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Campaigners in fight to save Victorian homes in Finsbury Park

PUBLISHED: 15:37 02 May 2017 | UPDATED: 15:37 02 May 2017

The Wilberforce Road development would feature 140 rooms. Picture: Quatro

The Wilberforce Road development would feature 140 rooms. Picture: Quatro

Archant

Sweeping plans to bulldoze a row of Victorian homes in Finsbury Park and replace them with shared flats for young professionals have not gone down well with neighbours.

Wilberforce Road as it looks today. Picture: Russell SmytheWilberforce Road as it looks today. Picture: Russell Smythe

Developers Rainbow Properties are eyeing up Wilberforce Road for 140 en-suite rooms with shared kitchen and living spaces, as well as 16 flats.

But neighbours and heritage experts are fighting the plans. They don’t want the period houses to be knocked down, and are worried about who may be moving in.

They believe it could be used as a hostel – a theory debunked by Quatro, the PR firm working for Rainbow, at a public meeting last week.

“These houses have been around since 1875,” said campaign organiser Hugh White, who lives opposite the stretch of affected houses. “There was no serious bomb damage, and aside from the top end the road is untouched.

Rainbow Properties want to build 140 shared rooms in the block. Picture: QuatroRainbow Properties want to build 140 shared rooms in the block. Picture: Quatro

“There is a great deal of concern about it.”

About 160 people have backed the campaign against the development, and Hugh is also concerned about the prospect of light wells on the pavement side and set back extra stories creating an “institutional” look.

Nick Perry, chairman of the Hackney Society planning group, accepted that during a housing crisis some heritage must be sacrificed, but said the buildings replacing it must have great public benefit.

He added: “Wilberforce Road, in something of a forgotten corner of the borough, has been under-appreciated for decades. The street, and those parallel, contains some of the finest examples of Victorian semis and villas in the borough.

“The wholesale demolition of a swath of them – in perfectly good condition – self-evidently destroys the character of the street.

“So what replaces them is critical, and the design seen at the exhibition doesn’t come close to being acceptable.”

The buildings in question run from number 3 to number 27 and include the Central Park Hotel, which was sold in a multi-million-pound dealin 2015 but remains open.

A planning application is expected to be submitted to Hackney Council within weeks. Quatro said of the meeting: “Some people assumed the homes were going to be for criminals or drug dealers, which they aren’t.

“It’s going to be purpose-built houses in multiple occupation [HMOs] for people who want modern, secure space.”

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