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Athlone House

Some of you might be interested in signing the petition to save Athlone House - see http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/camden-council-save-athlone-house-from-destruction-2

Comments

Showing 21 of 21
Woods
i've signed and it is a super film
Dorothy B
It would be so sad if this house was knocked down to build another luxury mansion that will probably never even be lived in. If you drive down Bishop's Avenue at night all you see is houses inhabited by security guards.
Sydney C
It is interesting to consider why many of the biggest most prestigious houses are built/bought but not lived in? Presumably, where the legal owner is a company not under UK jurisdiction it is likely to be a financial instrument rather than a home. Where it is owned by a known wealthy person it demonstrates status and power - ie trophy houses. Either way not contibuting to the local (or UK) community.
Rachella S
I've signed the petition but in doing so, noticed that it still needs a many more signatures. Our heritage is one of the last things the UK has that differentiates us from the rest of the world. Councils shouldn't let tasteless developers destroy that.
I'm with Noel Park net
David B
Actually while I am sure Sydney C is on to part of what is going on, I would suspect that another factor is that these houses are being bought by people as refuges, or bolt holes, should they have to suddenly leave the country they are in. So when Syria started to get unstable there were more enquiries from foreign purchasers from  that  region. Countries
such as Lebanon.

The problem is that this influx of money from outside is de stabilising  the property market. In a way that residents of pretty Cornish villages will tell you has been happening to them  for years. (In that case the incomers wanted the homes as second holiday homes and were usually from London....)

It is no accident that another "safe haven" country Switzerland has recently had a national referendum to restrict foreign ownership of houses as they were getting a big influx as well.

What Britain has in common with Switzerland apart from an international reputation as a peaceful, law abiding country, with an un corrupt public service, is that in both countries foreigners can get favourable tax treatment. This is not the case, for example, for France.

Which is why "prime" property in Paris is cheaper than "Prime" here as if you spend over two million pounds on a flat in Paris you become liable for French taxes on all your earnings and wealth...
I'm with Crouch Hill Park
Dorothy B
I'm sure you are right, Davd. The Gadaffi family had a luxurious house just around the corner in Hampstead Garden Suburb for just such an emergency. Bishop's Avenue isn't so much a residential street as a line of ostentatious safe deposit boxes. In the case of Athlone House no one seems to knows who the owner is (except the architect, one presumes.)
Dorothy B
You are right Rachella, I'm surprised it hasn't had more signatures yet - let's hope it's just because people are busy getting ready for Christmas.
Sydney C
Wittenhurst is another with no clear owner. Average UK taxpaying owners have all their details including price visible in the public domain from the Land Registry. Not so those owned by foreign companies, as the shareholders are anonymous. (and the share sales attract no capital gains tax)
Tony E

While I sympathise with the dislike of money people using houses for investment, I think we have to change our attitude to heritage fast. 

This obsolete old Victorian house is a huge waster of scarce energy.  The wealthier and bigger the house, the more fossil fuels that are wasted. 

It probably uses ten times as much energy to heat as a modern home of the same size. 

We have just visited our son's modern, just completed new, 3 bed flat.  The boiler hardly ever has to turn on, and it is the freshest air we have come across, at his home warming party with lots of people, with its modern low energy, silent, MVHR ventilation (“Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery”). 

All this excessive use of fossil fuels is going to destroy our children’s children’s quality of life, not to mention, making humans extinct with global warming. 

The recent weird weather is the start of severe global warming.  With scientists warning that we expect more extreme weather like our floods, and hurrican Sandy etc.

Not to mention wasting all the remaining gas, oil and coal, so there are no more cheap fossil fuels for our children.  They will curse us for our selfish disregard of their future. 

There are about 7 million obsolete old solid wall homes in UK, that  desperately need energy improving or demolition, or humans will have no future. Most are prevented from being energy improved by the Town Planners, backed by the heritage lobby, wanting us to live in the past.

In nearby affluent Dartmouth Park, one in seven families are NOW in fuel poverty (winter 2011-12 see www.camden.gov.uk/corporate-sustainability data), because of living in these obsolete old homes.  Last year 7,100 old people died because they could not afford to heat their homes  (see:- World Health organization data :- 24,000 old people died of cold during winter 2011-12, for England & Wales, and a third of these because they could not affords to heat their homes). 

