Dollis Hill House: News and Events!

DHHT sends letter of objection to demolition proposals
This is what DHHT wrote in its initial response to Brent Council's consultation on proposals to demolish Dollis Hill House.

The Dollis Hill House Trust (DHHT) objects to the planning application for the demolition of Dollis Hill House. It is sending this brief representation in the 21 day window since notification, and will subsequently provide a fuller representation accompanied by more detailed evidence and information on the progress towards alternative solutions for regenerating the house.

It considers that the requirements of PPG15 for demolition of a listed building have not been met. Trustees also find that the application prepared by DPP Heritage does not convey an unbiased account of the efforts made by the council to save the house. The trust is still working hard, in close liaison with English Heritage, to find solutions that provide viable uses for the building. The statement of Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, on BBC television news on 8 July 2009 shows that there is strong support for finding a solution. He said ‘I do want to see what we can do with Dollis Hill House …….. What we’re going to try to do is see if we can help to raise funds from the private sector because it’s the kind of restoration project I would certainly like to encourage.' There is strong interest in Dollis Hill House, as demonstrated through coverage on BBC television both in July 2009 and the Inside Out programme in October 2007, as well as on the radio and in the press.

The Dollis Hill House Trust considers that Brent Council has not made adequate efforts to save the building. In particular, the planning brief for the marketing of the house stressed the need to be sympathetic towards the original design and wherever possible ‘preserve’ and ‘enhance’ its original character and appearance. This constraint followed from national policy expectations in relation to listed buildings. However, it led to proposals that removed the strong modern southern wall, reinstated an earlier appearance of the house and used more expensive materials than necessary to bring the house back into viable use. This made the capital costs unnecessarily high. Through discussion with English Heritage, it is clear that a more relaxed planning brief would be acceptable at this stage as a way of preserving the house and its heritage, which is not mainly architectural. Such steps have not been taken by Brent Council. However, the continued work of Dollis Hill House Trust on this front indicates that it is a way forward in which there is interest.

The house was not listed for its architectural merit but for its association with William Gladstone. Its historical connections with both Gladstone and Mark Twain are reflected in their writings about the location, with views across London, and its tranquil setting. These remain now. In his diaries, Gladstone wrote of his time at the house restoring him through dozing, reading and meditating and Mark Twain wrote ‘Dollis Hill comes nearer to being a paradise than any other home I ever occupied’. The most architecturally significant element of the house, as identified in the December 2007 conservation statement by the Paul Drury Partnership and by English Heritage, is the entrance porch and balcony above it. Photographs of Mark Twain standing in the porch while he lived there in 1900 and of an ambulance for Dollis Hill House Hospital with a World War 1 nurse standing on the balcony above the porch demonstrate the immediate link of the building itself with significant parts of its heritage. The entrance porch remains intact, yet Brent Council is proposing to demolish it.

The costs of bringing the building back into weatherproof use are not provided by DPP. Instead, costs of £2,828,069 and £5.5 million for complete projects that restore many original features and include new build extensions are quoted, suggesting higher costs than would be the case to bring the building into usable condition. When Brent Council marketed the house in January 2007, it provided a budget estimate by Dearle and Henderson for a weatherproof envelope of £84,320, albeit not having undertaken a full structural survey. The walls appear sound and usable.

The application does not evaluate the effectiveness of Brent Council’s marketing exercise, but merely quotes the conclusion of the company that carried it out, Knight Frank. It had shortcomings in its scope and in some short term timescales that led to hasty decisions. The exercise clearly did not approach the full range of potential organisations that might come forward. It used too narrow an approach, focusing on property channels but insufficiently on approaching likely users and funders. The main thrust was through an advertisement in the Estates Gazette, its own website and local newspapers from which three of the six applicants came forward. The other three applicants were approached directly by the Dollis Hill House Trust, and one of these, Training For Life (TFL), produced a viable proposal that the council supported. This demonstrates that, had there not been such a short window for bidding, and had there been a wider trawl of potential users, there would have been more interest.

The application for demolition does not reflect that the large amount of work done by TFL and DHHT produced a business plan that the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and London Development Agency judged to be viable, and led to HLF awarding stage one funding for a £1.2 million grant; it refers only to the smaller stage 1 grant amount. This money was lost once TFL withdrew just after finding out that the GLA could not grant the expected further £2 million, as TFL was under pressure to raise funds within the 12 month deadline set by the council. Brent Council’s decision in December 2008 to cease looking for solutions, barely two months after it had been working in full partnership with TFL, DHHT and HLF to save the house, was premature. There is a good business plan that can be adapted for other organisations and there are untried options for using the existing structure within a creative new idea much more cheaply and creatively. HLF has previously funded the restoration of Gladstone Park, of which Dollis Hill House is the focal point. HLF clearly has support for the house and has granted it funding against strong competition, so we believe that HLF funding may well be available for a future proposal.

