The "frontage" scheme, approved in 2014

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?


Gondar Gardens – the third appeal

The never-ending Gondar Gardens planning saga is taking its next turn.

Linden Wates, the developer, has submitted an appeal against Camden’s refusal of its revised frontage scheme for the reservoir site. This scheme is for 28 flats/houses. It was recommended for acceptance by Camden’s planning officers but refused by councillors at the planning committee on grounds of poor design. This is after the previous, similar, proposal was rejected on appeal by the Planning Inspector. Linden Wates has another proposal that it does have permission for, but which it seems reluctant to pursue at the moment.

This latest appeal will be decided by a Planning Inspector – this time on the basis of written evidence rather than at hearing. The developer, Camden, The Gondar & Agamemnon Residents Associatin (GARA) and Sarre Road residents will each submit written evidence and comments.

GARA will argue that proper application of Camden’s policies would result in the site remaining undisturbed, with open views into and across the site from the street and from neighbouring properties. However, it recognises “with deep regret”, that the loss of open space, disruption to the site, and the height and bulk of the frontage scheme have been accepted by previous planning inspectors.

GARA argues that the proposed conditions of the plan are not yet sufficient to protect and enhance our environment in the event of the planning application being accepted; and will insist on changes that will minimise construction impact, and ensure the remaining land is properly protected with residents involved in its management.

Individuals may also comment to the Inspector, quoting case ref APP/X5210/A/14/2218052 online or by e-mail to ku.vo1500784450g.isg1500784450.snip1500784450@slae1500784450ppa1500784450 or on paper (3 copies required) to The Planning Inspectorate, Room 3/19 Eagle, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Temple Quay, Bristol BS1 6PN. The deadline for comments to the inspector is 17th June 2014.


Gondar Gardens: The beginning of the end?

Could we be entering the endgame in the Gondar Gardens saga? The developer, Linden Wates, has submitted its third planning application for the site. This attempts to address the very specific points that the national planning inspector raised in turning down Linden Wates appeal over its second plan, which was rejected by Camden. These focus on architectural detail more than any wider environmental impact.

An e-mail from GARA – the residents association that has campaigned tirelessly against all these plans – suggests that the long fight may almost be over.

Here’s GARA’s position in its own words:

“We have successfully protected the Open Space for many years, and we have ensured that each subsequent development proposal is less damaging and less intrusive than its predecessors.

No-one wants any development on the site but when considering this application, Camden will note that the impact on Open Space, the height and bulk of the ‘frontage’ scheme, and transport and parking issues were all accepted by planning inspectors.

Camden’s planning officer says he will consider these matters as resolved, meaning that he will consider only the detailed design. If the revised design acceptable, then Camden officers and councillors will find it difficult to refuse the application. It is with much regret that we have reached this conclusion.

Our task now is to ensure that the proposed design is something we can live with; and to secure the future of the remainder of the site as a nature space, with local involvement. We can also press for conditions on working hours, construction methods, vehicle routes and local amenity contributions.

Improvements to the design since the first ‘frontage’ application include:

  • Mostly pitched roof with dormer windows rather than a solid flat frontage – this is much more in keeping with the area and considerably softens the bulk of the building
  • Improved window detailing and some (not much) subtle brickwork – adding a little character
  • A clear ‘gap’, allowing views across the site from the street (previously obscured by the ‘car lift’ entrance) – this is still only a narrow view, but at least it benefits pedestrians
  • Soft landscaping at the front (a few bushes!); and a secure site boundary”

GARA tells me that the decision not to contest the whole application is purely pragmatic. “If we thought there was a realistic prospect of no development, then we would pursue that heartily,” said David Yass, chair of GARA. “Our challenge is to secure the best we can for our neighbours and wildlife.”

Although the deadline for comments on the new scheme is January 2nd, GARA has agreed with Camden that it can submit its response after its AGM on January 8th (a reassuringly sensible stance by Camden).

To view the planning application, click here and then on “View Related Documents”. The Design & Access Statement is usually the best thing to look at (this is true for all planning applications).

