The Independent London Newspaper
18th December 2017

Neighbours planning new homes project buy empty Belsize Park church

    Artist’s impression of the two semi-detached houses being proposed for Glenilla Road, Belsize Park

    Published: 26 January, 2017
    By DAN CARRIER

    NEIGHBOURS living in a street in Belsize Park have clubbed together to buy an empty church and build new homes for themselves.

    The families, who live in Glenilla Road, bought the former Christian Community Church in 2014 and have now asked Camden Council for permission to ­demolish the building and create two semi-detached, three-bedroom homes in its place.

    In the planning application, architect Adam Khan, who won a competition to design the new buildings, wrote that his clients admired the mixture of styles and design in Belsize Park. 

    He added: “The applicants share a friendship and are active members of the local community. Their love of modern architecture and the street in which they live led them to join forces and purchase the site with the view to redeveloping it in a way that is sympathetic to its surroundings and make two high-quality homes for themselves, which enhance the architectural character and quality of the street.”

    The former church is now vacant and falling into dereliction, the application adds. The Christian Community Church was founded in 1922 in Switzerland. They built the hall as a place of worship in 1948. It was meant to be temporary and used pre-fab techniques, including asbestos panelling inside.

    The land also has a garage and shed, which will both be removed if the scheme is given the green light. 

    The application states that Glenilla Road already has a mixture of architectural styles, with a huge range of different styles and heights.

    Mr Khan adds: “This characterful streetscape juxtaposes large and small, tall and low buildings with flat and pitched roofs, in a mixture of architectural styles, materials and typologies, all of which have residential use except for the existing derelict Church Hall.”

    The clients have chosen a design that draws on Belsize Park’s William Morris-style arts and crafts traditions but also contemporary design features. Inside, the layout shows a central stairwell and a courtyard, a patio and gardens. 

    The loss of a commun­ity facility is dealt with in the planning statement. It says that for 30 years the church was well used but that since 1980 numbers have fallen off signific­antly. For 14 years adverts were posted to find new groups who could help take on the costs of the hall but in 2013, due to lack of use, the hall was closed for good and put on the market. 

    Estate agents Hamptons marketed the property but received only one approach in nearly a year – a synagogue who wanted to use it temporarily. 

    The council have received four objections online. One neighbour stated: “I strongly object to the basement develop­ment aspect of this application, particularly in an area of Belsize Park which has many blocks of flats in close proximity on clay soil.”

    Another added that they feared a second floor could block views and suggested instead the building covers the same footprint as the church, which would mean no loss of space but instead stretch the building out on the ground floor.

    They added: “The current proposal would mean a much higher building than the church, and at the same time a much more extensive ground/first-floor envelope than at 34 Glenilla Road. This would be way bulkier than any building in the immediate area and why we unfortunately cannot support the current proposal.”

    The Town Hall have yet to decide whether to recommend the project goes to its planning committee for approval.

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