Back in February the Barnet Society thought it had helped save this remarkable Locally-Listed Victorian villa, when the Council unanimously refused its demolition in favour of 20 flats. But the developer has appealed against the decision, and you have until Wednesday 29 September to add your voice to preserve this building from the wrecking ball.

You can read about the dramatic refusal of the planning application in February here:

https://www.barnetsociety.org.uk/component/k2/lyonsdown-roars

We knew that might not be the end of the story. The developer, Abbeytown Ltd, gave the property guardians notice to quit in March and has not responded to a letter from local residents inviting discussion about conversion of the building rather than demolition and redevelopment. As a result, this architectural gem currently stands empty and at risk of damage and decay.

Prestigious national heritage bodies agreed that demolition would be a disaster. In its support for our cause, the Victorian Society affirmed that “the building is of real architectural quality and interest” and that its loss “would have a detrimental impact on the local area”.

SAVE Britain’s Heritage also opposed “needless demolition” and questioned why no case had been presented for re-use of this Locally-Listed 1866 Victorian villa. The campaign also caught the eye of Private Eye’s ‘Nooks and Corners’ which reported in its 16-29 April 2021 edition that “Fears are growing for a large and unusual Italianate Victorian villa in New Barnet”.

The development of New Barnet began in 1850 when Barnet Station (now plain New Barnet) opened, and everything started to change in the area. No.33 – originally named ‘Oakdene’ – was one of the early, and grandest, villas to be built. As well as its striking external appearance with a unique bridge porch/conservatory entrance from Lyonsdown Road, many of its impressive Victorian features and fittings survive unaltered.

Today, it is one of last – and certainly the most characterful – left in a neighbourhood that is being gradually overwhelmed by new identikit apartment blocks and multi-storey office conversions. If New Barnet is to retain a distinct identity, it’s vital for rare survivals of such quality to be kept. At a time of climate crisis, it also makes sense not to waste all the carbon it embodies.

The colourful history of no.33 has been researched by local historian and Society Committee Member, Dr Susan Skedd. She has unravelled the fascinating evolution in its use, from upper-middle-class house, then a spell as a home for single mothers and children, then an African Catholic missionary HQ and most recently as affordable housing for young creatives.

Moreover, original sales documents in the British Library reveal that its architect was Arthur Rowland Barker (1842-1915), who had a portfolio of projects in and around Barnet. He trained with the leading church architect Ewan Christian, who designed Holy Trinity Church, Lyonsdown (1866). This connection probably introduced Barker to the area, and it was around this time that he established his own practice and designed Oakdene, the neighbouring villa ‘Lawnhill’ (demolished) and the new south aisle of St Mary’s Church, East Barnet (1868-69).

In 2020 we succeeded in getting No.33 added to Barnet’s Local List on grounds of its

Aesthetic Merits, Social and Communal Value, Intactness and Architectural Interest. To that should now be added its Historical Interest and its Rarity.

To avoid its Rarity turning into Extinction, we’re working with local residents to put up the best case we can to the Planning Inspectorate, which will adjudicate the appeal. Our main objections are that:

  • 33 is a unique local architectural and historical asset that deserves be saved.
  • The building is ideally suited to re-use.
  • To demolish it and build a new block would be environmentally wasteful.
  • The proposed replacement block would be overbearing, austere and inappropriate.

The Barnet Society and Lyonsdown Road residents will be submitting representations, but the more who do so, the better. Please find a few minutes to submit your own objection by contacting the Planning Inspectorate by Wednesday 29 September via:

  • Online (Planning Portal): gov.uk/appeal-planning-inspectorate
  • Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Post: The Planning Inspectorate, 3/N Kite Wing, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Temple Quay, Bristol BS1 6PN

Be sure to quote the appeal reference no. APP/N5090/W/21/3272187 and provide your own name and address.

You’re welcome to use the Society’s points, but preferably use your own words. Many thanks!

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