmentalist Mayer Hillman, who lives on Netherhall Gardens, said: "I feel fairly confident that Camden will oblige the developer to rebuild those facades exactly as before, otherwise it sends out the wrong message to developers all over the place that you can flout the rules and regulations.

"They could put in an alternative application, but I don't think it is as a likely course of action they would follow, as it is likely to be strongly opposed by residents and the local authority, who would be very keen they didn't get away with this.

"Over and above that, there is the whole issue of the delay such a process would cause, and I am sure the developer couldn't afford a delay of several months."

Mayfair Property Developers were not available for comment.

Camden Council said the fall of the first facade was caused by underpinning work. The second facade fell because it was destablised by the collapse of the first.

"The owner is currently co-operating with the council and we expect to receive a full planning application by mid April 2008 for the replacement of the lost buildings," said a spokeswoman.

"The application would be the subject of public consultation. If the owner does not co-operate with the council then enforcement action would be taken and prosecution proceedings commenced."