Nearly 100 unaffordable flats planned for street dubbed ‘Billionaires Row’

None of the 98 new homes will be designated for affordable housing, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

The Bishops Avenue and (inset) the plans by Wolff Architects
The Bishops Avenue and (inset) the plans by Wolff Architects

Plans for two developments containing no affordable homes on one of the wealthiest streets in Britain have been waved through by councillors.

The schemes will provide a total of 98 flats at two adjoining sites in The Bishops Avenue near Hampstead – dubbed ‘Billionaires Row’ because of the wealth of its property owners, who include monarchs, business tycoons and celebrities.

Despite the exclusivity of the neighbourhood, many of the street’s mansions are vacant and have been allowed to fall into disrepair.

Barnet Council’s strategic planning committee considered plans for the sites, which both fall within Hampstead Garden Suburb Conservation Area, during a meeting on Tuesday.

The first development involves demolishing The Towers, a three-storey mansion at 53 The Bishops Avenue, and building a six-storey block containing 65 flats.

Council planning officers told the committee the site had been in a poor state of repair for more than a decade, and a fire that recently destroyed the roof of the existing building was being investigated by the police. They added that it also had a long history of antisocial behaviour and trespassing.

A second scheme to build 33 flats in a four-storey block at 51 The Bishops Avenue also won approval. The site was formerly occupied by three large, detached homes that have been demolished in line with a previous planning permission.

A gym, swimming pool and games room are also included in the plans, alongside basement car parking.

Council policies state that all new developments of over ten homes must contribute to a borough-wide target of 40% affordable units. But financial viability assessments provided on behalf of the applicants, Smart Global Ltd and Birch Venture Ltd, deemed the sites would not be able to support affordable housing.

However, the council stands to gain a total of £2.5million from the developers that it can use to fund low-cost housing schemes in other parts of the borough.

Planning chiefs also agreed a late-stage review mechanism designed to establish whether further contributions towards affordable housing can be made if sales values increase.

Council officers told the committee the developments would provide jobs and council tax income as well as helping to reduce antisocial behaviour, and these and other benefits would outweigh the “less than substantial harm” they would cause to the conservation area.

The council received no objections to the first scheme during a public consultation. There was one objection to the second during an initial consultation, but no objections were received during a subsequent round after changes were made to the proposed scheme.

After the committee received assurances on the late-stage review mechanism from the developers’ planning agent, members unanimously approved the schemes.

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