Related reading
The “teletubbies” Scheme
Scheme refused by Camden.
Frontage scheme #1.
Scheme refused by Camden planning committee.
“Teletubbies” sceme approved on appeal.
Frontage scheme #1 rejected on appeal.
Frontage scheme #2 submitted exhibited.


Gondar Gardens: 140 years of history

Here’s a very useful history of the Gondar Gardens reservoir site, provided by GARA – the local residents association.

1874 Reservoir constructed.
1889 Tennis courts on the reservoir roof (no-one knew about slow worms then!).

100 years pass…

1989 Roof substantially repaired.
2002 Reservoir de-commissioned. GARA formed.
2004 Thames Water plans for a six-storey block with 120 flats – thwarted at public inquiry; site protected as Open Space and Site of Nature Conservation Interest.

2010 Linden Wates bought site, put up hoardings and removed trees.
2011/12 ‘Centre’ scheme rejected by planners but approved on appeal – 16 houses in pit of reservoir – this is still an option for Linden Wates to build, but would cost £6.8m in lieu of affordable housing.

2012/13 First ‘frontage’ scheme – refused by planning committee and refused on appeal as design would “harm local area” but impact on open space and height and bulk of scheme accepted.

2013 Revised ‘frontage’ scheme submitted.

  • Preserves 93% of open space as a site for nature, to be given to London Wildlife Trust
  • Opportunity for local residents to be part of management plans
  • Design improved to address inspectors’ concerns and through consultation with GARA

If the 2013 scheme is approved, Linden Wates has indicated that it will proceed and complete it within ~2 years. If it is refused, LW is likely to appeal and may use the intervening time to propose a combination of the ‘centre’ and ‘frontage’ schemes (although it cannot simply build part of each).

Gondar Gardens: Spot the difference

[updated Oct 26th 7pm]

Many professions are so steeped in their own language that they find it almost impossible to communicate in plain English, even when asked. Thus it was that I found myself talking to architects about the revised plans for Gondar Gardens and having to endure lots of explanation about “verticality” and “rhythm”, and not much about what the key differences are between this and the previously rejected project.

It’s a bit of a game of Spot the Difference.

The most obvious difference between the original plan (top) and the new plan (bottom) is the all-glass bay windows, which are apparently “winter gardens”. Who knew.

The new plan also removes the housing of the entry to the underground car park between the two buildings, and the cladding for the projections is lighter. As to that verticality and rhythm, that refers to much more regular spacing of windows and more emphasis on the vertical structure compared with the broken-up facade of the original.

The developers clearly hope that these detailed changes will win over the planning inspector. Actually, they probably hope that Camden council believes they will win over planning inspector and passes the plans first time around, preventing the appeal and Camden’s liability for the appellants legal costs.

Here’s why the planning inspector rejected the previous proposal (crucially, not on any grounds of environmental impact).

However, my main concern with the appeal scheme is the detailed design. The proposed design seeks to repeat the proportions of houses and bay windows seen in the area, through a series of brick projections. However, the varying size of the projections, the large expanses of brickwork (seen particularly on the two large projections), the combination of geometric shapes and the four storey sections with a flat roof, only serve to distinguish all elements of its design from those in the surrounding area. There is no visible connection to the intricate shapes, decorative detailing (including red brick and white mouldings) or the strong vertical emphasis seen in the surrounding houses which combine to determine the character of West Hampstead.

There are examples of new development of contrasting design in the area. However, they are generally smaller developments, which exert little influence over the area. By contrast, the appeal scheme would stretch some 70 metres along Gondar Gardens, filling most of this section of the road along one side. It would impose a long development of a very different character, thereby significantly harming the distinct and attractive character of this part of West Hampstead and its contribution to the wider area.

Even if the new proposal addresses these concerns, and it certainly looks to a layman like me that it’s a step in that direction, it’s hard to believe it’s going to win over those who have contested the development of Gondar Gardens so vigorously over the past few years. You can look at all the detailed architectural responses here.

Local residents group GARA, which has worked so hard to fight the various development proposals, commented that the latest proposals “address some aspects [of the inspector’s comments] but appear to have done little about the lack of detailing around windows etc, and have not properly addressed the issue of being out of place in its environment.”

