Residents are outraged after being told they will have to pay £750 to access a garden outside their homes which they were previously free to use.
People living at Craven Hill Gardens in Bayswater claim they are being exploited by the annual fee.
Claire Mandel, 69, said she was given free access to the premises when she moved in in 2019 and used it every day.
But a few months later she was locked out of the garden and told she would have to pay £750 a year to use it.
She said: “It’s absolutely outrageous. It’s unaffordable, it’s blackmail.”
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Claire, who suffers from arthritis, said that while there are public parks like Hyde Park nearby, her condition means she can’t always walk very far to enjoy the great outdoors.
She said the garden is a big selling point for the property and she can no longer use it because the fee is too high.
She added: “It’s all very strange. I used it every day and it was wonderful.
“Then one day I went to use it and someone had changed the locks and I was told I would have to pay £750 a year from now on.”
Wendy Carling, 54, who has lived on the street since 1991, said it’s incredible that about 300 local residents couldn’t use the garden unless they paid for it.
(Image: Hannah Neary)
(Image: Hannah Neary)
She said: “These gardens were built hundreds of years ago solely for the purpose of being used by the residents.
“It just defies belief. It doesn’t make sense that they want to charge us such a high fee to access a place that we should be free to use.
“I wonder how they would feel if we did it to them, it’s inhuman.
“I haven’t seen a single person there since they introduced the fees.”
Claire said she was particularly devastated when she was unable to use the garden during lockdown.
She added: “It’s on our doorstep and it’s a beautiful, peaceful setting.
“If you live in a small 37 square meter apartment, it’s a lifesaver to have something like that.
“It’s a wonderful addition to our neighborhood and has been a big part of my lifestyle.
“We will not give up, we will continue to fight against it.”
The garden is run by Sloane Street luxury property manager Bruton, who introduced the new fees in 2019, claiming the money is needed for maintenance.
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Andrew Kafkaris, Director of Bruton, said: “Craven Hill Gardens is managed on a not-for-profit basis, with the required entry fee covering one person’s maintenance costs as well as gardening, tending to large trees and a pond.
“This fee has been reduced by 33 percent compared to last year’s fee.
“Square residents who wish to have access to the gardens in support of the non-profit model are welcome.”
Craven Hill Gardens was once home to one of London’s poshest hotels – the Hempel Hotel, with celebrity guests including Michael Jackson and the Beckhams.
Opened in 1997 by Anouska Hempel, a 1960s actress and hotelier, the hotel closed in 2013 and the main building was bought for a reported £33million.