There’s a row going on in Highgate about plans to redevelop St Joseph’s church and surrounding grounds.
The church, with its landmark green dome, and monastic retreat sit at the top of Dartmouth Park Hill. It’s surrounded by grounds that include an orchard – extremely rare for London – and gardens that Islington Council have identified as so important for nature conservation they’re planning to make it a Borough grade II habitat (page 41 of this PDF). Sadly, the church and housing developer United House want to develop these “ancillary areas” to create new homes for the religious community and private flats.
Campaigners are furious that developers seem to be trying to slip their plans in before the Council can protect the habitat. While the gardens aren’t publicly accessible, locals appreciate the sanctuary for wildlife and the green space it offers to pupils at neighbouring St Joseph’s primary school. The plans would also mean closing a public footpath between Waterlow Park and Dartmouth Park Hill and moving it further up the hill – kind of losing the point of a shortcut that means you don’t have to walk up the hill.
The church needs to raise funds to repair the church roof and monastery (and it’s a stunning building) and have decided on selling their land. Campaigners think the cash can be raised some other way. Time to pick a side in N19?