The original “Teletubbies plan“, rejected by Camden but overturned on appeal, could still happen. However, the developers tell me that “there are a number of complex legal arrangements delaying its development, in particular relating to the off-site provision of affordable housing.” According to GARA, this means either finding a second site where the afforable housing could be built, or making a one-off £6m contribution to Camden.

Back to the tweaked design, here’s what local councillor Flick Rea thought of it:

Just seen new design for Gondar Gardens development – precious little difference except for some sticking out chunks in light brick- ugh!
— Flick Rea (@FlickRea) October 15, 2013

New twist in Gondar Gardens saga

If you’re playing catch-up on the interminable story of Gondar Gardens, which progesses as fast as the slow worms that have previously come to its rescue, then please read this succinct summary of where we stood back in June.

In a nutshell, a developer had submitted two separate plans to build houses on this disused reservoir site. Camden had rejected both plans, the national planning inspector overturned that decision on the first plan, but upheld it on the second.

Now, the developer is talking about a third plan. Sigh. It’s tempting to wonder whether its aim is solely to bankrupt the local residents association, GARA, which rallies its troops and fights any attempt to turn this green space into property. More likely is that the approved plan is now too expensive to develop. Here’s the e-mailed invite to view the new plans:

Linden Homes and Wates Developments would like to invite you to view new images, plans and designs for the former reservoir on Gondar Gardens.

As you will know, Linden Homes and Wates Developments have been working in partnership for the past several years to redevelop the site with a new residential development. Earlier this year a scheme for a frontage development along Gondar Gardens was refused planning permission due to its architectural design.

We have been working up a revised set of plans, carefully taking into account the feedback received from the earlier scheme. The new proposals will deliver up to 28 new homes, 10 of which will be affordable, helping to meet the local housing need. We believe these revised proposals create a better design solution for the site which will contribute positively to the neighbourhood.

If you’re interested in seeing whether Linden Wates can come up with something that Camden might be willing to approve, head along to St Luke’s Church on Kidderpore Avenue on the 15th October, between 2pm-8pm.

The proposals rejected by the national planning inspector

Gondar Gardens: Second appeal rejected

This morning I heard that the verdict of the Planning Inspector was finally in on Linden Wates’ second appeal. To recap very quickly:

  • Scheme #1: 16 large houses in the middle of the to-be-excavated reservoir space, mostly below ground level; major loss of open space and major impact on wildlife; low impact on street frontage; and a large contribution to Camden in lieu of affordable housing. Refused by Camden.
  • Scheme #2: 28 units filling-in the street frontage between existing mansion blocks; lower impact on wildlife but significant impact on openness from the street and houses opposite; affordable housing included within the scheme. Refused at Camden planning committee.
  • Scheme #1 approved on appeal by the national planning inspector
  • Scheme #2 rejected on appeal by the national planning inspector – see below!

What does this mean? The developer can:

  1. Build the first scheme;
  2. Improve the design of the second scheme within the same envelope and re-submit;
  3. Prepare another scheme combining elements of #1 and #2, and addressing points on design;
  4. Sell the site.

All these options would also have been available to the developer if they had won this appeal, but the inspector has now removed the option to build what has been deemed the poorly designed scheme #2.

Read on for all the details, via GARA (the local residents association that has so actively campaigned against development on the reservoir site):

“Fantastic news, at least temporarily … the ‘frontage’ appeal is dismissed for reasons of poor detailed design. But the impact on Open Space, SNCI, views, parking etc are all considered acceptable.

As you know, having won one appeal, the developer appealed against refusal of its second planning application for this site. The first scheme allows destruction of a large part of the protected Open Space and Site of Nature Conservation Interest. The second scheme – refused on appeal – would block the Open Space aspect from the street, including views across the site towards Hampstead.

Here is what the inspector says in dismissing the second appeal:

Conclusion [from Inspector’s report, 3-Jun-13]
The development has been designed to minimise the impact on the POS [private open space] and SNCI [site of nature conservation interest] and I have concluded that the benefits of the scheme outweigh any small harm in this regard. While many other aspects of the scheme are acceptable including the siting and size of the proposed buildings, the scheme fails on the detailed design as outlined above [in the report]. For this reason, it would be contrary to National and Local Plan policy and the appeal is dismissed.