There have for a long time been questions from the community as to the council’s responsibility in terms of use of the fire insurance funds. After the first fire, insurance funds were used to provide a new roof, incorrectly described as a temporary roof in the application. The very day after the work on this was completed, during which time some local people had questioned the quality of the work, the second fire took place. It ruined the new roof and further damaged the house. The self-insurance in place at the time of this second fire restricted the monies available for repairing the house, so the roof was not replaced and the house not made good. The third fire was a minor one that affected the main staircase, although the back stairs are still usable for access to the first floor. Since the second fire, the insurance funds have been used for purchasing scaffolding, safety checks, and support for marketing and developing a business plan, but not for the house itself. The council has not put in any of its own funds in addition to these.

The application for demolition puts forward proposals for the site which retain only the footprint of the house. There has been no consultation on these proposals, even though they are a required part of such applications and cannot be left for consideration until after the application is determined.

planning ref: 09/1470

23 July 2009

Dollis Hill House on BBC TV news Wednesday 8 July 2009
BBC London television news on 8 July features Brent Council's notice of proposed demolition for the house and the Dollis Hill House Trust's continuing fight to save it. We need architects and funders to come together to find a cheaper solution that that brings in sufficient revenue to be sutainable and offer community use. This is a great creative opportunity for bringing back a vibrant heart to the thriving diverse community in a halethy park with views all across London and a wonderful heritage. Make your mark. Send us ideas for a solution to our contact email. This is the last chance. If you miss the broadcast, the programnme can be viewd on the BBC London news website for the next 7 days.

Ideas to grow after demolition vote
On 15 December 2008, the Council Executive voted to start the process for demolition of Dollis Hill House. This was a devastating decision. It followed the new London Mayor’s decision in October not to provide funds for the project to restore the house. As a result of this, the charity Training For Life (TFL) felt it could not continue with its proposals for regenerating the house and withdrew in November.

This is a tremendous blow following the commitment in June 2008 by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for significant funding. It offered £250K to help progress the details of the project, as the first stage of a capital grant of £1.2 million. Never has so much grant money been turned down!

The current economic climate has been a contributory factor. Although it may not be possible to pursue the TFL proposal, the HLF, English Heritage (EH) and the DHH Trust believe it is too early to start planning for demolition, and we should look for another solution. This is what the Trust told the Executive on 15 December. The Trust also asked for an amendment to ensure that council officers kept the Executive informed of any other viable proposals. The Executive agreed to this, so officers can continue to work with us as we seek alternative solutions, either that can step into the gap left by TFL or to produce an entirely different, less expensive design.

2009 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of William Gladstone and the DHH Trust believe it should be celebrated through a creative solution for the future of the house, one that preserves and continues the heritage interactively for the community in a meaningful way. It could combine modern elements with remaining parts of the house to create a less expensive solution. We are seeking support to run an ‘ideas’ competition to bring together architects, developers and young people to identify solutions that could be financially self-sustaining.

If you have any ideas about sources of funding – for the ‘ideas’ competition or towards capital costs, if you have experience or expertise and would like to contribute in any way please contact us using the link on the homepage.

DHHT statement against demolition at Brent Council Executive 15 December 2008
Key points Dollis Hill House Trust put to Councillors at the Brent Council Executive Meeting Monday 15 December 2008

Premature to vote for demolition
Dollis Hill House Trust opposes the recommendation to return at this date to the decision to demolish DHH. It is premature. DHHT says this with thorough knowledge of the situation, including the councillors’ stated support for saving the house prior to the last election and since, set alongside the council’s financial position.

DHHT were instrumental in bringing parties together
DHHT has been a key member of the partnership between Training For Life, Brent Council and DHHT that has developed proposals since September 2007 to regenerate the house. DHHT has this year successfully attracted development funding (£18k) from English Heritage. It also provided the longstanding continuity with HLF, much brokering, and input for community and heritage uses that were essential to attracting stage 1 of the £1.2m funding awarded by HLF. It was much heralded in the press. It was also DHHT that found TFL in the first place through its research; we phoned only one other catering training company before finding TFL so DHH clearly is an attractive proposition.

