Robert Adam’s Witanhurst wins appeal

Robert Adam has scored a massive victory in his plans to revamp the largest private house in London not owned by a member of the royal family.

The architect’s scheme to demolish part of the Witanhurst mansion in Highgate, an early 20th century grade II*-listed property, and replace it with a large three-storey pavilion design in the style of an orangery was rejected by Camden Council at the end of last year.  However, a planning inspector has now upheld an appeal by developer Safran Holdings, heard at a public inquiry in May, paving the way for the scheme – estimated to cost in excess of £20 million – to go ahead.

The inspector said he considered the orangery to be “sympathetic with the architectural character of Witanhurst” and “a scholarly response to its situation, in terms of its sitting, form, scale, composition and detail”.

Adam described allowing the demolition of a wing of an important listed building and supporting its replacement with a new classical building as a radical decision, despite the fact his approach was supported by English Heritage. “It shows that heritage is not necessarily preserving things in aspic and that modern classical buildings can be a complement to old classical buildings,” he said.

A new basement complex, remodeling the front facade and reinstating the forecourt and landscaping are also part of the proposed development, understood to be for a mystery Russian oligarch.

Witanhurst was built in 1774 and enlarged to its current 3,700sq m in 1913 through a Queen Anne-style house by architect George Hubbard.

The 90-room property has been on the English Heritage Buildings at Risk Register for 10 years and has stood vacant for 40 years. It served as the base for BBC’s Fame Academy and was sold for a reported £50 million.

The latest news is a blow to local groups including the Highgate Society and residents living around Witanhurst, who had fiercely objected to Adam’s proposals.

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