Growing opposition to medical centre’s redevelopment

Residents complain scheme would block sunlight and intrude on privacy, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Temple Fortune Health Centre and (inset) the plans by architects HCUK Group for its redevelopment

Plans to redevelop a health centre in Temple Fortune and build additional flats have sparked dozens of objections from residents.

The proposed redevelopment of Temple Fortune Health Centre, in Temple Fortune Lane, would see the current two-storey 1970s unit demolished to make way for a four-storey block containing a replacement medical centre on the ground floor and 15 flats on the upper floors.

Doctors Leora Harverd and Karen Myers, who have applied to redevelop the centre, say the scheme would provide a “larger” and “better-equipped” surgery for the local community, adding that it has been “carefully designed” to protect neighbours. The flats are intended for private sale in order to fund the redevelopment.

But Barnet Council received 47 objections during a consultation on the plans and no letters in support. Opponents claim the scheme would overlook homes, block out sunlight and daylight, and add to parking and congestion problems in nearby streets.

The scheme’s lack of affordable housing, and its potential impact on a local conservation area, have also caused controversy. The proposals have yet to be considered by a council planning committee.

Zahava Shore, who lives immediately behind the centre, says her bungalow is one of a group of properties that were not acknowledged in the plans submitted to the council, claiming the planners “did not take into account the people most impacted”.

She said: “[My property] is probably ten metres or a bit less [from the health centre]. It is not just the light and overlooking but the fact that we are surrounded by walls – and suddenly there will be a huge, four-storey wall. It is just impossible.”

In her objection to the scheme, Zahava says it will “not just severely reduce natural daylight/sunlight” but also presents “a real threat of overlooking, lack of privacy, and is extremely overwhelming”.

Barnet Council planning policies state that there should be a minimum distance of about 21 metres between properties with facing windows to habitable rooms to avoid overlooking, and 10.5m to a neighbouring garden, while shorter distances may be acceptable where there are “material justifications”.

Zahava said the development would be 10m from her windows. She also disagrees with the developers’ claim that the current building is “unattractive”.

The health centre lies next to Hampstead Garden Suburb Conservation Area and near to three Grade 2-listed buildings in Farm Walk and Temple Fortune Court.

Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust claims the proposed scheme would be damaging to the character of the area, the setting of the conservation area and the townscape, arguing that it constitutes “poor architecture and poor urban design”. It says the scheme would be “at odds with its surroundings” in terms of its scale, design and materials.

The trust also raised concerns that council planning officers’ advice appeared to change during the application process, initially indicating the site could “achieve” a three-storey building with a set-back fourth storey, then subsequently stating that four storeys would be acceptable.

Responding to the comments, the applicants said the health centre’s patient list had grown from 15,000 to 22,000 in recent years, but the current building is “over 40 years old, very expensive to maintain and no longer suitable to support ever-increasing patient needs and the ongoing growth of the local community”.

Adding that the NHS does not pay for surgeries to be redeveloped, they stated that the proposed mixed-used scheme “entirely funded” by residential development would make the best use of the site and deliver “genuine community benefit through the retention, improvement and future-proofing of the doctors’ surgery”.

They said: “Our proposal has been carefully designed to respect the amenity of neighbours. Views on design are subjective, however we are confident that our new building will improve the area, not only by the quality of architecture proposed, but as importantly through our commitment to urban greening and high environmental standards.

“The proposal is the result of extensive discussions with Barnet Council, and the community was encouraged to comment before we submitted our planning application. We continue to engage directly with the council and our close neighbours as our application is considered.”

Barnet Council has been approached for comment.

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