CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Planners urged to save St Anne’s Church from demolition plan

Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which uses building, gathers 2,000 signatures against British Land proposal

11 May, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

St Anne’s in Laxton Place

A COALITION of conservation groups, civic societies, parishioners, a college and residents have joined together to condemn a developer’s plans to demolish a church and replace it with a tower block in Regent’s Park.

Planners are tonight (Thursday) due to rule on a bid by British Land, which is behind the multi-million pound Triton Square project, to knock down St Anne’s Church in Laxton Place.

They hope to build a six- to nine-storey block of 22 flats, offices and shops to fulfil an obligation to provide social housing after completing a nearby development. Next to the St Anne’s is the Grade-II listed St Mary Magdalene church, which includes a stained glass window by Victorian architect Augustus Pugin.

Historic England have warned the new block would cut light to Pugin’s windows and by doing so would damage a listed structure. Hundreds of other objectors have lodged protest letters and petitions at the Town Hall ahead of tonight’s meeting.

Objections include the loss of St Anne’s Church, described as being a “community beacon” in an area that has recently lost its library, two pubs and faces years of disruption because of HS2 construction. Other fears include new buildings overshadowing homes and gardens. St Anne’s is also home to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which has gathered nearly 2,000 signatures against the plans.

A letter from the church’s Archbishop, Abune Muse, said: “Many of our congregation live in Camden and we work hand in hand to create peace and harmony here. This devastating uprooting will be felt deeply by all.”

The church – a denomination that counted Bob Marley as a follower – is well established in London and the Laxton Place building is one of the best attended in the UK.

Priest-in-Charge the Rev Kefyalew Aschale added it provided a meeting place for people from Ethiopia, Eritrea and other African countries in London. He added: “More than 300,000 West Indians follow the Ethiopian Orthodox liturgy. In the London area there are approximately 15,000 West Indian Ethiopian Orthodox and hundreds attend, with several dozen being local people.”

In the application, the developers claim “the vast majority” of parishioners are not Camden residents, arguing it does not count as a community facility. They add the effect on Pugin’s window will be minimal, the new designs will deter anti-social behaviour, and that it would improve the “public realm” of the Euston area. British Land describe the new building as a “well proportioned piece of architecture” and would bring a “confident expression” to the location. Tonight’s meeting begins at 7pm.

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