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Green oasis in Swiss Cottage fenced off and put up for sale

Users say Covid health and safety claims are 'weak'

21 September, 2020 — By Tom Foot

The green triangle in Goldhurst Terrace

A WILD oasis classed as a site of “importance for nature conservation” has been fenced-off and padlocked-shut ahead of its sale on the private market.

The Green Triangle Wildlife Garden in Swiss Cottage has been carefully maintained by a dedicated community group since 1999.

Tall perimeter fencing has been put up around the large area between homes in Greencroft Gardens, Goldhurst Terrace and Fairhazel Gardens, blocking access from residents’ gardens. Two street entrances have also been blocked with signs saying “private land”.

A letter to residents had announced intention to sell the land – either as a whole or in “parcels” to neighbouring home-owners.

The committee’s secretary Brigitte Arthur said: “We just woke up last Sunday and the fence was going up. They are six foot, metal crowd control style barriers. We were told it is there to stop trespassing.

“We were told to go in there on Saturday and remove everything that was ours. We ran around madly. There are tools, a shed, bark for the paths.”

Agents of the landowner, Moshe Blau, told the New Journal this week he had been left with “no alternative” to fence off the gardens because “no social distancing measures had been put in place” and he was open to potential insurance claims.

The Green Triangle’s working committee, following a meeting this week, described the health and safety claims as “a weak attempt at a face-saving afterthought”, adding: “Insurance is the responsibility of the freeholder”.

The Town Hall’s regeneration chief,  Labour councillor Danny Beales, described the move as “very disappointing” , reminding prospective buyers of the land that special planning rules would restrict any development there.

The wild, green space is listed by the council as a Grade II “Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC). The same listing has protected efforts to develop similar land in Gondar Gardens, West Hampstead, for many years. 

It is regularly used for the members’ communal parties, summer events and children’s play.

Swiss Cottage councillor Leo Cassarani is looking at the potential for using Community Investment Levy funding, part of the planning gain from the Swiss Cottage Avenue Road tower block development, to buy the land for the community.

He added: “We are going to be contacting the freeholder and say to him you’re not going to be able to develop it. Let’s find a price that is fair and talk about it.”

Labour councillor Leo Cassarani

A statement from the landowner’s agents said: “Due to the current Covid-19 pandemic crisis, our client took the necessary action in ensuring the site posed no risk to the people whom had access to it. This was done by carrying out a full Risk Assessment and Impact report on the site by ourselves on behalf of the client. Having received the report our client was left with no alternative but to carry out the recommendations within.”

The statement added that the green space had always been private land and that it was being used for access against health and safety regulations, adding: “The site remained a risk to our client in relation to the health and safety of anyone whom continued to use or required access to the area. Our client remains directly responsible for the area and in so must ensure his exposure to risk is avoided at all costs.”

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