DHHT actively working for alternative funding sources
After the distressing news that GLA/LDA funding would not be forthcoming, which they gave at a meeting in October attended by TFL, Brent Council, DHHT and HLF, all partners agreed to work together to see if there were other alternatives. DHHT was shocked and devastated to hear a few weeks later of the sudden decision by TFL to withdraw, given the tight timescales it had been granted for raising the shortfall and the resources it had already expended. This Executive meeting is so soon after that withdrawal that there has not been time to build on all of the positives that the partnership produced to see if there are some alternative solutions, even during this credit crunch.

When TFL withdrew, DHHT was already in discussion with EH and HLF, as well as the GLA/LDA which had offered support in terms of officer time and advice. It is continuing these helpful links. Possibilities are currently on the table which are being pursued. This is not a time when we have reached dead ends although no clear offer to match the £2m shortfall has been made. Following the February 2008 vote to support TFL for 12 months, partners had expected the council to seek ways forward until February 2009. The stakeholders we have consulted think that December 2008 is too sudden a time to make the decision and would support a brief extension.

Options for a viable future
HLF and LDA officers have advised that the TFL business plan was broadly suitable. The partnership also produced other necessary components such as the conservation statement. So DHHT is following up leads to other groups that could step in with an adapted proposal.

Less expensive options conserving heritage in contemporary design
DHHT believes that a much less expensive solution than the £5.5m TFL restoration could be found for saving the house. This would take a completely new approach with creative modern elements incorporated into features existing in the house or even combined with just the most important heritage features. The trust has discussed this with EH and HLF. The key heritage attributes are the house’s connection with William Gladstone through his activities there. Its location in the park with views across London and the community’s past uses of it are important, and not the details of its many different appearances, as the recent conservation statement used in the HLF bid showed. This approach has not been tried before.

An ideas competition involving the community in bi-centenary year
DHHT believes it is important for the community to be consulted about such options that can bring our diverse community together in the park in a relaxing healthy environment, enjoying the arts and celebrating our heritage. It wants to run an ideas competition to bring together architects, developers and young people to identify less expensive solutions which would be financially self-sustaining.

In 2009 when the nation will be celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of William Gladstone, one of our most famous prime ministers, we do not want an end to the house with a token inanimate memorial. We want to celebrate with a creative solution that preserves and continues the heritage interactively for the community in a meaningful way. There will be many events around the country. We have already spoken with Sir William Gladstone the 7th baronet and the great-great-grandson of William Gladstone, a retired historian and headteacher who has pledged his support.

We believe it important that the community’s links with council officers are maintained while we pursue these leads and ask that there is time to do so.

The Annual General Meeting of the Dollis Hill House Trust will be held on Thursday 2nd October at 7pm at The Stables. It is open to members of DHHT.
You can become a member at any time be contacting us; membership costs £10/year (£5 concessions).

HLF funding saves Dollis Hill House
Heritage Lottery Fund announced on 17 June 2008 that it had granted stage 1 funding towards a grant of £1.2 million to help restore Dollis Hill House. This will enable Training For Life, the award winning social enterprise charity, to work closely with the Dollis Hill House Trust and Brent Council to develop plans to save the building and return it to its former glory. Wesley Kerr, Chair of the HLF Committee for London said: "At HLF we believe the house can once again be the heritage and information hub of a fabulous public park, and a focal point for the surrounding area. "Gordon D'Silva, Chief Executive of Training For Life said: "This is a wonderful example of how local authorities, lottery money (HLF), corporate partners, third sector organisations and local people can come together to make a real difference. "Gill Close, Chair of the Dollis Hill House Trust, said: "After local people have worked for almost 20 years to save Dollis Hill House, we are absolutely thrilled that our partnership with Training For Life is finally going to bring the house back to being the vibrant heart of Gladstone Park and the local community for all to enjoy. "Sarah Teather MP said: "This development money is fantastic news for Dollis Hill and I welcome the Heritage Lottery Fund's support for the project. "Cllr Paul Lorber, leader of Brent Council, said: "The council is delighted on behalf of Training For Life that their bid has found favour with the Heritage Lottery Fund. This brings them a step closer to restoring Dollis Hill House for local people."

