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Hampstead police station put up for sale after standing empty for eight years

EXCLUSIVE: Department for Education gives up on school conversion plan

15 April, 2021 — By Harry Taylor

The old police station in Rosslyn Hill

THE former Hampstead Police Station – which has stood empty for the best part of a decade – is up for sale after the government gave up on a plan to turn it into a school.

A planning inspector threw out an appeal after Camden Council had twice refused to grant consent for the Abacus Belsize Primary School to move in.

It had closed as a police base in 2013 as part of cuts ordered by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, during his time as the Mayor of London.

The Department for Education, the current owner, is now looking for a buyer for the grade-II listed station and its connected court house having never been able to use it.

“The department will look to sell the previously proposed site on which planning permission has been refused,” the DfE said in reply to our questions. “We are working closely with the school to find a new site that meets its needs as soon as possible.”

Abacus Belsize, which formed amid concerns that there was a shortage of places for children whose families did not want to use religious or private schools, has been operating from a temporary site in King’s Cross with pupils bused there each day.

A spokeswoman for Anthem, the trust running the school said it was a “huge disappointment” to be stopped from moving in, but was working with the DfE to find a permanent home in the area.

Now a number of possible different uses have been mooted for the building, including the idea that a developer could convert it into flats.

The New Journal understands that council officers are looking at the viability of taking on the building and examining its potential uses.

One stumbling block for prospective buyers could be that the DfE may be looking to at least recover the £14.1million it paid to buy it in 2014.

The property hasn’t yet been formally marketed by an agent.

Other suggestions include rented business space, and the previously proposed “Jailhouse Rock” museum and archive celebrating British rock ’n’ roll. Photographer Jill Furmanovsky, who has pushed the idea of a music museum, was shown around the disused site in March and said while it had fallen into disrepair, it could become a cultural beacon in London. She is the founder of Rock Archive, a collection of photos of musicians.
“It would need some millions spent to put it right,” she said. “But it would make the most marvellous study centre; a serious place where on the top floor you might have libraries of stuff like the Rock’s Backpages archives which currently have nowhere to go, you could have an exhibition space, you could have students coming in who are doing PhDs, you could also have classes and so on.”

She added: “We just wandered around imagining these things. I imagine it’ll go up for sale and it’ll end up as flats. To me it’s a lost opportunity.”

The plans for the school came up against fierce opposition from campaign groups in Camden who were concerned about noise, school run pollution and the impact on the building’s heritage.

But the long-term vacancy of the building has also provoked concern, and last year about 800 people broke in and staged an illegal rave despite the coronavirus lockdown.

Another potential use which is backed by a group that campaigned against the school, is for it to become a flexible working space.

Andrew Neale, the co-chair of the Hampstead Campaign for Responsible Development (HCRD), said: “A business hub providing local employment and services, including some specific community facilities as a genuine benefit for Hampstead, is one suggestion for its future.”

Hampstead Town councillor Maria Higson, who previously spoke against the school proposals at the appeal, said: “I’m a big supporter of flexible working space, to support entrepreneurs and small business. We’ve got a lack of that type of space in the north of the borough.

“I can see people wanting to be there, because if I wanted a flexible working space I’d choose Hampstead where it’s really nice and you can walk to the Heath on your lunch break.”

Cllr Higson added that a museum would also be a positive idea, but stressed the need to be car-free.

David Castle of the Heath and Hampstead Society said: “We would like the undertaking, from whoever does take it on, that work will go on to protect it, because it is the most impressive building.”

Camden’s regeneration chief Cllr Danny Beales said: “The worst case would be if it was just sold to a private property developer and it would be private luxury homes.”

He added: “We would like to see it continue to serve the community through a variety of ways, that also reflects its heritage.

“But there is a big shortage of affordable housing in the area, there could be an opportunity for arts and cultural spaces, or for affordable workspace for businesses as well. It could be a mixture of uses.”

Contempt for court

Photo by Jill Furmanovsky © 2021

THIS is the mess left by vandals inside the listed courtroom at Hampstead Police Station: red paint stains are all around, while the word “bloodrave” have been daubed on the walls.

These exclusive photos show the damage done to the building after 800 people broke in last Halloween.

The courtroom was a key hurdle in attempts to open a school on the site in Rosslyn Hill as planners and a planning inspector feared too much harm would be done to the room and its historic fittings.

Photo by Jill Furmanovsky © 2021

Hampstead Town councillor Maria Higson said: “It’s absolutely disgraceful. We protect our heritage so that future generations will be able to benefit as we did. Destroying it is an insult to all of the people who work tirelessly to preserve it.”

A Historic England spokeswoman said it was “sorry” to hear of the damage, and added: “We work closely with the police giving expert advice and guidance in order to prevent and investigate crimes relating to the loss or damage to protected historic buildings and sites.”

[All courtroom photos: Jill Furmanovsky]

David Castle of the Heath and Hampstead Society said: “It just goes to show how some people who are hooligans really don’t have any respect for things like this. At least they haven’t set fire to it. The good news is that it is fixable and they will be able to restore it.”

Camden said the damage was “incredibly sad” but “mostly reversible, and that it was working to ensure that the building remained secure.

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