A planning row in the heart of Hampstead has united the cream of British acting talent against proposals for a “Malibu mansion”.
Dame Emma Thompson, Greg Wise, Imelda Staunton and Jim Broadbent are among the crop of famous residents who have lodged formal objections to a “very damaging” redevelopment proposal for a “completely out of character” family home in the north London neighbourhood.
A couple, with high-level tech jobs, are seeking permission to demolish a 1960s, one-storey dwelling and build an “aluminium-clad, heavily fenestrated block” in its place.
The A-listers argue the modern construction would stick out like a sore thumb in contrast with the decorative Arts and Crafts architecture that is a prominent feature of the West End Green Conservation Area.
However, a representative for the architecture firm Scenario defended the “discreet proposal” in a statement to The Independent, explaining that it maintains the single storey, above ground, of the existing building with a partial mezzanine level and a basement below.
“The fact that they are celebrities should have no bearing on whether or not their concerns are taken into account. All that matters is whether they are valid objections,” the spokesperson added.
The actors also raised child safeguarding concerns with Sendi and Daniel Young’s proposal, since the four-bedroom home would overlook a cricket pitch used by female pupils at South Hampstead High School.
“The view from the cricket pitch will be a large, looming three-storey aluminium and glass industrial shed, which is totally out of keeping,” they said.
Mrs Young is the Europe managing director for crypto company Ripple, while her husband is a consulting director at FutureWorkForce, an automation service provider that helps businesses harness the power of artificial intelligence.
According to design plans drawn up by London-based Scenario Architecture, their new, sustainable home would include a cinema room, shared working space, sun terrace, an open-plan kitchen, and a green-roof system.
In his letter of objection against the proposed redevelopment, Mr Wise urged the council to refuse the application as it does not belong in West Hampstead.
“As a trained architect, I have no inherent issues with modern design, but, like planting trees: the right design in the right place,” the Sense and Sensibility star Mr Wise added. “This is the wrong design in the wrong place – an aluminium-clad, heavily fenestrated, block.
“It would fit in perfectly in Malibu, but not in our Conservation Area,” the letter, co-signed by his wife Ms Thompson, read.
Staunton, who played the Queen on Netflix’s The Crown, and her husband, Downton Abbey star Jim Carter, also opposed the new construction next to their house in a letter to the planning committee.
“The proposed uncompromising and stark, grey aluminium 'shed' design of the proposed dwelling is at odds with the decorative Arts and Crafts style which is a prominent feature of the West End Green Conservation Area, creating a homogenous architectural style,” they wrote.
“In addition, there are serious child safeguarding concerns about the overlooking of the sports ground,” their letter highlighted. “There will be extensive direct views over the cricket field from the floor-to-ceiling windows of the rooms on all three floors of the proposed dwelling.”
Ms Staunton and Mr Carter, who have lived in the area for 30 years, raised a number of other concerns, including danger to birds as well as the “damaging impact on daylight/sunlight, overshadowing and overlooking of the rear of our home” – noting their love of gardening.
“Over the years we have transformed the garden. We have added 14 trees, a wildlife pond, 5 compost bins, 3 water butts, 15 bird boxes and 5 bird feeders. 36 species of bird, including some real rarities, have visited the garden.
“Many have bred here. We garden organically and sustainably with wildlife at the front of our minds in terms of planting and provision of habitat.
“This proposed building represents a serious threat to our ability to enjoy our garden and a serious threat to the plants and creatures who share it with us.”
Moulin Rouge star Jim Broadbent highlighted that approving their proposal would “set a dangerous precedent for future applications which would radically alter the unique character of the area”, while Mr Clifford said the couple’s new home “would [be] more appropriate in a very modern industrial estate”.
In its statement, Scenario Architecture said: “We are hopeful that the development will still go ahead. The fact that they are celebrities should have no bearing on whether or not their concerns are taken into account. All that matters is whether they are valid objections.
“We have not taken specific steps to address their concerns as we always give due consideration to neighbouring properties when designing.
“We have carried out careful studies and analysis to ensure that overshading etc is kept within acceptable levels as set out in planning policy. We hope this will be the basis on which the decision is made, not subjective personal opinion on the aesthetic merits of the design.
“We did carry out a public consultation and presentation in March where concerns of local residents were voiced and either taken on board or shown to be unfounded as appropriate. Some of [the celebrities] did attend.
“A high level of objection to a contemporary design in an urban setting in London is very common and not surprising.
“We believe that a contemporary building is the appropriate way to replace what is there. It is hard to see how an Arts and Crafts approach could be used here. Our design respects the surrounding context but this does not mean it has to replicate it.
“We are surprised that people involved in a creative industry are so conservative when it comes to another field.”
The Independent has also contacted representatives for Mr and Mrs Young and Savills for comment.