You can read the inspector’s report. It’s fairly brief and to the point.

As one resident said, “It makes last year’s report on the centre scheme seem even more odd and I think we were incredibly unlucky that we did not win that appeal. I welcome the fact that she says the site is of high ecological value and re-emphasised the public asset and green lung.”

Well done to everyone involved (we represented ourselves at this public inquiry, against the developer’s expensive legal team and raft of experts) and thank you to everyone for your great support. Thanks also to Camden for defending the council’s position and to the inspector for her decision.”

Gondar Gardens – second appeal date set

It’s easy to get lost with the Gondar Gardens saga – it’s almost as long as Lord of the Rings, and with only marginally fewer cast members.

Here’s the recap:

Linden Wates put in a proposal to turn the whole site into a “tellytuby” development. GARA (Gondar and Agamemnon Residents Association) said “no”. Camden also said “no”. Linden Wates appealed.

While they appealed, they submitted another less controversial proposal – the so-called “frontage” scheme. GARA said no. Camden said no.

The National Planning Inspector overturned Camden’s “no” for the Tellytubby plan despite vociferous objections from GARA.

Now, even though the first scheme has approval, Linden Wates is appealing the second scheme too. This may be more about recouping their costs than to get permission to build the scheme, although were this also to be overturned, it would give them the option of either scheme.

The public inquiry will start on Tue 9th April at 10am at Camden Town Hall in Judd Street. GARA expects it will last around four days. GARA will be a formal party to the inquiry, making the case for protection of the site focusing on the potential loss of enjoyment of the open space from the street and loss of part of the protected site of nature conservation interest; the impact on neighbours; a design not in keeping with the area; and the impact on the local environment (parking, traffic etc.).

I will, of course, keep you posted as and when I hear more.

Gondar Gardens appeal saga drags on

Planning law is a strange beast.

Let me refresh your memory. Linden Wates recently won an appeal to build very low-impact homes on the resevoir site in Gondar Gardens. In a considered review of the application, the Planning Inspector believed that any negative impact on the open space would be offset by the benefits of this development.

GARA – the local residents association – which has long campaigned against developing this site, was naturally disappointed.

It seemed as if that was the end of the story. But there was a rumbling subplot. After Camden had initially rejected this plan, the developer submitted a second plan. This was arguably less controversial than the first – it was a street-frontage plan rather than one that would develop the green space itself. Camden rejected this one too.

Now, despite having won the first appeal, the developer is appealing against this second decision too. This has thrown everyone for a loop. What is Linden Wates objective? They can’t build both developments, and surely if the first one had passed first time they’d have moved forward with it.

Street-view of second plan – now being appealed

Either they think the first scheme is less profitable than the second, and having won the first appeal are confident in the second. Or perhaps they hope that a successful appeal with this second plan would give them the leeway to propose an even more ambitious third scheme.

Strikes me that this is a waste of public money – if a developer has a plan approved for one site through appeal to the national inspector, that should be the end of it for at least the amount of time that planning permission lasts.

Gondar Gardens will be developed

News came in late last night that the Planning Inspector (that’s a national, not a Camden position) had upheld the appeal by Linden Wates. This was after Camden rejected Linden Wates’ original 2011 proposal to develop the reservoir site into 16 houses, largely submerged beneath ground level [full planning application].

You can read more about the background to the development, the critical role played by the humble slow worm, as well as look at the developers’ second, less flamboyant proposal (also rejected by Camden).

The planning inspector’s decision draws a line under this contentious development – GARA (the Gondar and Agamemnon Residents Association), which was the driving force behind the “no” campaign, has acknowledged that there is virtually no chance of any counter-appeal and, to its credit, is now looking to the future.

The inspector’s report is long, but worth reading if you’re interested in such things. It’s a thoughtful and detailed consideration of the merits and drawbacks of the proposal, and explicitly recognises the challenges of balancing housing need and ecological merit, design and environmental impact, and planning policies that do – in their details – sometimes clash. Naturally, the conclusion won’t please everyone, and it’s certainly a shame that a gated community will result.

