Monday, 14 April 2014
Do you want to see this replaced with a wall of concrete?
I took this picture yesterday walking on the public footpath from Wills Grove to Wise Lane, Mill Hill, whilst walking across the grounds of Mill Hill School. As you can see, it is a glorious view. This is part of the Greenbelt and the Mill Hill Conservation area. Sadly whilst you (hopefully) and I see the greenbelt as part of the lungs of London and a treasured asset, many people see it as an opportunity to earn a bit of fast cash. All around Mill Hill, little bits of the green belt are being nibbled away. Every year a small percentage is lost forever, despite the stringent planning laws.
Over the last few years, the speed at which this "nibbling" has been occurring has sped up. The reason, Barnet Council has taken a very 'laid back' approach to enforcing the law. Why has this happened? The Barnet Eye doesn't know, but without doubt some of the largest 'nibbles' have been instigated by very wealthy people, some of whom have had executive posts within the local Conservative party.
To compound matters, Barnet Council has handed over responsibility for planning to Capita as part of the One Barnet project. Wheras previously the planning department was under the control of the council and democratically elected councillors, who have to answer to the electorate every four years, now planning is run by Capita who have a contract with Barnet council. If they cock up, they don't get kicked out at an election, we are lumbered with them. Do they have any vested interest in making sure our green fields are preserved? No, of course they don't, Capita only have their shareholders to answer to.
The council actually wants to massively increase the number of houses in Barnet. They project that the number of residents will rise from 320,000 to 380,000 by 2025. This is not because we've all decided to become strict Roman Catholics out of admiration for the new Pope and have ten kids, it is because they want new arrivals in Barnet, who they will jam into ever smaller Rabbit hutch style flats.
I mistakenly believed that one of the redeeming features of the local Conservatives was that they cared about the green belt. I have seen no evidence of this at all. I've seen no involvement in any of the protests in Mill Hill to protect the green belt. At present there are plans for a huge mausoleum to be built on a site teeming with wildlife in Milespit Hill. It is Labour GLA rep Andrew Dismore who has lead opposition to this development.
I had a leaflet through the door for our local Conservative council candidates, Sury Khatri, John Hart and Val Duschinsky and there is not a single word about the Green Belt, which is a massive part of their ward. In fact point 4 of the five bullet points boasts that they are building even more houses and even more 'regeneration schemes'. Point five says the council are spending £7 million on more road works in 2013/14. (Just in case you wondered point 1 is about the 3p a day tax cut, point two points out Barnet has some good schools and point 3 are some stats about Youth crime and how you are now safer than you were in 2012).
All very well, but in many wards in Barnet and especially in Mill Hill, I want to see our Green belt protected and preserved and I want a council that enforces the law. One reason Mill Hill has low youth crime is because there are decent open spaces for our youngsters to let off steam in. What will happen when we destroy them all?
If you care and you live in Mill Hill, the Mill Hill Residents association are having a hustings meeting with local candidates on Weds 30th April at St Pauls School at 8pm. See what they have to say. The only way that anything will change is if you make them know your vote is not to be taken for granted. You may wish to ask the local Tories why they campaigned in 2010 to block a football stand at Copthall, for 50 people for Kentish Town FC, then immediately after the election allowed a 10,000 seat stadium on the site. Whether or not you think that is a good thing, it wasn't exactly honest, was it?