Brent Council Executive 11 February 2008
The council executive voted to support the Training For Life proposals until February 2009, the date by which TFL hopes to have capital funding and planning permission in place. This is great news for the house, for the local community and for our heritage. After the years that everyone has struggled to save the house, we now have a real chance of a vibrant regenerated house with training and jobs for local people, an exciting restaurant and cafe, a place for weddings and celebrations as well as arts, community, heritage and education activities. Thanks to everyone over the years who has contributed their ideas, energy and money. We are continuing to work hard with TFL on the proposals. Now everyone\'s comments and help are needed to make sure it meets our needs as well as possible and generates enough business to be viable.
All of your suggestions and any donations to help the development work neeeded to finalise the proposals are very welcome. Just click on the link on the homepage.

Appeal for Funding - Feasibility Study
Funding is urgently needed to help undertake the necessary feasibility study for the current proposals. Any offers of aid extremely welcome!

DHHT Meetings
The Dollis Hill House Trust is continuing to meet on a regular basis to carry forward proposals for the renovation of Dollis Hill House.

Gladstonbury Festival 2008
22nd June, 1 - 7.30pm
This year, we have a new location in Gladstone Park on the east side, just north of the railway line.

Go to the main Festival page for details of the line-up.

Preparations for the annual Gladstonbury Festival are almost complete. Volunteers are still needed, especially for setting up and clearing away on the day.

Contact Judith at with your offers of help.

Update on TFL Bid
Training for Life successfully delivered its bid to Brent Council on 12 Dec 2007.
Two separate architectural schemes were prepared: one contemporary plan presented at the public meeting, the other plan based on an 'heritage' approach.
The Council is currently evaluating the business plan and proposed costings.

Public Meeting
Thursday 8 November 2007, 8.00 - 9.30pm
Doors open 7.30pm for exhibition and free refreshments.
Our Lady of Grace Junior School, Dollis Hill Lane, NW2 6HS
Dollis Hill House Trust is working with the social enterprise charity Training For Life on a plan to renovate Dollis Hill House. This may well be the last chance to save this historic local landmark for the local community.
Gordon D'Silva, the Chief Executive of Training For Life, will explain the plans.

This is your opportunity to have your say.

Dollis Hill House featured on BBC TV
The campaign to restore Dollis Hill House will be featured on Inside Out on BBC1 on Wednesday 24 October, 7.30pm. It will then be available to view online for the following week at

Chance to save DHH
On 11 September 2007, Brent Council reported on its marketing campaign for the house. It voted to give Training For Life (TFL) three months to draw up a business plan for restoring DHH. TFL is working with DHHT to create a Prospect Centre that brings training, regeneration and social enterprise to the community. This will include a restaurant/café, with rooms for events, weddings and arts activities. DHHT is working with TFL to ensure it includes the community uses that local people want. The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has met with the council and is meeting TFL with DHHT. It seems keen to fund a way to save the house. We have some funds for the feasibility study but need YOUR help to top these up and to make sure the house is saved. If the business plan cannot be completed by December, the council has said it will take the necessary steps to demolish the house. This is the LAST CHANCE. We will be holding a public meeting in the autumn. HAVE YOUR SAY about plans for the house or make a DONATION payable to DHHT.

Campaign update, 23rd March
DHHT trustees have been working very hard in the last six weeks in partnership with Brent Council to ensure that the marketing of the house by Knight Frank, Brent\'s agents, leads to a successful renovation with community access and use, supported by commercial elements to sustain its long-term viability. Trustees have identified and approached organisations that they thought could achieve this. They have also attended all five house viewing dates arranged by Knight Frank and spoken to most of the potential bidders that attended them. They have met with interested parties in the Stables to discuss possible options on a number of occasions. They have held trustee meetings at roughly two-week intervals to monitor the progress of the marketing strategy, on 18 January, 2, 15 and 26 February, and 8 and 15 March.

Some particular prospective partners that were informed about the house by the trust were keen to bid and wanted to ensure that their proposals would provide a suitable mix of community access and business use. The trust considered their draft bid in detail and offered them suggestions to ensure appropriate community access and use. Trustees also met a number of other potential funders and future users of the house. Although these organisations were not in a position to make a bid at present, they indicated that they would be prepared to work in partnership with the preferred bidders to enhance the community work at the refurbished house. As one option for the land area that Brent Council offered to bidders included the Stables building, representatives of Brent Arts Council were invited to participate in the various discussions to ensure that the arts centre could thrive under bidders’ proposals.