Here are the key sections:

Para 6. The appeal is allowed and planning permission is granted for the redevelopment of the existing reservoir structure to provide 16 residential units, associated parking, refuse storage and landscaping, and use of the surrounding land and rear of the site for open space (nature reserve) at Reservoir site, Gondar Gardens, London NW6 1QG in accordance with the terms of the application, Ref: 2011/0395/P, dated 24 January
2011, and the plans submitted with it, subject to the conditions included in the
schedule at the end of this decision.

Para 7. I consider there are 5 main issues in this case. They are:
(i) the effect of the proposed development on the character and appearance of the site and its surrounding area;
(ii) the ecological impact of the proposal;
(iii) the structural condition of the redundant reservoir;
(iv) the form and content of the proposal in relation to:
 – the provision of affordable housing,
 – the density and mix of the proposed dwellings, and
 – the design of the scheme within its townscape context;
and, if necessary;
(v) whether the project justifies the obligations cited above taking account of the contents of Regulation 122 of the Community Infrastructure Regulations 2010.

Character and appearance
Para 15. …The reservoir structure constituted previously developed land within the
terms of the definition now included in Annex 2 of the NPPF. The area surrounding the reservoir falls within its curtilage and, as a result of the definition, it too forms previously developed land. Although the presumption in favour of the redevelopment of previously developed land in preference to the development of greenfield land is not now as pervasive, it is nevertheless retained in paragraph 17 of the NPPF as one of the core planning principles. My predecessor referred in this context to the urgent need to find more sites for housing development, but, in accordance with the principle, the preference for redevelopment has to be tempered if the site concerned is of high environmental value.

Para 16. I am in no doubt that such value can be derived from both the ecological value of a site within its own terms, and/or from the contribution which it might make to amenity in the broadest sense – including residential amenity. In this context my colleague referred to the extensive views into the site from the surrounding houses. Although taken individually these are private views, they amount collectively to a considerable public asset and a ‘green lung’ providing local amenity. I agree with this description and assessment. Having further discussed the ecological interest of the land, he recommended the land should remain in the Schedule to the UDP as private open space (as well as being designated as a Site of Nature Conservation Interest – SINC).

Para 17. This protection is now expressed in Policy CS15 of the Camden Core Strategy 2010. The plan recognises that open space can fall into 2 categories: that which is open to the public (and which can provide for sport and recreation), and private open space – to which there is no or limited public access (such as, for example, railway embankments). The appeal site falls into the latter category and the first purpose of the policy is that such spaces will be protected.

Para 21. I saw on my visit that, although from the higher level windows in the Gondar Gardens and Sarre Road houses the proposed development would be clearly visible, this effect would be counter-balanced by the enhanced breadth of the prospect as a whole at this level. I recognise the presence of the proposed development would vary from the many windows overlooking the land, but taking all these matters into account, I conclude in relation to this main issue that the proposed development would have a limited adverse effect on the character and appearance of the site and its surrounding area. It would thus conflict to a degree with the purpose of paragraph (a) in the first component of Policy CS15.

click for larger view

Para 24. The site was the subject of 30 ecological surveys in 2008-10, but was found to include only a low number of slow worms. There was agreement between the parties that the reservoir roof itself would not constitute a particularly attractive location for the species, but the south and east sides of the land are considered highly suitable. It was acknowledged at the inquiry that slow worms would readily travel between the site and adjacent gardens where they would be likely to find suitable features for hibernating, foraging and basking opportunities.

Para 28. …Subject to the implementation of an appropriate scheme and the regulation of access, I am unconvinced that the slow worms would be adversely affected by the scheme as a whole – rather the reverse.

Para 32. …On the basis of the evidence I have received in this case, for example, the surrounding domestic gardens appear to make a greater contribution to the nature conservation interest of the area than the reservoir roof – even though the former do not fall within the SINC and the latter does.

Para 33. …I consider the ecological interest of the site as a whole would be enhanced and improved and that in this respect the limited harm identified under the first main issue [character and apperance] would be outweighed.

