THE developer at the heart of the legal fight against Barnet Council's plans to save a century old monastery has not ruled out demolishing the building after yesterday's “milestone” victory.
High Court Judge Mr Justice Collins said planning bosses had acted “unlawfully” when classing the old Carmelite monastery, in Bridge Lane, Golders Green, as a Conservation Area.
Under those guidelines, developers Metro Construction Ltd would have to seek permission to pull down the building, which was constructed between 1906 and 1908.
But Justice Collins said a building could not carry such a categorisation solely for the purpose of protecting it from demolition, and stated that since the site had failed to reach the National Heritage criteria for “listed” status, the designation must be “quashed”.
The decision leaves Director of Metro Construction Ltd, Haim Danous, clear to take whatever action he wants with the building, as planning permission has already been gained.
Mr Danous said he urged the council to drop the conservation status before taking legal action, but was sure he would win the case if it went ahead.
He said: “It was bad treatment from them [Barnet Council] and it was more politics than anything else.
“I wanted to show them they couldn't push us around like that.
“We knew we were going to win. We gave the council a way out and still they wouldn't back down.”
The company is now canvassing the views of residents in the area before pushing ahead with the planned development, which could include five detached houses and about 28 flats.
Mr Danous said: “I have got planning on it and I can do anything I want with it, but whatever happens, it won't happen in a hurry as it will be determined by the market conditions.
“We are doing the research to get the feel of local people about what they want and what they would want to buy.
“I am not vindictive. At the end of the day I am going to develop a site for the people there, but I have to make money.”
The plans for the monastery, which was bought for a “substantial sum” in September 2007 when the remaining four nuns left, also include 13 affordable units for Orthodox Jews who require assisted housing.
The Agudas Israel Housing Association, which administers schemes across London, was part of the the original planning application, and has received funding to help support the project.
AIHA chief executive Ita Symons said after the High Court ruling: “It is a milestone and a tremendous breakthrough.
“We want to move on as soon as possible and this is a very good result for us. We have been held up for a long time.
“We are acting to negotiate with the borough in order to improve the planning and increase the affordable housing limit. It is extremely important because we have got the funding and we need a contract by February or we could lose our money.”