Queen’s Brian May joins Air Studios campaign against basement development next door


29 October 2015 by Richard Osley

Brian May
Brian May says that Air Studios in Hampstead should be protected from excavation noise [Pics: Marcen27 and Paul Capeville]

HIS hit-making band once came up with a sing-a-long anthem which saw fans chanting: “We will, we will, rock you.” But Queen guitarist Brian May says he wants the opposite fate for the world-famous Air Studios in Hampstead, as he joined the campaign to convince council planners to block noisy construction work at the house next door.

As the New Journal revealed earlier this year, musicians, composers and producers are fighting proposals to excavate a basement swimming pool as a family plan to upgrade the neighbouring mansion.

Staff at the studios, founded by Beatles producer George Martin, fear they could be forced to halt work for six months if Camden Council grants planning consent – a period in which supporters say it could lose its place as a destination venue for major movie soundtrack recordings.

Mr [Dr] May has been leading a campaign against basement developments in west London, particularly in Kensington. Digging down has been in vogue in Hampstead in recent years.

He said: “Basements in construction are the scourge of residents’ lives. They take years to complete, generate noise, dust and pollution for many months and even years, causing serious trauma and depression for the neighbours. They can also cause untold physical damage which may not manifest itself for years after the developer has sold and moved on.”

Mr [Dr] May added: “The plans relating to the house next to Air Studios are no exception. Given the outstanding contribution to the British music and film industries which Air Studios makes, it is almost unbelievable to me personally that Camden Council has not thrown out this developer’s application already. I call on them to reject it outright in the name of decency, and spare the applicants further time and costs in pursuing this selfish and unreasonable application.”

The musician joins a red carpet alliance fighting the excavation work next to the studios, based in the building formerly known as Lyndhurst Hall. Actor Greg Wise, playwright Sir David Hare and Bond movie composer David Arnold are among those who have already raised objections.

Hampstead neighbourhood campaigner Jessica Learmond-Criqui, who helped amass a 9,000-name petition sent in to the council’s planning offices, said: “Despite the huge amount of opposition to this application, the owners are still determined to press ahead. We call on them to withdraw their application once and for all while they still have time to do so with dignity. They hold the livelihoods of just under 100,000 musicians and others in their hands, not to mention the British film industry. Never has the fate of so many been in the hands of so few. If they continue, Camden Council has overwhelming evidence to throw out this application and I hope that they come to a decision to do so soon.”

The fate of Andrew and Elizabeth Jeffreys’ proposals is now likely to be transferred to elected councillors, as it is one of the applications which has attracted the most feedback in public letters to the planning department. The couple have tweaked their application but are still facing opposition. Their architects have told the council that the plans are sensitive – and that the work will “not result in any harm to the amenity of neighbouring occupiers”. They argue that the proposed work has been carefully drawn up with respect to the property’s heritage is a “rare survivor of an earlier Hampstead”.

The application, currently on the desks of council planners, says: “After long periods of neglect and dereliction the house is once again occupied by a young family that would like to enjoy both the house and garden to their fullest.”