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Chipperfield proposals anger Hampstead locals

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David Chipperfield Architects has attracted controversy this week by proposing designs for a series of new luxury apartment buildings on the periphery of London's Hampstead Heath (pictured).

The scheme has further angered local groups by failing to include a provision for social housing in the proposal for the Athlone Hospital site on Hampstead Lane in Highgate.

Both the Highgate Society and the Camden Council Conservative Group have attacked the designs, insisting they will dominate the heath.

If the project overcomes local opposition it will include the renovation of Athlone Hospital, which borders the grounds of Robert Adam's Grade I-listed Kenwood House, the demolition of a series of 1960s extensions, and the construction of three apartment buildings, ranging from three to five storeys.

But local architect Adrian Betham, a member of the Highgate Society, called for the council to throw out the proposed designs.

'There is no shortage of luxury housing in London, ' he said, 'but there is a very real shortage of affordable housing and hospital buildings. We are also concerned that the redevelopment could come to dominate Hampstead Heath.'

The project's opponents have also won the support of Conservative group leader Piers Walcopp, who described the project as a 'carbuncle'.

'We don't want buildings like this, ' he said. 'They won't suit the heath and they certainly don't make one's pulse race.'

And local MP Glenda Jackson told the AJ that the project would 'almost certainly trigger a lot of controversy'.

Even Rob Brew, the planner in charge of the application, admitted that it is going to be 'very difficult for the scheme to win permission'.

'This is a good and welldetailed project, ' he said. 'But one of its biggest problems is the lack of social housing. All the developer is proposing is to give the council a cash lump sum in lieu.

This should only be suggested as a very last resort.'

But project architect Billy Prendergast dismissed the criticism. 'We have spent time consulting with local groups and believe the proposals are designed very sensitively, ' he told the AJ. 'We believe they reflect well in comparison to what is already on the site, and have tried to persuade people to accept the development using architectural and urbanist arguments rather than just a Section 106 agreement.'

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