We understand that a number of bids were submitted to Knight Frank by the deadline of 16 March. After they have been evaluated, officers will present a report to the Council Executive meeting on Tuesday 29 May. DHHT Trustees will continue to monitor the progress of this procedure and provide support and advice wherever possible. We will also seek to ensure that the final outcome not only saves Dollis Hill House, but also provides for the maximum community and arts use possible in the complex. The offer from the Mayor of London of 50% of the cost of the refurbishment still lies on the table and obviously will be of great assistance in providing capital funding for the project and to preserve the community aspect.

The DHHT January 2007 newsletter was delivered to 20,000 households. It brought forward a number of interested parties from the local community who expressed an interest in the bidding process. It was also instrumental in finding new volunteers and a new trustee, Vivienne Hahn, to help us save the house.

Mayor Pledges Financial Support
The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, has written to Brent Council Leader, Paul Lorber pledging his continuing support for the renovation of Dollis Hill House for community and other purposes. In his letter, copied to the Trust he goes further than before in pledging a contribution of up to half the capital costs of the renovation.

Of course this contribution must be matched, and the Trust is currently working in partnership with Brent Council to bring serious proposals together. These proposals will need to identify where the rest of the capital comes from and include for essential revenue income to underpin the robust business plan that the Dollis Hill House Trust has prepared.

Ken Livingstone’s personal support for the restoration proposals for the house go back a long way. He remains a local resident in the area and was for a number of years the Member of Parliament for Brent East where the house is located. He has always believed that a mixed use, community and other purposes was the right way forward. He personally encouraged investigating a partnership with the local Primary Care Trust when the previous local council administration withdrew support for the plans to develop the house through application to the Heritage Lottery Fund. This is the first time that there has been a pledge of money from the Greater London Authority to make this longed-for restoration a reality.

Outcome of 9 Oct executive meeting
At a Brent Council Executive meeting on 9th October, the new administration debated the future of Dollis Hill House.

The meeting took place in the knowledge of the previous Administration's decision to demolish the building taken in late 2003. Since that time, Dollis Hill House Trust campaigners have worked tirelessly to keep the project alive. Meetings were held with English Heritage who reminded the Council that the Listed status building could not be torn down until Brent Council had demonstrated beyond doubt that all possible solutions had been explored. This was clearly not the case and soon it was established by the Council that Brent Teaching Primary Care Trust (tPCT) were interested in refurbishing the building for its own use. A feasibility study by the tPCT went on for nearly a year and finally they decided that the building refurbishment was out of their financial reach.

In the meantime the Trust carried out amendments to, and appraisals of its own Business Plan for the building and in June 2006 a meeting was held with the new Leader of Brent Council following the May election. A more positive response was obtained allowing us to take our proposals to the Executive meeting with some confidence.

At the Executive meeting a number of possible options were considered by the Council Members. Martin Redston on behalf of the Trust addressed the meeting and reminded them of the importance of providing a Community and Arts Facility in the building. He pointed out that the Business plan had been substantially revised and that, following the Mayor of London's intervention with a pledge of more than £1.5m, potential business partners had come forward to help. He urged that the Council would give more time to develop the latest plans, to assign a Council Officer to assist with fundraising and to provide some match funding cash to help with the costs of redevolpment. The members of the Executive were unsure of the exact nature of the Mayor's offer and agreed to obtain clarification from him. In the meantime they decided to actively market the building to any prospective purchasers, but not to allow a fully commercial solution that might exclude the community. In fact the Council Leader made it clear that he would not tolerate another 'pub in the park' solution which had been considered by the previous administration some five years ago.

The Executive then went on to allow the Trust a few more weeks to continue their discussions with their potential partners and requested a full report with financially viable draft business plan to be submitted in time for the next Council Executive meeting in January 2007.

Since the Executive meeting, further meetings have been held at the site with the potential business partners and a progress report will be posted on the DHHT website in the next few days.

Gladstonbury 2007 dates set for Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th June
Dollis Hill House Trust, working in partnership with Gladstone Park Consultatative Committee, SEB Collective, Petworth Sounds and Brent Parks Service, are aiming to make the next Gladstonbury Festival a 2-day event. We intend to feature a quality line-up of signed and un-signed artists on the Saturday, providing live music between 2 and 8pm. Food and drink stalls will also be available. Sunday will incorporate the music festival with a family/fun day featuring the usual combination of stalls, food, Woofstock dog show, sports and fun fair. This day will also include an “open mic” session, giving local musicians the opportunity to turn up and perform.

Current plans are subject to confirmation and receipt of funding. Please contact us if you can help us to develop our plans!

There are lots of ways to get involved!

Volunteers for organising and running the event contact:
T: 020 8452 3044

To book a stall contact:

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