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Camden News - by DAN CARRIER
Published: 29 January 2009

Lissenden Garden residents Ros Bayley, Carol Butler, Kim Futrell and Stephen Greensted
The Heath is once again under threat from bricks and mortar

Stars join campaign to stop building of new road that ‘recklessly flouts’ public safety

PLANS for a new access road on Hampstead Heath have challenged the founding principle establishing the Heath as an open space which should never be built on, campaigners have warned.
Film director Ken Loach and actor and broadcaster Michael Palin have thrown their weight behind a weekend of demonstrations against the proposals, planned for early February.
Campaigners, who live on the Lissenden Gardens estate, say the idea fundamentally undermines the historic ideal that the Heath should be ­protected from any new development.
The City of London Cor­poration, which manages the Heath, wants to create a new road running from Gordon House Road, past the Lido swimming pool and alongside a cricket pitch to provide an access route to its new administrative offices.
It is part of a multi-million pound revamp of Parliament Hill Fields funded by the National Lottery’s Heritage Fund. The City, who have spent 18 months drawing up the plans, aim to spruce up the Lido and the running track pavilion, build a new café, open up the cricket pitch area behind William Ellis School’s playground and landscape the path running from Highgate Road towards the bandstand.
While the proposals have stirred plans for protests, the Heath and Hampstead Society, which is often one of the most critical groups in relation to developments around the Heath, is backing the proposals.
Critics, however, say the road is being laid just so staff can drive up to the front door of their new offices.
Mr Loach, who lives in Parliament Hill, said: “Essentially we should oppose any new building.
“We know that the use of such a road would gradually increase and impede pedes­trians. We need to be vigilant to protect this extraordinary public asset.
“This is an example of bureaucratic nonsense. They have looked at how to get vehicles from A to B with no regard to the value of the Heath.”
He added: “As for office staff using the road to get to the block, they should be able to walk the last 100 yards – and should be using public transport to get to work anyway.”
Mr Palin echoed Mr Loach’s views, adding: “People go there to get away from traffic.
“The Heath is a precious space, created for the use of people rather than vehicles. Any proposal to increase vehicle access anywhere on the Heath compromises that original purpose.”
Ros Bayley, who has helped organise a campaign among people living in Lissenden Gardens, which overlooks the Heath, said: “As if building a road on the Heath isn’t bad enough, the Corporation is recklessly flouting any consideration for public safety by running its proposed road across the end of the footpath that links Lissenden Gardens with the Heath.
“The path is used daily by hundreds of school children, mothers with buggies and dog walkers.”
She added: “Furthermore, they will use the road for demolition and construction vehicles to service a raft of new buildings.”
The Heath and Hampstead Society said they backed the City of London’s plans, and that it did not break the ideal that all work should be for the “public benefit and enjoyment of the Heath”.
The conservation group’s chairman Tony Hillier pointed out that new buildings had been put up such as the One O’Clock Club, the running track pavilion and public ­toilets since the Heath became public land in 1871.
He said: “We have considered the new plans and it represents an improvement of how the Heath is managed.
“I do not feel that changing the way vehicles come on to the Heath is intrusive.”
Heath superintendent Simon Lee said the road was designed to reduce the impact of traffic.
“We are moving our depot to Kenwood to reduce traffic but we will still need to get vehicles to the Parliament Hill site and to the café,” he said.
“We want to split vehicles from walkers for safety reasons and this is the best way to do so.”
There is nothing in law forbidding development on the Heath. Parliament passed the Hampstead Heath Act in 1871, which gave the Metropolitan Board of Works the right to purchase the common – but the bill reserved the right to lay down new roads.
As far back as 1829 attempts to build roads and homes on the Heath have been fought: a plan for a new settlement was discussed in Parliament with the Heath being described as the “Metropolis’s lungs” by campaigners, and Victorian cartoonist John Cruickshank also famously turned his quill against the encroaching bricks and mortar.
Land owner Sir Thomas Maryon Wilson had tried to get permission for successive developments on the Heath – he built the viaduct which he had hoped would eventually carry a road to a proposed grand country home.
He spent 40 years trying to exploit the Heath for financial gain – and was only foiled for good when the 1871 Hampstead Heath Act was passed.
In recent years protecting the Heath’s natural feel has been behind series of campaigns by the Heath and Hampstead Society and the Highgate Society.
The views from the Heath have also been under intense scrutiny in recent years.
When the previous mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, sought to stimulate economic growth in the city, he was warned by the Heath and Hampstead Society that any new skyscrapers could ruin views from the top of Parliament Hill – and that the vista towards St Paul’s cathedral was protected.
Demonstrations against the new road will take place between 11am and 1pm on February 7 and February 8.

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