Wednesday 5 October 2016

Brent Cross Redevelopment - Barnet Council exposed for having no plans for future transport improvements

As with many things in Barnet Council, the devil is in the detail. You have to read reports and responses very carefully to get to the bottom of what the council are planning and how they view the future of our Borough and our environment.

At present there is a plan for an absolutely humungous development in Brent Cross. This will see a massive increase in density of housing on the site. It will see more shops and more traffic. As with all developments, these create problems, but they also present opportunities. Developers can be compelled to improve transport as part of any plan and a massive plan such as Brent Cross there is the chance for a big improvement through Section 105 payment.

Anyone who has the misfortune to travel by car near Brent Cross on the A41 or the A406 at rush hour near Brent Cross will attest to just how congested this is. Local residents and campaigners have long been suggesting that Barnet and Brent Cross and would benefit greatly from a light rail system. There have been many proposals, not least The Brent Cross Light rail scheme. There have been other proposals for more modest rapid transport schemes, linking the shopping centre with the Tube and BR stations. Sadly the council doesn't seem interested. This was raised at a recent council meeting by Labour Member Geof Cooke. Sadly, it appears that the Tory administration didn't even seem capable of understanding the question. Page 7 of the latest copy of the minutes of the Assets, Regeneration and Growth Committee shows that a perfectly reasonable and sensible question got a complete non answer.
"Councillor Cooke asked whether a transport route is being safeguarded for a potential rapid transport system and what the projection is for shoppers by car in 2021. The response was that modal shift will change constantly over time and people will begin to change the way they plan their journeys in response to Brent Cross developments for example in line with new work and leisure patterns."
Translated into English, this roughly means "We haven't a clue how people will be travelling to and from Brent Cross and so we have decided to bury our head in the sand.

For the record, here is a list of the members present. Members Present:- Councillor Daniel Thomas (Chairman), Councillor Gabriel Rozenberg (Vice-Chairman), Councillor Richard Cornelius,  Councillor Philip Cohen, Councillor Geof Cooke, Councillor Rohit, Councillor Nagus Narenthira, Councillor Peter Zinkin.

If you were wondering just how massive this scheme is, the accompanying report gives a few clues as you can see there is a huge number of people moving in
2.19 T he Council submitted the Full Regeneration Business Case to HM Government on 22 January 2016. The Business Case was reviewed by the Department of Communities and Local Government Finance Sub-Committee on 25 February 2016, following which the Chancellor again reconfirmed the funding commitment in the Budget Statement on 16 March 2016, which confirmed that “ The government has approved the full business case for a new Thameslink station at Brent Cross Cricklewood, unlocking 7,500 new homes. This follows the Government’s previous commitment to provide £97 million of grant funding and ringfence the local share of business rates ”.
Not only that, have a look at the commercial aspects of the site.
3.7 The Council’s purpose in seeking to acquire the land and new rights shown on the CPO Plans is to facilitate the development, re-development and improvement of the land by way of a mixed use scheme, comprising commercial, retail, residential, hotel, conference and leisure development; community facilities; car parking, infrastructure and highway works; new rail station, station buildings, railway sidings, rail stabling facilities and associated rail infrastructure; rail freight facilities; a waste transfer facility; public realm and environmental improvement works (“the CPO3 Development”).
We will have all the traffic for commercial, retail, hotels, conference centres. Strangely the council makes no mention of the aspect of the proposed Brent Cross Light Rail scheme, which would link the site to Heathrow, using existing lightly used freight only rail lines via Dudden Hill. It would seem to me that a huge opportunity is being missed, as surely patrons of Hotels and Conference centres, would find a direct link highly attractive. Much mention is made of the convenience of St Pancras, but none of relief of the crowded East-West flows.

There is also plans for "rail freight facilities". In other words a depot, where goods are transferred between large lorries and trains. They are also planning a new "waste transfer station". This is where the refuse collections are transferred to rail containers to be dumped into landfills. There is an existing facility at Cricklewood currently. It would make sense to beef this up significantly, given the issues elsewhere in the Borough with the site for a waste depot. Whilst I am very supportive of transferring traffic from road to rail, it seems to me to be a massive folly to do this in a traffic hotspot, as part of a plan to add even more traffic.

In section 6.2 Barnet Council make it clear that the already congested A5 is seen as the key transport route for the 7,500 new households. As someone who avoids the A5 like the plague due to the congestion, I am quite nonplussed by this report. One has to wonder whether Councillors Thomas, Cornelius and Rozenburg ever venture over from their leafy residences elsewhere in the Borough.
BXC is one of Barnet’s priority regeneration areas, and will provide approximately 7,500 new homes over the next 20 years. It is a key part of the wider revitalisation of the A5 corridor, linking BXC with developments at West Hendon, Colindale and Edgware and improvements to Cricklewood Town Centre, to create a series of high quality modern suburbs.
I did a search on this report for the word "congestion" to see what thought had been given to the issue. To my amazement, there was not a single occurrance of the word in the report.

In summary, our Conservative Council administration is burying its collective head in the sand. They are planning an absolute monster of a scheme and the only significant public transport improvement is to relocate a station on one of the busiest railways in the country. Another aspect of the scheme which hasn't been mentioned is the knock on effect on Hendon and the existing Cricklewood stations. There is a significant risk that one or both station will close to facilitate the new station. Neither of these stations has been upgraded to accomodate the new 12 carriage trains. There is also the possibility of a lower frequency of service to Mill Hill Broadway. Thameslink semi fast services will need to sacrifice a stop to preserve journey times and many have suggested that Mill Hill is the "logical victim" of such a cut. It seems possible that commuters from three different existing and popular stations will suffer to keep the Brent Cross developers happy. All in all the whole scheme seems like a horribly wasted opportunity. I suspect that in 50 years, the next generation will be completely nonplussed by the stupidty of the council allowing the Borough to be wecked in this way. 

I seriously wonder if our councillors, who get a minimum of £10K of taxpayers money ever bother to read these reports. If they do, we can only wonder what induces them to take so little account of the existing residents and the future generations, who will be well and truly lumbered.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The council made a pig's ear of the compulsory purchase inquiry, so the whole scheme may never proceed.