Owner of Harry the Hermit’s Hampstead Heath land has no plans for the site
Society wants 'squatters rights' patch returned to main Heath
12 July, 2019 — By Dan Carrier
Brendan Gleason and Diane Keaton starred in Hampstead, a film influenced by Harry Hallowes’ life
THE owner of a patch of land next to Hampstead Heath, which for many years was lived on by Harry “the Hermit” Hallowes, says he has no plans over what to do with it.
Kashir Yousaf has previously been urged by the City of London and the Heath and Hampstead Society to transfer the land back to the Heath.
But he told the New Journal this week: “We last spoke about a year ago, but we have no assessment of its value. If someone came forward with a proposal we would look at it. I know how sensitive the site is and we would only proceed with a plan after taking advice from the local authority.”
The plot, once part of the rolling gardens near Athlone House, had been owned by Mr Hallowes after he claimed “squatters’ rights”, having not been evicted from his camp for several years.
Mr Hallowes’ plot of land before his death
His extraordinary story later influenced the Hollywood film Hampstead, starring Diane Keaton and Brendan Gleeson, as a man living in a ramshackle hut on the land.
When Mr Hallowes died in 2015, the parcel of land – overgrown with sycamore trees – was left to homeless charities.
It was sold to Mr Yousaf for £152,000 at an auction in 2018, but there are limits on how the land can be used. He said his property firm had been involved in a major restoration project in Kent as well as working on other land deals, which had meant the overgrown plot, now littered with rubbish and Japanese knotweed, was currently not a priority for him.
But he added that he would be interested in looking at whether the space could accommodate a temporary structure such as a caravan. “I know we can’t do anything half-hearted,” said Mr Yousaf, who pledged to keep the City of London and Heath and Hampstead Society informed of any future proposal for the land he has. “I know we are talking about the Heath. I don’t currently have any ideas as to what I want to do with it, and I haven’t had the opportunity to speak with any planning consultants or land law specialists. I do know the purchase money went to Shelter and that is a good thing.”
The charity said at the time that under legal advice they were honour-bound to try and sell the space for as much as they could – and pour the funds raised into their work with homeless people.
The City and the Society had launched their own bid for the land at the auction, but were outbid on the day.
Heath and Hampstead Society chairman Marc Hutchinson said: “We will be coordinating with the City in order to convince the owner that what he has acquired is, for his purpose, a liability and encourage him to consider transferring the land to the Heath.”