Developers to appeal council decision to reject 'fake Downton Abbey' in north London


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The Independent Culture

Developers are to fight the local council’s decision to reject their plans to demolish a 140-year-old London villa and build a “fake Downton Abbey” with the belief that bulldozing the site will likely go ahead next year.

Adam Architecture, the practice set up by one of Prince Charles' favourite architects, submitted a modified application on behalf of its mystery client to demolish Athlone House in Hampstead late last year after the initial plans were rejected in 2010.

Camden Council again rejected the proposals to replace the house with a classical-style mansion again earlier this month, based on concerns over the size of the new building.

Robert Adam, the architect on the project, said the landowners had appealed the decision. “We believe we have a robust case,” he said. “People get fired up about old buildings, but this was never of sufficient quality to get listed. Things move on.”

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The planning application was not blocked because of the proposals to demolish the existing site and Mr Adam believes that is a “done deal”.

Should the decision be overturned when the appeal is heard in February, construction on the site could start before the end of next year.

Locals have been fighting for 10 years to save the historic house, built in 1872, from the mystery developer, who is believed to be a billionaire Kuwaiti businessman.

Camden Council rejected the latest proposals earlier this month after more than 5,000 people officially objected, including Monty Python star and local resident Terry Gilliam and architect Sir David Chipperfield, who said demolishing the house would be “a betrayal” of local residents.

Campaigners claim an agreement had been struck that the developers who bought the site could build flats on its grounds if the main house was restored.

After Adam Architecture had submitted the new plans, the Highgate Society wrote a letter saying that visitors to the building in Hampstead Heath had expressed “almost universal outrage at the proposals” and English Heritage also urged the council to block the redevelopment.

The new plans are for a classical eight-bedroom mansion with an indoor swimming pool. Some have complained about the design, calling it a “fake Downton Abbey” a reference to Highclere Castle used as a primary location for the hit ITV show.

Mr Adam said: “I’m seen as something of a traditional architect, so I take it as a compliment. If this is a similar standard to Highclere I would be very proud.”