Affordable housing
Para 45. I see little prospect that market housing on the land could ever be used to generate on-site affordable housing. I therefore conclude in relation to this issue that the appellant is justified in seeking to take advantage (by making a payment-in-lieu) of the exception included in Policy DP3 and paragraph 3.74 of The London Plan.

On the issue of the reservoir structure itself, the inspector says he considers “the debate over the condition of the structure to have been peripheral to the determination of the appeal.”

Much of the Section 106 agreements had already been settled, but it’s interesting to see the total sum the developers will have to stump up. This is in addition to the payment of £6.8 million in lieu of affordable housing, which the inspector agreed was not feasible on the site (it will now go towards housing elsewhere in the borough). And also in addition to the costs of looking after those slow worms!

£62,720 community facilities contribution
£261,184 education contribution
£68,610 public open space contribution
£38,777 highways contribution

In an e-mail to GARA memebers, chairman David Yass, who campaigned vigorously against the development, said “This comes as a huge disappointment”, while another member summed it up with “gutted.” GARA has undoubtedly helped improve the plan, and helped secure some significant conditions that should help minimise the impact of the development on local residents and wildlife, during and after construction.

Inside the reservoir

Gondar Gardens – first appeal nears conclusion

The tale of the proposed development of the Gondar Gardens reservoir site is a lengthy one. In essence, a couple of years ago, developers Linden Wates put forward a plan that would have seen the disused site turned into a series of semi-sunken homes, that became known as the Teletubby development. Planning permission was refused, partly due to the presence of slow worms on the site.

Computer image of original plans

A second, less controversial development was then put forward that kept much of the green space intact, but still added new housing on the street. This too was refused.

Artist’s impression of second proposal

While the second proposal was being considered, Linden Wates was appealing the first decision. That appeal opened in May but was adjourned after three days. The inquiry reconvened last week, and the hearing concluded yesterday.

Here’s the assessment of how the appeal has gone from the perspective of the Gondar & Agamemnon Residents Association (GARA):

Back in May, both Camden and GARA gave evidence as to why the refusal should be upheld, and were cross-examined at length. Linden Wates started to give their evidence.

This week, the inquiry reconvened. Linden Wates gave detailed evidence and were cross-examined by Camden’s barrister and GARA’s barrister.

On Thursday, there was a lengthy examination of opposing experts’ views about the state of the reservoir structure and its likelihood of partial or total collapse; and a debate about Linden Wates’ approach to affordable housing (i.e., paying for it to be somewhere else).

Almost all of Friday was spent with Linden Wates’ planning consultant, with arguments about the relative merits of different aspects of planning policy. That might sound interminable but it goes to the heart of the matter – does the protection of being Open Space and a Site of Nature Conservation Interest outweigh the developer’s argument that the structure itself is ‘previously developed land’?

Add in arguments about whether the new National Planning Policy Framework promotes development, or protects land of high environmental value, and you have the opportunity for some lively debate, some of it rivalling any West End theatre production (OK, only in parts).

Also on Friday, local resident Mark Stonebanks made an excellent contribution, challenging LW’s competence in areas of traffic and parking, design, and drainage.

Monday – the final day – started with a visit to houses on all four sides of the site. The inspector seemed to expect the good views from Gondar Gardens and the less good views from Agamemnon Road (obscured by trees); but he appeared surprised at the extent of views from Hillfield and Sarre Roads.

We returned to the inquiry and heard an impassioned, yet controlled statement from Hugh McCormick [Ed: I don’t know who he is]. Linden Wates’ barrister declined to cross-examine. There followed some haggling over conditions / Section 106 matters to be imposed “should the appeal be successful”. Linden Wates and Camden had pre-agreed most of this, and it was GARA that raised some issues although it made very limited headway.

Then it was onto the showpiece summing-up from each barrister. This is a curious affair in which each party submits a written statement (typically 20 close-typed A4 pages) and then proceeds to read the entire document aloud.

GARA’s barrister covered all the key points: ecological value; open space; and traffic, parking and other matters – all of which are supported by both planning policy and real local importance. Camden defended its multiple reasons for refusing planning permission, even to the extent of appearing to promote the second (frontage) scheme in order to demonstrate that alternatives to the appeal scheme could exist.

