Townsend Yard Update
For more details of the proposed development at Townsend Yard and why the Highgate Society is opposing it click here. (Video at the foot of this page)
The Highgate Society has issued the following statement:
Haringey’s decision to grant a significant overdevelopment at Townsend Yard, given the high importance of the Listed early 18th century Shepherds Cottage and the number and intensity of objections – including a carefully-argued 8-page objection from the Society – under delegated powers was inexcusable. We were particularly shocked by the demonstrably deeply flawed reason for granting permission, that the cottage is not visible from the public realm, so being hidden by the new development will not harm its historic significance. A brief visit will suffice to show (see photograph) that it is (a) totally visible to the public, and (b) an important element of the Conservation Area and historic; we can therefore only assume the case officer did not actually visit the site. Fortunately, thanks to a major failure by the developers and Haringey, Listed Building Consent to demolish the garages attached to Shepherds Cottage was not applied for. Under our pressure, Haringey have conceded that this is necessary, and the application finally went live in November, with the deadline for objections now December 17th. Importantly, they have also confirmed in writing that they will take into account “the desirability of preserving the building, its setting and any features of special architectural or historic interest which it possesses”, which they failed to do in determining the previous application.
The Society take this so seriously that we decided to ask top Planning Barrister David Altaras (who steered us to victory at Athlone House back in 2016) to prepare our objection (click here to view); members will already be aware of our appeal for contributions to cover our legal costs. While we are confident that our case is a strong one, we were worried that Haringey would feel under pressure to permit this second application, however strong our objection, because they had permitted the first and would be reluctant to contradict their own decision for fear of having to defend it at appeal. A well-argued case from a leading planning barrister will, we hope, give them more confidence to refuse than an objection from the Highgate Society, however well argued!
Not only is the application not up-to-date, in that it seems to be unaware that Shepherds; Cottage and its garden wall were given their own separate Grade II Listed status in August by Historic England – our barrister noting that it is one of the strongest descriptions he has seen for a Grace II building – but, in addition, recent research has shown that there are more 17th and 18th century walls surviving than the developers’ heritage statement recognises, and that the application therefore has more extensive heritage considerations than have been recognised.
We are anxious that as many objections as possible should be submitted. In boroughs such as Barnet and Camden, more than five objections make an application automatically considered for taking to Committee; Haringey normally refuse to do so unless the application is what they consider a “major” one. However, such as been our pressure, supported by Ward Councillor Liz Morris, that they have agreed to at least consider it for being taken to Planning Committee for decision, which gives local people an opportunity to appeal directly to them to refuse.
While we accept some form of mews development in Townsend Yard, the permitted scheme is a major overdevelopment and will seriously damage not only the setting of the important early 18th century cottage but, by doing so, will cause substantial harm to the Conservation Area. We are arguing that the Listed Building Application presents the opportunity to remedy what our barrister agrees was a serious error in granting the original consent, and to seek a smaller-scale development which protects the cottage’s setting.
We also notified the fire services that appliances will not be able to reach the Cottage if the development goes ahead, that their assessment was based on misleading drawings, and that a fire engine would not be able to turn in the yard. They are now looking urgently into whether they should express serious reservations to Haringey and, indeed, Haringey’s Highways Department have recently refused the Construction Management Plan. This is a serious setback for the developers, made all the more so by the fact that the development will result in Townsend Yard being inaccessible to other businesses which depend on it, and who have made clear that they will not agree to anything which obstructs access to their businesses.
We therefore await a date when it will, hopefully, be brought to Haringey’s Planning Committee, at which we will do our utmost to persuade them that this damaging development must be refused. If they nevertheless grant permission, we will have no alternative but to obtain our counsel’s opinion as to whether we have grounds to seek a Judicial Review of the decision – the first in our 55-year history. This will be a very expensive process, and a new appeal to our members, and the wider public, will then need to be made.