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‘Philosopher’s hotel’ plan for Hampstead back street replaced by new flats bid

Objectors fear construction work will be to 'detriment of neighbours'

03 April, 2017 — By Richard Osley

How the guesthouse backed by Alain De Botton was going to look

IT was lined up to be “the philosopher’s hotel”, a cultured retreat in the backstreets of Hampstead where guests could check into rooms known as Keats’ Living Room and Constable’s Studio.

But despite winning planning permission to start building the boutique guesthouse in Streatley Place, against a welter of opposition from people living nearby who raised concerns about its scale and construction, the plans drawn up by TV presenter and media-friendly thinker Alain de Botton’s Living Architecture company have been gathering dust for two years without a brick being laid, and now look set to never be realised.

Instead, new applicants have requested to build homes on the derelict workshop land and have told the Town Hall that Mr De Botton’s hotel is no longer on the cards.

The new proposals for Streatley Place published on Camden Council’s planning website

Paperwork published on Camden Council’s website reveals how Adam and Robert Julian Bier now want consent to create four new flats on the site.

Their design team, Martin Evans Architects, told planners: “The site currently has planning approval for the construc­tion of a three-bedroom boutique hotel. We feel that the introduction of residential units across the site is a more appropriate use of the space, adding to the character of the area and general land use of the local areas.”

The application said a modern design would work better than a pastiche of Hampstead’s older buildings, but added: “The overall proposal is very in keeping with the neighbouring properties in terms of scale, materiality and design.”

Mr De Botton’s hotel plan had drawn sharp objections from neigh­bours and the new prop­osals for the site – which has been largely unused since the 1970s and swapped hands a few years ago for just £900,000, according to the land registry deeds – have also sparked a raft of protests.

Many residents are worried about how construction work will be possible next to the narrow lane running alongside the site, often used by parents taking children to New End Primary School.

“No one has yet demonstra­ted how a building there can be construc­ted safely without causing disruption to the local commun­ity,” said one.

Another added: “Con­struction vehicles will use New End road as a means of access and this will be ruinous for safeguarding children.”

The objections have been made public as part of the planning process, which may still be transferred to a committee of councillors to rule on. In her written objection, Dame Hilary Blume – the founder of the Charities Advisory Trust – said the plan “overdevelops the site to the detriment of neighbours and the proposed method of building disregards the impact on a wide spread of neighbours”.

Some residents, however, see the scheme as solving the problem of a disused plot.

“This residential scheme is the best proposal for the site offering much-needed homes for the area and makes the best use out of a derelict piece of land that desperately needs attention,” said one supportive local.

The developers have pledged to keep dust levels down and to limit the closure of Streatley Place during work.

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