Plans to demolish Altamira in Harlesden for houses put on hold

Plans to bulldoze a “gorgeous” Victorian villa in north-west London for dozens of new homes may be shelved amid concerns over whether the council has permission to proceed with the plan.

The Brent Council received approval in August 2020 to redevelop the 19th-century building in Harlesden’s Morland Gardens, known as Altamira.

This was despite fears it would lead to the loss of one of the area’s most well-known buildings and could set a precedent for the demolition of even more historic monuments.

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Local historian Philip Grant, who has repeatedly campaigned against the planned redevelopment, then noticed that part of the plan would involve diverting a path connected to Altamira. for which he says that the municipality does not have permission for this.

The council plans to apply for an injunction allowing it to issue a £38m contract to move forward with its plans, but Mr Grant has argued that this will not be easy and could end up being costly.

The issue will be discussed at a Brent Council review meeting Thursday, after Liberal Democrat and Conservative councilors asked the subject for further analysis.

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Mr Grant said: “The council could have applied for a cease and desist order for the highway site for 1 Morland Gardens at any time from October 2020 onwards. It only started the process in April 2022 and has now received objections that are likely to last until spring 2023.

“There is no certainty about the outcome. The municipality must also use the land in question for planning purposes, including the community garden.

“That is only legally possible if the land is no longer needed for its current use. There are strong air quality and environmental reasons why the community garden and trees are still needed.”

The future of Altamira is a hotly debated topic for the residents of Harlesden and those interested in Brent’s architectural history. Cllr Ketan Sheth said he often “admired this beautiful building” when he was a kid growing up in the neighborhood and that it would be “sad to lose it”.

When permission was granted for its redevelopment, Roger Macklen, of the Willesden Local History Society, cited the Brent Council’s own planning guidelines, stating that heritage assets are “a unique and irreplaceable resource that justifies protection, conservation and enhancement”. He added that the municipality’s historic environmental strategy notes that such assets “cannot be used for regeneration and site creation.”

Brent Council said the plan will provide 65 much-needed social housing, along with a new adult education centre, affordable workspace and cafe. Then-Leading Schools, Employment and Skills Councilor Amer Agha said: “This new mixed-use development will deliver a host of benefits to the local community, including a top-class learning environment for residents, much-needed social housing, a new business center as well as community spaces.

“We want the building to be used much more efficiently in a way that benefits the local population and makes a positive contribution to their lives. We look forward to making this dream a reality.”

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