Judges see double

Council slammed for giving brothers right to ‘desecrate’ beauty spot
An attempt by two brothers to redevelop a small Hampstead house to more than twice its size has been quashed by the Court of Appeal.

Brothers Alex and Thalis Vlachos were left the Garden House in the Vale of Health, a tiny enclave of modest houses completely surrounded by Hampstead Heath.

The gardens bordering the pond are all designated as Metropolitan Open Land (MOL).

The much larger replacement house they proposed spilled into Metropolitan Open Land, the urban equivalent of Green Belt.

Originally, Camden council approved the application on the grounds that the big increase in the size of the house did not make it “materially larger”.

But the Heath & Hampstead Society was outraged at what it felt was desecration of the MOL, which could set a dangerous precedent. Members pledged £55,000 to fund a High Court challenge. Last April a judge decided that Camden had “very seriously misinterpreted” planning policy.

He rejected its argument that it had acted rationally and that the proposed new building was “appropriate”’ under current planning laws.

The brothers then appealed. The society was concerned that to allow the development on the edge of the 800-acre Hampstead Heath flew in the face of government guidelines and made a mockery of planning law.

But the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court judgement. Lord Justice Waller said of Camden: “Had they properly understood the policy, in my view, they could not reasonably have concluded that a building more than twice as large as the original (in terms of floor space, volume and footprint) was not “materially larger”.

The society’s solicitor, John Hunt, said: “We are delighted, not only for ourselves but for the wider implications of the judgement, which will have to be followed in all cases concerning development on Metropolitan Open Land or Green Belt around the country.”

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