(Insulation like a warm coat around our homes should be 100mm minimum thick, preferably 2-300mm, with weather proof coating, says Peter Rickaby consultant energy expert architect, to Camden Council Town Planning Dept.  Who helped draft Town Planning’s Dartmouth Park guide to Town Planning and Energy Improvements.  A pilot project for the whole of Camden, search on www.Camden.gov.uk

We need to accept that all obsolete old homes must urgently have added external insulation, with weather coating, and this must take priority over outdated sentiments about heritage.

Xyn X
Tony E while your points are valid in general, this petition is specific to Athlone House. 

How would knocking down Athlone House and replacing it with a an enormous, ostentatious mansion help those in fuel poverty? It wouldn't.

As for environmental concerns, I think in this particular case, it might be a long, long time before energy savings in heating can offset the enormous amount of resources needed to build an entire luxury mansion from scratch.

The preservation of heritage buildings need not be exclusive of energy improvement. 

Yes, old buildings can be energy inefficient by modern standards, but this is easily remedied by having work done or implementing new technology without demolishing the entire building. 

When a heritage building is torn down, it is gone forever.
David B
I would support setting up a separate thread on Heritage versus Energy Conservation. Tony E. would you like to start it, you could just cut and paste your posting above and put it in as the opening post in a conversation; of course I could do this now, myself, but it seems rude to do it without your say so...
I'm with Crouch Hill Park
Sydney C
I would join. A really important topic, not only for Highgate, but as part of the move to minimise climate change damage (looking too late to stop it)
Dorothy B

I would also support a new conversation here on energy conservation. As the proud winner of the Archway Low Carbon Zone street champion prize last year, I completely agree that we should be doing everything we can to improve insulation and energy-saving in our homes.

However, I don't think that has anything to do with the destruction of Athlone House and its replacement by a billionaire’s mansion in contravention of the promise to Camden council that it would be repaired. The energy used in demolishing the old house and re-building the new one would take years to make up in energy saving. See this letter in the Ham and High regarding this issue and a similar project in Broadlands Road, Highgate.

Tony E
Dear David B
Do please set up a separate thread on Heritage and Energy Conservation, that is a good idea.

I will transfer my comments.
Tony E

Dear Xyn X,  you say:-

"How would knocking down Athlone House  ... help those in fuel poverty?  It wouldn’t."  

The reason there is a direct connection, that fuel poverty is caused by the heritage lobby protecting most old buildings including Athlone House, both good and mediocre architecture (preventing insulation to even those NOT in conservation Areas):- 

For example, because of the heritage lobbys’ actions, a Highgate Newtown estate has the highest level of fuel poverty in the borough, at more than 1 home in four.  

Shortly after Dartmouth Park Conservation Area was established, because of high levels of fuel poverty, Camden started building an experimental, energy improving brick cavity wall around the St Albans Rd Estate of solid-brick, 5 storey flats, close to Highgate Library in Chester Rd.  They had presumably planned it before it was a CA, and went ahead without further permission. 

The local Conservation Committee moved into action and insisted work was stopped, as it destroyed the architecture of these architecturally mediocre, blocks of flats.  So the new cavity walls were pulled down to below ground level, and the walls remain energy expensive.  

Heritage lobby people appear to care more about preserving the appearance of obsolete old buildings like Athlone House and the other 25,000 old Camden homes, of solid brick, energy-inefficient, buildings, than they care about the crises of people unable to pay for heating , not to mention dying from lack of affordable heating. 

This ban on insulation now extends to most of Camden’s older homes, not just in Conservation Areas.

(see Camden Town Planning’s “Guidance on Heritage and Energy Efficiency”) 

Older solid-brick wall homes need about 6 times as much heating cost, and climate changing carbon emissions as a modern insulated brick cavity home, or older home with added insulation.  Insulation has to be outside, because of serious technical problems with inside insulation.  (see Building Regulations advice, as confirmed by Camden Town Planning’s energy consultant architect Peter Rickaby). 

This excessive concern by Camden heritage lobby, about preserving the older buildings at the expense of contemporary needs, has led to Camden making rigid policies preventing most energy upgrading improvements to homes in Camden, at the expense of preventing common sense improvements to solve the present heating and fuel poverty crises.  Soon even people on middle incomes will be unable to afford heating, like they used to. 

