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Row over bid to move historic dome pool

20th Century Society call for protection of circular pool

28 August, 2018 — By Richard Osley

WITH its space-age dome and circular design, the unique swimming pool at a famous Hampstead house had estate agents, property journalists and architecture buffs all salivating ahead of its sale last year.

There’s only one problem: it has a leak. The eye-catching pool in the grounds of Boncara, a £5.6million house on the fringes of Hampstead Heath, is unusable according to its new owners, who have filed for permission to get it relocated.

But conservationists say the grade-II listed structure is too important to dismantle and have called on Camden’s planning department to reject the proposal. Grace Etherington, of the 20th Century Society, said that “relocation of the pool must be treated as demolition”, adding: “We remain unconvinced that sufficient investigation has been carried out to ascertain the cause of the leak to the pool and we are not confident that the deconstruction and relocation can be carried out without damage to the original fabric.”

Her comments came in an objection published on Camden Council’s website as officials mull over whether to grant consent for the move. The 20th Century Society said it “regrets” the way the property had been divided in the past: it is on the site of the architecturally famous 1960s property, the Schreiber House, but a new home was built next door more recently.

Ms Etherington said the pool was a “heritage asset”.

Another objection filed at the Town Hall from neighbours warned: “Demolition and reconstruction of the pool would be an irreversible erosion of the pool’s authenticity.”

But planning agents for the new owner say action must be taken. “It has been identified that the swimming pool as existing is not a functional building for its purpose and has not been used as such for a number of years due to extensive leaks from the main drain both to the main house ground floor and to the garden,” their application said. “It has not been possible to determine the cause of the problem so far.”

It added: “The application proposes the reconstruction of the swimming pool shell to the north-west of the garden, taking the opportunity to improve the setting of the listed building as well as the relationship between the listed swimming pool and the 1990s single family house that was built adjacent to it. The swimming pool is proposed to be dismantled and its fabric preserved and reinstated in the new building.”

Planning permission has already been granted for other work to the property. The original Schreiber House and pool was designed by James Gowan in 1964. During his career Mr Gowan worked with James Stirling, the architect who the famous industry award is named after. It had been commissioned by the furniture manufacturer Chaim Schreiber, who reportedly gave Gowan free rein on the land. During the 1980s, Gowan joined protests over plans to knock Schreiber House down – a demolition plan that was rejected by Camden Council.

Asked by a TV reporter whether he liked it, Gowan replied: “Like it? Well, externally it is severe and will kind of last forever, but internally it’s pretty marvellous.”

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