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Protesters and critics against this planning application deserve support

07 October, 2021

The new development planned for Gondar Gardens

• I WRITE in concerning reports of the application for the private housing scheme proposed for No 1 Hillfield Road, West Hampstead, (Angry cursing, a chair tossed away and unbridled fury… how on earth did a planning meeting come to this? September 9).

I lived in the first floor apartment, 3 South Mansions, Gondar Gardens, from 1965 to 1982. The southern aspect from main rooms was of extensive, well treed, and planted gardens, which have always been gardens, the best and most well-tended being No 1.

Uninterrupted southern light and views were the main factors which made the otherwise dark, narrow, and tortuous apartments reasonably habitable.

For part of that time (1970-1980) I was the co-designer (with P Tabori) and sole project architect for the well-known public housing development in the Highgate New Town area, now known as the Whittington Estate, which has been the subject of several publications and plaudits and is now recommended for heritage listing along with other schemes carried out by the, (then), Camden Architects Department in what has been described as Camden’s “golden age of public housing” (1965-1979).

This enlightened period was brought to a fairly abrupt end by Margaret Thatcher’s and subsequent regimes of national and local government.

A recent example of this philistine retrogression is the projected monster block to replace the highly praised Chester Road hostel, designed by Bill Forrest for Camden in the 1970s.

In the case of No 1 Hillfield the following adverse effects of the proposal should be noted:

• major loss of light, view and amenity to Nos 1, 3, & 5 South Mansions, due to bulk, height, and proximity;

• the existing geomorphological and ground-drainage conditions, already dodgy and fragile, would be exacerbated and would threaten the stability of the building, given the extreme proximity of excavation and construction work;

• the height, mass and insensitivity of the proposed buildings, there being no countervailing social good or aesthetic gain.

I think any student attending a reputable school of architecture or urban design who came up with such a scheme as this would be given a very low mark. Critics and protesters against this proposed development should receive as wide public support as possible.

East Devenport, Tasmania


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