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Battle over luxury retirement estate planned for reservoir site

Planning inspector to listen to three weeks of evidence over the future of Gondar Gardens land

16 January, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

How Life Care’s complex could look

A WHITEHALL planning inspector has begun a three-week inquiry which will decide whether a luxury retirement home developer can build an exclusive new estate on protected open space in West Hampstead.

Brendan Lyons is hearing evidence at the Town Hall from Life Care Services, which bought a former reservoir in Gondar Gardens in 2016 and applied to build a retirement village.

The developer describes its scheme of 82 homes and a nursing centre as having “hotel-inspired amenities”, including a restaurant, café, bar, library, swimming pool and cinema.

Camden Council dismissed the application on numerous grounds last year, leading to an appeal.

Lawyers from the council and the developer will be laying out their case in the coming days, while Gondar and Aga­memnon Residents’ Ass­ociation (GARA), which has fought to protect the former Thames Water site for two decades, will also be arguing that the appeal should be dismissed.

It is the latest chapter in a saga stretching back more than a decade during which there have been a series of failed bids to build on land which is home to protected species such as slow worms, bats, owls and wildflowers.

Victorian underground brick caverns on the site were formerly used to store water.

GARA chairman David Yass called the plans “simply too big for the site’, adding: “The height, mass and scale of the development would be detrimental to the environment and community. “The construction logistics are unworkable and unacceptable.”

He told Mr Lyons that residents faced an expensively assembled team working for the developer.

“They are highly-paid architects, planners, technical experts and barristers,” he told him. “They will seek to use every possible device to persuade you of the need for this luxury development and that it would somehow be benign to people, wildlife and the environment. We don’t have their resources, but we do know nonsense when we hear it.”

He added that the proposals ran contrary to numerous planning laws, attracting more than 180 objection letters and a petition with more than 2,000 signatures. Mr Yass said the space was a “welcome break in an otherwise built up environment”.

Life Care development director Daniel Perfect told the New Journal there was a shortage of luxury sheltered housing of the kind the company was seeking to build.

He said: “Given the lack of this type of extra care provision in Camden, we hope that the planning inspector approves the proposal so we can deliver for the older people of West Hampstead and surrounding areas.”

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