Psychotherapy school heading to Fortune Green?

The New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling (NSPC), a small psychotherapy college, is planning to move into one of the vacant units at 53 Fortune Green Road – also known as The Sager Building and Alfred Court.

It has nearly come to a 15-year rental agreement for the vacant unit adjacent to Tesco at Alfred Court, and is now at the stage of applying for a change of use to D1 – the planning category assigned to colleges. At the moment the unit is classified for retail use.

The Alfred Court unit (currently unoccupied)

The unit (currently unoccupied)

Another educational establishment, the Abercorn private school, applied to move to these premises but its proposal was rejected last year by Camden Council amid many local residents’ objections. Most objections were related to transport issues: the school would have occupied a larger part of the premises than the 3,000 square feet the NSPC is seeking to use.

Jimmy Baker, Chair of the Joan Court Residents Association (Joan Court is the half of the building directly above Tesco and the proposed new school) said that his group is supportive of the NSPC’s application, with no major concerns: “As far as the application is going I don’t know of any major objection and personally I think it would be great for the area.”

The NSPC held a public meeting at the end of last month to meet local residents, answer questions, and address any concerns. Professor Emmy van Deurzen, founder and director of the school, believes it was a success. “It went very well – we feel very supported by the residents of Alfred Court and Joan Court”. Some residents from the nearby Greek Streets, she said, expressed concerns about parking, but she hopes that she was able to allay their fears as the vast majority of staff and students will use public transport or cycle.

She also pre-empted other potential concerns that local residents may have, such as the issue of noise. As the college teaches only postgraduate students, and many courses are taught online, she does not anticipate any problems.

James Earl, Chair of the Neighbourhood Development Forum, said “The NDF has been working with the NSPC on its proposal to move into Alfred Court. The NDF supports the location of this sort of business in the area and welcomes the willingness of the NSPC to engage with the NDF and other local groups on its plans.”

Professor van Deurzen describes West Hampstead as “the perfect location for our business”. She and her husband (and the college’s co-founder), Professor Digby Tantam, live in Cleve Road, and feel very embedded in the community.

She is hoping that local residents will welcome the school and that the NSPC can give something back to the community in the form of a low-cost counselling service. She points out that it is bringing higher education and new jobs to the neighbourhood, and that staff and students will use and support other local businesses. The school also plans to offer the neighbourhood a public lecture programme.

The NSPC was founded in 1996 by the two psychotherapy university professors. Since 2010, it has been based in Belsize Road, but has been given notice to leave its current premises as the building is being converted into flats.

For the time being, the NSPC’s offices are still in the Belsize Road building, but students are currently being taught on a temporary basis at Swiss Cottage Library.

As well as the NSPC, which delivers masters and doctoral degrees in psychology, psychotherapy and coaching jointly with Middlesex University, the two directors also run a psychotherapy and counselling practice called Dilemma Consultancy.

The NSPC is awaiting the outcome of Camden’s decision to allow the change of use and van Deurzen is “optimistic” that this will be granted. Camden’s final decision is expected on April 29th and assuming it’s given the green light, building work will begin to turn the empty building into what she describes as a “boutique institution for higher education”. If everything goes to plan, the college should open for the start of the September term.

  • Andy Proud

    They need their heads examining!

  • Susan Smith

    I am a resident of Alfred Court and this is the first that I have heard of this… How were residents informed in the first place?

    • Nicky J.

      There was a public meeting on 25th February in the Alfred Court foyer. Apparently residents were informed via leaflets distributed beforehand. Did you not get one?