The Loss of Netherfield House

How Grantham Mews got its name

Netherfield House was a large, attractive Victorian property located off Gravel Path in Berkhamsted, which I believed was worthy of a Grade 2 Listing. Unfortunately in 1995 Dacorum Borough Council granted permission for it to be demolished and replaced by five, five-bedroomed houses.

The only road access to these properties is down a narrow track which emerges from a concealed entrance onto a busy road. One of the local objections to the planning application was that the access was dangerous for the increase in traffic which five new dwellings would bring. Dacorum's officers stated that there were no traffic implications, as up to fifty people had worked on the premises in the past. This was actually in the early 1950's, when very few staff would have driven to work.

As usual, local objections were ignored. Five ugly boxes designed in the vernacular style of Noddyland were built and sold to rich people.

When planning permission was granted we were assured that a row of fine horse chestnut trees which separated the site from the adjacent allotments would be protected by Tree Preservation Orders. Unfortunately two of the new occupants soon applied for, and were granted, permission to prune the trees in order to let more light into their houses. Dacorum's Head of Landscape Services, Ruth Chapman, told us that there were no grounds for refusal, as the trees could be seen from the public highway, and that the removal of the lower branches would not have a detrimental effect upon the appearance of the trees. Neither of these excuses were accurate.

Berkhamsted Town Council had asked Dacorum Borough Council not to grant planning permission for the development. The Borough Council granted permission, then asked the Town Council to choose a name for it. Councillor Lindy Foster-Weinreb, who was Chairman of the Town Council's Town Planning Committee and whose politics are just a little to the left of centre, denounced the development as an example of Thatcherite greed and suggested the name "Grantham Muse". Margaret Thatcher, Conservative Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, was born in Grantham.

Dacorum Borough Council, then run by Labour, apparently missed the joke. It accepted the name, but mis-spelt it "Grantham Mews". The first street name plate installed there, now corrected, was headed, "Parish of Berkenstead". The development may have been appropriate for Berkenstead, wherever that is, but is completely out of place in Berkhamsted.

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