The Harwell Estate in the Nineteen-Nineties

In 1994 an application was made by Kennet Properties, which is the property arm of Thames Water, to build 27 houses across the Water Board land, from Southern Road to the edge of Fordington Road. Local people protested at once. There had been internicine war between local residents and the Water Board for years as The Board sought to build houses on the land and about 1978, local residents had formed HORS (Hands Off the Reservoir Space) as a defence. At first the Water Board had said that the planned houses were for their employees, and they did succeeed in building a few at the back of Lauradale Road, but their object was far wider than this. Plans to build on the Football Field in Woodside Avenue were defeated after vigorous protests. Now here was a further stage in the battle.

HORS declared that the proposed development of 27 houses was illegal as Covenants under the Deed Poll of 1853 restricted the use of this land, south of Southern Road, to paddocks and no other buildings but stables for horses and summerhouses, were permitted. No building with sleeping or living facilities for people were permitted and these could not be more than twelve feet high. Clearly the original Poll members had wished to retain their unobstructed view across the valley to the south. Nearly a century and a half later, HORS was citing the covenants to restrict further building.

In the 1970s here had been a rush to find potential sites for new housing and, in this atmosphere, Haringey had marked the land as space for development. However, with the loss of so much open land, local opinion had changed drastically. Protesters were vocal in their opposition. Haringey Council refused the original planning application, but Kennett Properties Limited persuaded the Secretary of State to override them and allow the scheme to go through. The developers moved bulldozers into the site, laid foundations for buildings and the beginning of a road to be called Cherry Tree Lane.

By the end of 1994 one house at the Southern Road entrance had been built, with the rest pending. In April 1994 Kennet Properties Ltd applied under the Land Tribunal Act 1949 to have the Covenants discharged, or modified. They wanted to wipe out the Covenants for good. They noted that the covenants forbade building any dwelling houses or buildings other than a summer house and without any sleeping or dwelling room therein within 200 feet of any of the lots numbered below 154 on the map (page 81). Thus the southern section of the site should not have been built on, but the covenant had been broken. The Covenants restricted building on the other sites to dwelling houses and also set out the building lines.

The application then listed no less than thirteen cases of buildings which, they claimed, breached the covenants. Shakespeare Gardens and other houses had been built on sites above no 153, where building was not permitted: various building lines had been breached: glasshouses had been built where only semi-detached houses were permtitted: greenhouses had been replaced with houses: a new road had been laid on sites 15 and 16 which should have been used only for houses. So the list goes on.

Against this HORS said that the fact that covenants have been breached in the past is no justification for doing so again. Muswell Hill in 1995 is not Muswell Hill in the 1850s. Then there was lots of open space, while today the Water Board land is a unique stretch of open field land, used traditionally for archery. These fields are now an even more valuable amenity than they were before.

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