Musicians at Air Studios are worried recording work will be brought to a halt by noisy construction, with Brian May among the opponents [Pics: Marcen27 and Paul Capeville]
Published: 12 January, 2017
By RICHARD OSLEY
A COUPLE in a long-running battle to dig out a new basement at their home next to the world-famous Air Studios have suggested doing some of the work while orchestras are on their lunch breaks.
The suggestion comes with a bid to begin work at the house in Rosslyn Hill, Hampstead, unresolved nearly two years after Andrew and Elizabeth Jeffreys first approached the council seeking planning consent for their upgrade.
They have now successfully applied for the case to be judged by a planning inspector instead, after claiming the Town Hall delays were unfair.
Camden Council has been deluged with thousands of pleas from musicians and music fans who claim that noisy excavations will make it impossible to work at the studios, where the soundtracks for blockbuster movies are regularly recorded.
Queen guitarist Brian May, actress Joanna Lumley and the late Wham! singer George Michael all raised objections to the work after the case was first revealed by the New Journal in April 2015.
The dispute has attracted widespread media attention since, with a queue of famous faces warning that it would be catastrophic for the studios and the industry in the UK if recording work was brought to a standstill.
The couple, however, have rarely spoken publicly about their side of the story, with lawyers and planning consultants representing them in the face of the backlash to their proposals.
Paperwork filed with the inspector who will finally rule on the project, however, outlines their argument. It includes the claim that Air Studios cannot expect an absolute “no development” zone around its main hall, formerly known as Lyndhurst Hall.
In an appeal document, Tim Miles, a town planner with Montagu Evans, said the couple had “expended significant resources” to provide technical details and had voluntarily agreed to drop part of the basement development.
Both sides met last summer, Mr Miles said, with each hiring sound technicians. He added: “It is one part of the overall studio that may be affected, for a short length of time, during certain times of the day, which is subject to regular and scheduled breaks.
“Our client would be more than happy to attempt to work with the studio to do this. For instance, working hours could be limited or scheduled around breaks etc.”
But he warned: “It is not appropriate that an area around a noise-sensitive use becomes a sterile ‘no-development’ zone due to potential impact from construction noise.
“Development is permitted adjacent to schools, libraries and hospitals on the basis that disturbance can be minimised with careful management. To refuse all development within a radius of an existing business in a dense urban location, especially when the impacts of construction are largely conjectural, would be wholly inappropriate.”
The case has had so much scrutiny that former culture secretary John Whittingdale wrote to the council to ask planners to step carefully in a letter which highlighted the economic contribution made by the studios to the film industry.
Supporters of the studios have regularly warned that disturbance could shut down one of only two recording spaces large enough for orchestras, and risk harming London’s leading reputation as a place to record film scores.
One musician threatened to sue Camden Council for loss of earnings if it approved the plans and work at the studios was disrupted. The council has now said it would have rejected the work if the decision had not been transferred to an inspector.
In a comment left on the New Journal's website, the studios director Paul Woolf said: "The idea that our neighbours are being thoughtful in dropping part of the application is misleading. Air has rights of açcess to our neighbours garden and the previous application would have infringed these rights. I suggest that everyone reads Air's objections to the Appeal and those filed by Camden."