Camden has followed this vigorous demand to preserve the past, and made it illegal to insulate most of the 25,000, old, solid-walled homes in Camden, which include most of those not even in Conservation Areas. 

(see LBC:- “Guidance on Heritage and Energy Efficiency”) 

Talking of loss of our children’s heritage, this also includes loss of heritage of climate and resources, not only buildings.  We have been warned by the United Nations scientists, since their 1980’s IPCC Report, that we must urgently and thoroughly cut our fossil fuel use and carbon emissions, if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change for our children.  We have done very little except increase our carbon emissions, turned up our gas guzzling heating, and banned much needed insulation.  (Catastrophic means loss of species including human) 

We have also used up all the worlds resources of cheap fossil fuels and minerals, which will quickly cause heating and manufacturing prices to rocket up quicker and quicker, in view of the rapidly increasing world demand.  Our children will curse our greed, as they learn to live in a world of reduced resources. 

We can live with the small minority of listed buildings, with unobtrusive, lesser, energy improvements.  See pictures of contemporary homes with women and men wearing heavy woollen clothes to the floor, and little heating. 

With increasing numbers of people dying of cold we need urgent action.  Not the heritage lobby pressing for the protection of appearance of our homes, at the cost of energy poverty.  Campaigns for protection of old buildings like Athlone House are a symptom of a broader lack of proportion. 

Xyn X
Tony E, your points appear valid, but I find your claim that fuel poverty is caused directly by the heritage lobby more than a little stretched.

1) There are many reasons/causes for fuel poverty - rising costs of energy, inflation, austerity measures, lowering of income etc. Energy inefficient homes are but one aspect out of many. Now out of all these old energy inefficient homes throughout the country, only a small minority would be in conservation areas or happen to be listed buildings. And again, out of this minority, only a  tiny percent with special circumstances will be affected - those where planned works would alter the building contravening prior agreements (as in Athlone House) or where proper planning permission was not properly obtained (as in the St Alban's Rd Estate you mentioned). 

2) You attribute too much power to the heritage lobby. They have no legislative powers in themselves, and even their lobbying interest / influence is strictly limited to conservation areas / listed building. All they can do is point out where agreements are not followed through (Athlone House) or where procedures are not followed (St Alban's Estate). 
To say that they have the power to cause fuel poverty and destroy the planet, and are actively doing so, is absurd. There are far bigger causes of fuel poverty and environmental damage than conservation efforts.

3) I don't know why Camden follows the policies it does. But rather than say the Heritage Lobby controls the local council (unlikely), I like to think that council would have considered the views of both sides, conservationists and developers before putting those policies in place. 
I can't see how they could be interested in or get away with implementing draconian, unreasonable legislations causing fuel poverty at the whim of the heritage lobby as you seem to suggest. This seems highly unlikely to me.

4) Outside insulation is but one of many, and not even the best way forward for energy efficiency. Better energy efficiency can be achieved through localized heating from inside rather than heating up the entire house. Take the Japanese Kotatsu for example.

"Most Japanese housing is not insulated to the same degree as a western domicile and does not have central heating, thus relying primarily on space heating. Heating is expensive because of the lack of insulation and the draftiness of housing. A kotatsu is a relatively inexpensive way to stay warm in the winter, as the futons trap the warm air."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kotatsu
Clarke W
London certainly does NOT need more luxury housing for plutocrats, many of whom, indeed, use their multiple houses purely as investments and, in some cases, bolt-holes from which ever country they're plundering overseas.

The plethora of luxury housing is driving up rents and property prices everywhere, and destroying communities. The rich don't send their kids to local schools, don't participate in the community at all - they eviscerate communities by driving out ordinary people, and they couldn't care less about local services and provision, nor about their neighbours. 

London is being sold to the rich, and being destroyed in the process.
Dorothy B
I'm surprised this petition hasn't had more signatures yet. If you haven't done so yet, please have a look at the short film - it only lasts for 2 minutes- and then sign if you agree that the owner should be obliged to comply with the original agreement, rather than knock it down and build himself a new mansion. http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/camden-council-save-athlone-house-from-destruction-
Laura G
Happy to support this, I've signed and hope others will do the same.
Dorothy B
That's good to  know. Apparently some people have had a problem opening the link.

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