Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Councillor Maureen Braun and the two faces of Barnet

There are two faces of Barnet. There is the beautiful green, leafy suburb, where we all would like to live (see the picture Top Left).

Then there are the high density estates where children don't have gardens to play in, they have skips round the back of shops (see picture bottom left). Where the wildlife they will see isn't beautiful horses grazing in fields, but rats running emerging through broken manhole covers.

Who, you may ask yourself, who in the Borough of Barnet is lucky enough to have a view such as the one pictured top left, as the scene they are greeted by every morning when they wake up and look out of the window? Well there's one person who you may have heard of. Councillor Maureen Braun, head of the Hendon & District planning committee. This view of St Josephs College fields in Mill Hill, is exactly what she see's every morning (No I haven't been in her bedroom taking pictures, a neighbour 2 doors down took this picture). Now I've fought tooth and nail to preserve the view for Councillor Braun. I've attended meetings, written letters and written blogs. I've even helped put a deal together to get those very horses grazing on the fields. Why? Because I passionately believe urban areas need green space.

Sadly, too many people in Barnet are more likely to see a view such as this skip if they look out of their bedroom window. This will be their childrens playground if they let them out of the house at all. Barnet Council are currently considering all sorts of regeneration plans, encompassing areas of high density flats. This week Councillor Maureen Braun, as leader of the Hendon and District Planning Committee, decided to defer the decision on the Cricklewood regeneration scheme for a month. This is to reportedly give the committee time to consider more thoroughly the plans.

What do we know about these plans? That there will be thousands of new residents living in Barnet if they go through. We know that there will be between 9,000 and 27,000 more cars on our roads. The flats are not designed to accomodate existing residents, but to encourage more people to move to the Borough. My biggest fear for the Cricklewood scheme is the lack of houses with gardens for children. Mrs Braun clearly likes a nice view and a bit of greenery out of her window. What sort of legacy does she want to pass on to her grandchildren? Every scheme like Cricklewood puts more pressure on area's like St Josephs College fields. More greedy developers sniff around and look for loopholes in the green belt legislation.I nearly resigned from the Labour party when John Prescott started talking about building on the green belt. Whilst the Cricklewood regeneration scheme is nowhere near the green belt, the pressure it will create on the rest of the Borough will be enormous. As the borough fills up with people, 60,000 more if all the scheme's go ahead, we'll reach a point where there will be no choice but to concrete over the fewer and fewer green spaces.

Now Councillor Braun clearly has a massive decision to make. I don't know about you, but I want whoever makes that decision to be someone who I trust. I want them to be someone who's record on issues of planning is exemplary. I want it to be someone who understands and has compassion for people with families, as many families will be affected by these decisions, when schools fill up and children can't get in. When gangs form on the alleys and street corners of these new sink estates, the legacy of these schemes will sink in. Most of all, I want someone who knows the rulebook inside out and has a proven track record of good judgement in all these things.

I thought I'd check Maureen Braun's record on such matters.  I went  to the Hendon Times and put the following key words into a search - "maureen braun" hendon planning - and I got the following three stories.

Does any of these three stories fill me with confidence in Councillor Maureen Braun's ability to protect families, uphold the planning law and do what's best for the ratepayers of Barnet? I'll leave it to you, dear reader to guess the answer, once you've read her form on such issues.

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