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Protest over art collector Anita Zabludowicz’s redevelop Kentish Town chapel

Historic England raise concerns over former Methodist church

03 August, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

The church in Prince of Wales Road which was turned into an art gallery in 2007

A BILLIONAIRE art collector is facing criticism over radical plans to redevelop a listed church to store her huge horde of works.

Anita Zabludowicz bought a Victorian Methodist church in Prince of Wales Road, Kentish Town, in 2005 and opened a gallery in 2007 that displays some of her huge personal collection, including paintings by Tracey Emin and radical sculptures by ­Terence Koh.

The gallery has now applied for planning permission to demolish the oldest part of its Grade II-listed chapel and replace it with a new café, shop, storage rooms and extra gallery space. In an official objection to the Town Hall, Historic England said: “The proposal would cause harm and we do not support the scheme on heritage grounds. The part of the building most affected by the scheme is the oldest part and was built by noted Methodist architect Elijah Hoole. It retains its original form, windows, single internal volume and external fabric. The middle section contains original features including staircase and fireplaces.”

Gallery owner Ms Zabludowicz is married to billionaire Poju Zabludowicz, whose family earned a fortune from the arms industry. The pair own a mansion in The Bishops Avenue, Hampstead, and Mr Zabludowicz is a high-profile donor to the Conservative Party who helped bankroll David Cameron’s leadership bid.

The family say they are philanthropists supporting emerging artists. But the gallery has in the past faced calls for boycotts due to involvement in the arms trade. Haverstock ward Labour councillor Alison Kelly, in her objection, said: “The organisation wants to increase the height and bulk – taking sunlight from people, removing an historic, interesting hotchpotch of shapes – and creating a huge, solid, factory-like structure.”

Neighbours also say they have had no contact from the gallery in eight months since the plans were lodged. Father Graeme Rowlands, of Holy Trinity and St Silas Church, next door to the gallery, said this week he did not know about the project until he was contacted by the New Journal.

He added: “Along with so many, I regret that every tiny open space is now being filled in and every new building is higher than the one before it.”

The gallery did not respond to requests for comment but in its planning statement it said: “After 10 years in the iconic building, we would like to significantly invest to allow our growing international activities to be exposed to the Camden, London and UK audiences. “An increase of exhibition and adding further educational and catering spaces would allow us to significantly grow our programme in line with our ambitions.” They added that they currently have one storage room and there is no wheelchair access to the building.

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