The Independent London Newspaper
26th April 2019

Bowling club bid for luxury housing gets Whitehall approval

    How the Mansfield Bowling Club site will look

    Published: 2 February, 2017

    MORE than 100 years of sporting history in the heart of Dartmouth Park is set to end forever after a Whitehall planning inspector ruled a luxury housing development can be built on the site of a bowling club.

    The directors of the Mansfield Bowling Club have been battling to build 21 homes on its site in Croftdown Road for nearly a decade. Blocked by the Town Hall, they discovered this week that a planning appeal has been successful.

    The bowling club is on open land donated to the area by philanthropist Angela Burdett Coutts and has been used for bowling and tennis for more than a century. Its directors, however, said they had closed the club due to falling membership and instead applied to build housing.  

    The decision could cost Camden Council – who rejected the application – more than £1million, as the planning inspector, Kevin Gleeson,  approving the development made the Town Hall liable for costs and struck out a request for developers to provide £600,000 worth of sports facilities as part of planning negotiations.

    Council lawyers have now been asked to consider whether there are grounds to take the decision to a judicial review on the basis that the land should be used for sport.

    In a further twist, the club directors say profits from the development will be shared out among their members, and not passed on to Bowls England, the national association for the sport.

    Actor Fay Ripley, who stars in the hit TV series Cold Feet, campaigned against the project. She said: “This whole sordid fiasco is likely to cost Camden, and therefore us, the tax payers, £1millon. The open space designated for 100 years to sports is being replaced with expensive housing that will line the pockets of developers, but cost us dearly. It saddens me that people are no longer heard, that even though £600,000 was promised to Camden Council to mitigate the loss of this land, the developers no longer have to honour that promise. They are getting off scot free with big greedy smiles on their faces. How can the planning inspector be so easily bullied, even after having a sea of evidence from the council and community?”

    Keith Northrup of the Mansfield Neighbours Group, who had fought the plans, said: “This is a story of greed without a happy ending – unless you happen to be the developer or a member of the Mansfield Bowling Club. It is particularly disgraceful that the developers have pursued cash-strapped Camden Council for the cost of the appeal.”

    Highgate ward councillors were united in their opposition to the project. Green councillor Sian Berry called the decision “disgraceful,” while Labour councillors Oliver Lewis and Sally Gimson added: “The inspector  ignored the fact this was an asset of community value.”

    The bowling club directors now say work will push ahead, and said there would still be a level of sport as the Kenlyn Tennis Club, also on the site, would get an extra court added for their use, rising from two to three. Chairman Andy Docker told the New Journal he believed it was a “win-win” situation, adding that 53 per cent of the scheme was social housing and previously private land would be opened to the public.

    He also confirmed that the club changed their articles of association at an emergency general meeting, meaning profits will be shared out equally among bowling club members and would not go to Bowls England. 

    He added: “There will be a community park and  community tennis courts, paid for by the private enterprise of housing.” 

    Mr Docker declined to answer questions as to how much money each member was likely to get, nor the numbers on the membership roll. He added: “No one is walking away with fortunes.”



    We need to live in the real world

    This is sadly what happens when local residents fight every development that appears on the horizon, and councillors don't have the guts to stand up to them. I live nearby (I am not a MBC member or director) but would never get involved publicly because the campaigners seem to be more interested in the campaign than the outcome, and anyone on the fence or in favour gets vilified in quite nasty ways. There were lots of pie in the sky ideas that Camden Council with it's massive budget cuts would buy the site and create a community oasis despite the Highgate Newton project taking obvious priority, or us local residents would raise the money from a cake sale or some such.

    We have to live in the real world and accept that land is worth a certain amount and compromise with developers to find a way forward - if local people had actually accepted this as a business transaction then there could have been an agreed solution. Attacking people for making profits from "luxury housing" when we all live in very nice valuable houses is ludicrous (mine is worth well north of £1 million so I suspect my neighbours are in the same lucky position!!).

    As for the DPCAAC and the Mansfield Neighbours Group, it seems to be run by people whose egos are more important than reality and they won't hesitate to attack people who disagree with them. We have lived next to a very ugly building for decades and it is now close to being derelict, but winning a purist moral argument seems to be more important to these "community leaders" than achieving something positive. Now Camden Council will lose £600,000 in sports facility money and £1million in legal costs and the development proceeds anyway.

    But at least the local egomaniacs can be pleased that their campaign got them lots of publicity and made them look like champions of the common people (despite the £1million+ houses we are lucky enough to own!!).


    This has been rumbling for years, glad we won't have to read about the whole sorry saga anymore!!

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