Linden Wates’ barrister was very professional in putting its case. We expect a decision by the end of November, which is just after the deadline for Linden Wates to appeal against refusal of the second scheme.

I’ll keep you posted on what happens next!

Gondar Gardens saved again

At last week’s Development Control committee meeting, councillors voted 7-2 against the proposed development by Linden Homes and Wates Development of the Gondar Gardens reservoir site up in Fortune Green.

The reservoir site at sunrise (photo via GARA)

This is the second time Camden has turned down a plan from these developers to build flats and houses on this disused but much loved plot of land. The first proposal, for “Teletubby” style semi-submerged dwellings, is in the appeal process (due to be heard next week) and Linden Wates will presumably appeal this latest decision too.

There seemed to be some confusion as to why Camden planning officers were recommending that permission be granted, while acknowledging in their report that the plans were not always in keeping with planning policy. That, combined with an impassioned speech by Fortune Green councillor Flick Rea (who chose to remove herself from the DC for this vote so she could speak against it) and the articulate statement of a 13 year-old boy called Benjamin seemed to sway councillors.

Cllr Rea invoked images of bucolic destruction in her statement: “Imagine the diggers destroying grassland, sending valuable wildlife scurrying or slithering off into the undergrowth. Two years of construction will drive away birds and bats and probably kill off the slow worms.”

Benjamin meanwhile focused on the legacy that Camden would be leaving if councillors approved the proposals. “This is like children going into a toy shop knowing they can’t have anything. You are the parents. If you give in now, they’ll be back for more. When did one lonesome toy ever satisfy a child?”

Councillors ultimately deemed that the scheme was of little architectural merit and not in keeping with the area, while the issue of public access to the remaining open space was unclear.

For the Gondar and Agamemnon Residents Association, this was another significant victory in what has been a long-running campaign to preserve the reservoir site, which is home to slow worms and other species rarely found in built-up areas.

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Are new Gondar Gardens plan a-go-go?

The Gondar Gardens reservoir is back on the planning agenda. Here’s the story so far. Gondar Gardens is a large patch of green land that sits over a disused Victorian reservoir.

The land is owned by Linden Homes and Wates, who submitted plans to build a series of homes on the site in what was generally described as “Teletubbies style”. These semi-subterranean homes were deemed to be out of keeping with the area, and the threat to local biodiversity – most notably the local slow worm population – was enough to see the plan rejected after a vociferous campaign.

The developers are appealing the decision, but one would assume that they’re not especially confident of winning as they have invested in an entirely new and completely different plan for the site, which they were exhibiting at the library last Wednesday.The new plan take up much less of the site and instead just front onto the west side of Gondar Gardens road.

The previous plans took up the space marked by the inner red rectangle

There would be 19 private homes and 9 affordable housing units. To keep the environmentalists happy, the development goes big on managing the remaining open space (which is far greater under this proposal than the previous one), and once complete the land would be handed over to a trust with covenants restricting any future development.

Architecturally, the designs so far apparently try to reflect the neighbouring buildings but in a modern style.

At the exhibition there was some debate as to whether this had been successful yet – the current design being very boxy and angular compared to the bay windows and pitched roofs of the houses around. The developer suggested that the design was a work in progress. At least, unlike some other developments locally, this one would not rise above existing buildings.

On Wedensday December 14th, there is a Camden Development Management Forum at the synagogue hall on Dennington Park Road. This is a chance for the public to hear more about the proposals and ask questions. Registration will be at 6.15pm for a 6.30pm start and the meeting shouldn’t last more than two hours. This is not a formal consultation meeting as no plans have yet been submitted.

The exhibition boards are visible below, or you can download them from

At the West Hampstead and Fortune Green Area Action group meeting a couple of days earlier, Fortune Green councillor Russell Eagling seemed to imply that this development was much more in keeping with the sort of thing the council would look favourably on. It is also worth noting that these units would not count towards the 800 new homes required under the intensification plan that emanates from City Hall – that is focused entirely on the land around the three railways lines.
Gondar Gardens exhibition boards