Gondar Gardens: Chauffeur-driven retirees vs the slowworm

Gondar Gardens – the old reservoir site in the northern reaches of West Hampstead – has had more than its fair share of development proposals over the past few years. Some have been rejected – even on appeal – and some have been accepted. Yet nothing has actually been built.

The most recent decision was in 2014, when a scheme by developer Linden Wates to build 28 homes along the street side of the open space was approved on appeal.

The "frontage" scheme, approved in 2014

The “frontage” scheme, approved in 2014

Last year, LifeCare Residences bought the site from LindenWates. LifeCare Residences builds luxury retirement homes.

Late Sunday night, the local residents association, GARA, sent an email with more details on what was happening:

  • LifeCare wants to build 108 luxury flats on Gondar Gardens reservoir, together with a restaurant, swimming pool, nursing facilities and various offices to service their ‘retirement community’108? Not a joke? And nursing facilities too?
  • They would make their scheme “car free” by providing a chauffeur service to their residentshardly a model of sustainable transport or encouraging integration with the rest of us!
  • They would pay Camden a large sum in lieu of providing any affordable housing
  • LifeCare and their professional advisers appeared surprised to learn that the Open Space and Site of Nature Conservation Importance cover the whole site except for a small strip on the street frontagewe sent them away to look at the plans!

We already knew that LifeCare builds luxury retirement homes – hardly an amenity for local residents as we are simply not in their target market. Compare that to the currently approved frontage-only scheme for 28 homes that delivers both affordable housing and protection of the Open Space, with 93% of the land gifted to the London Wildlife Trust in perpetuity. Click here for a brief summary of previous schemes.

In case you’re wondering what creatures inhabit this space to justify its importance as a wildlife sanctuary – the answer is slow worms. Before you mock, this is one of the few habitats for them in urban areas, and the species is protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Does West Hampstead need to sacrifice a green space for some chauffeur-driven wealthy retirees?