Monday 8 February 2016

Planning in Barnet - Council hypocrisy exposed

There are two rather interesting stories on the local paper website at the moment, which concern planning. The first of these concerns a man who built a three a side football pitch in his garden in Totteridge. This amounted to putting up some floodlights, so his kids can have a kickabout in the garden. Apparently neighbours said "the floodlights shine into their homes and the noise from the ball banging against the pitch’s wooden panel is “irritating”". It seems that the proper planning permission was not sought. The council re demanding that the pitch is torn down. 

Then we have the story that Saracens are planning to accomodate 15,000 people at a European cup game, in breach of their planning permission which states that the maximum number of people who can attend the stadium is 10,000. According to Mil Hill Councillor Sury Khatri, the club have been given the green light by the Council to ignore the normal rules. this was confirmed by Council leader Richard Cornelius, who told the Times "In this very special case the council has used its discretionary powers to allow a one off exception to expand the capacity  to 15,000.The impact of this one day facility will show us all if the traffic issues can really be controlled. Full safety measures to protect the fans will be rigidly enforced."

Now don't get me wrong. I think Saracens are proving to be an asset for Mill Hill and the Borough of Barnet. I'd be quite happy to see them achieve their ultimate goal of a 25,000 seat stadium. The thing is though that this should be achieved through following the planning rules and making adequate plans for getting people to and from the ground. I'd like to see the Northern Line extended to Saracens as part of this plan. There is a disused rail line that could easily be reopened and this would be an important link, joining Mill Hill with the east of the Borough.

But by giving Saracens a green light to ignore the rules, how can they then impose the rules on anyone else. A decent barrister would make mincemeat of the council in a future planning hearing, if enforcement action was taken.

It is instructive that the gentleman with the pitch in his back garden is in Richard Cornelius ward and he clearly takes the view of the residents there seriously. His wife who is Cllr Alison Cornelius, who sits on the committee, said: “It was not an appropriate development – it sits in the Totteridge Conservation area and there were various other policies it contravenes. The committee, as a whole, do not like retrospective planning applications.”

Well it seems that if you run a powerful interest and are mates with the council, these considerations don't really matter. In my book that is hyporcisy and double standards. 


Broadway Blogger said...

Interesting comparison Roger.

On the Broadway we have not yet made the most of the opportunities to create a place where thousands of Saracens fans could meet - drink - eat and then take the shuttle bus to the ground. With buses leaving every three minutes from here and holding 75 fans on them (double- deckers) it is possible to move 3,000 fans in just two hours to the ground. If this was doubled then nearly half the capacity of the ground could come through Mill Hill Broadway station very easily.

The difference that I see between the two stories is this : one is a World Class facility who benefit the community. The other is one person who is annoying his neighbours and who is probably not offering a World class service to 15,000 people. They are different things. Barnet Council is right to support Saracens and I hope that the 15,000 game on April 9th will show that this capacity can be extended on a regular basis. Planning rules need to take into account the whole picture.

BTW : I think 20,000 is the limit on the site and Hendon Central would need to be added as a transport hub as well as the Broadway and Mill Hill East. There are more pubs at that tube station as well for fans. 25,000 is surely unattainable ?

Rog T said...

Saracens applied for a 10,000 seat stadium. They knew the rules for the European Cup. If Barnet ignores such a breach, then they have set a precedent that other developers will exploit. Barnet has a legal duty to apply the law fairly. If they don't then they will find the law is impossible to enforce. Cllr Khatri is a member of the Tory group. He is not being awkward, he is simply doing his job ensuring council officers apply the law without favour