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Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota bids to save former family home from demolition

Leading architects draw up new arched home for Hampstead street

23 June, 2017 — By Richard Osley

An artists impression of how the new home would look

TATE Gallery director Sir Nicholas Serota has made a fresh bid to stop the demolition of his family’s former home in Hampstead.

He has appealed for the £2.9million property to be protected from a new redevelopment project, claiming that designs for the site were an “example of overdevelopment”.

Its new owners have recruited leading architects Sergison Bates to draw up plans which would see a larger home built with a new arched entrance. The firm said it had come up with a “contemporary and original” design for a new three-bedroom house which would “reflect the novelty and eclecticisms of the Arts and Crafts movement”.

Although his family have not lived at the house for more than a decade, Sir Nicholas has written to the Town Hall urging planners to refuse consent. He said his family had enjoyed the “scale and elegance” of a home designed by Ted Levy, the 1960s architect known for his work on modernist homes across north London.

Sir Nicholas Serota and his family’s former home

The current house was “modest” to allow for “small gardens at back and front, both of which my mother planted with great care”, he said, adding: “In recent years the owners have destroyed the front garden to accommodate an additional car.” Sir Nicholas said that, while the house had been described as “overly discreet”, he felt “it is just this discretion that helps preserve the original character of the street”, adding that the proposals “show just how much more volume they are cramming onto the small site and make it clear that this is an example of overdevelopment”.

He made a similar objection last year before Camden Council blocked building work on an earlier scheme. The property was formerly owned by Sir Nicholas’s mother, Baroness Serota, a minister in Harold Wilson’s 1970s Labour government. She died in 2002. Some neighbours have written in support of the change, while Sergison Bates has submitted a “peer review” file, in which a series of a highly-regarded architects and architecture critics endorse the plans.

While the council blocked earlier plans on the basis that the existing house made a “positive contribution” to the area, the applicants say it is of “low architectural merit”. Paperwork filed by Sergison Bates at the Town Hall says of the plans for a new house: “While the design of the house accommodates the specific requirements of the owners in their quest to make a long-term small family home and reacts to the immediate scale, street scene, outlook and sightlines of its immediate environment, it also seeks to find an appropriate architectural language of a modern home which is innovative and yet heavily informed by the local architectural culture.”

Planning officials are reviewing the designs after a consultation survey closed last week.

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