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Hampstead Heath’s historic Athlone House is saved

Athlone House
Athlone House in 2002 – Photo: Michael Summerson

Update Ham&High, 29 Octoberr 2015: Victory after 17 years of campaigning

Athlone House has been saved from demolition, thanks to a historic High Court ruling. Justice Ian Dove threw out an appeal by developer Athlone House Limited (AHL) last week to knock down the former RAF base in Highgate and turn it into an opulent £80million eight-bedroom palace with an underground car park and swimming pool.

The developer had taken the case to the High Court after a government-appointed planning inspector dismissed an appeal against the refusal. In his ruling, the judge has set an important legal precedent by confirming that the house could not be demolished and rebuilt to a larger size than its present proportions.

Developers AHL had tried to argue that they could rebuild the house to the same size as it had been before an extension was demolished in 2006.

Under national planning guidance, the term "original building" means the structure which existed on 1 July 1948.But Justice Dove ruled that the relevant measurement is the building's present proportions. In his ruling, Justice Dove also noted that by demolishing the building, the developers could deprive future owners of the opportunity to restore the building.

He also said that the building's significance as a non-designated heritage building. Athlone House was built in 1872 for Edward Brooke a wealthy entrepreneur from Manchester. In 1942, it was taken for war service and housed the Royal Air Force Intelligence School.

Campaigners have been fighting planning applications to demolish the house since 2009 but the threat first surfaced in 1998. Michael Harnmerson, vice president of the Highgate Society and coordinator of Athlone House Working Group, said: "This is a historic moment and the culmination of the justification of the community's 17-year fight."

Anna Behrmann, Ham&High

Ham&High 8 June 2015: Maligned plans to demolish historic Athlone House on the edge of Hampstead Heath have today been rejected by a planning inspector in a landmark victory for the 5,000 campaigners who fought for years to save the former hospital.

The mysterious foreign billionaire owners of Athlone House sought to knock down the Victorian mansion and replace it with an opulent eight-bedroom family home with basement car park, swimming pool and ballroom.

The plans were dubbed an “Arabian nightmare” by community groups in Hampstead and Highgate. More than 5,000 people joined the impassioned fight to save the former RAF intelligence base from demolition – including Monty Python legend Terry Gilliam.

And today, they are celebrating the landmark decision by planning inspector Colin Ball to reject an appeal to demolish the mansion and replace it with a £80million super-home.

Campaigners have been fighting attempts to knock down the house since 2009.

A jubilant Michael Hammerson, who led the fight to save the mansion as part of the Athlone house Working Group, said: “This is a hammer blow against the developers. The relief is enormous. It has been a shadow over our heads for many years. Would it be too much now to expect the developers to come to us and discuss a proper restoration campaign?”

In his appeal decision, planning inspector Colin Ball described the proposals as “inappropriate” and potentially “harmful” to Hampstead Heath.

A spokesman for Athlone House said: “This is a very disappointing decision. We will be looking carefully at the inspector’s decision before deciding the next steps.”

Imogen Blake, Ham&High


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