Monday, 24 June 2019

Hendon Development - A guest blog by Gerrard Roots

Hendon in recent years seems to have become a mere adjunct of Middlesex University (MU). It now appears that MU's domination of the area is to be extended even futher. Plans are afoot to demolish the former Meritage Club (now Well-being Hub), and adjoining buildings (including the Citizens Advice Bureau and the Mencap respite house) at Church End NW4, to be replaced with halls of residence for some 260 students; to demolish the Ravensfield House and Fenella buildings (currently used as MU offices) and nearby shops on the Burroughs, to be replaced by halls of residence to house twice that number of students; and to create a new office block behind Hendon Library (on the site of the old children's clinic) to accommodate the MU staff displaced from Fenella and Ravensfield. (The plans claim that the essential services, and the shops, will - eventually- be reinstated.)

These plans were inadvertently revealed when a 'restricted' document, appended to a report on the Hendon Development, to be discussed at Barnet's Assets, Regeneration and Growth Committee on 13 June, appeared openly online. The document was overnight retrieved, and resticted once more. However, I had read the plans and felt that as now they were in the public arena they should be discussed by the ARG Committee in public. I submitted a question about the plans, was asked- courteously- by the Head of Governance- to withdraw it ,but refused to do so. (How could I 'un-read' what I've read). My question was put on the agenda, with a written reply saying that the plan had been revealed by 'human error'. I attended the meeting, asked a supplementary question, only to be told that as the document had only been revealed by mistake there could be no response from the Committee The whole agenda item (initially designated as 'public') was then discussed only after the removal of the press and public from the meeting.

This raises two points. Church End is one of LBB's Conservation areas. With St Mary's Church and Church House, the Model Farmhouse and its former Milking Parlour, Rose Cottages, the Greyhound pub, and Church Farm House (formerly LBB's museum) it is one of the few tangible reminders of Hendon' s rural past. Its survival is essential. No-one would argue that the 1970s Meritage, etc, buildings, were in themselves attractive, but they are small-scale, and they currently house important services to the public. Their replacements will be three four-storey blocks ('world-class' of course as so obviously all MU new buildings are) which will overshadow everything around them and largely serve only the University. There will be no parking places, as MU's policy is that that its students should not have cars. Any resident of Church End/ Greyhound Hill and envirions will know that MU students have, shall we say, a different view.

The second point regards Barnet Borough's attitude to this farce. I have been told that the agenda item was merely to allow councillors to vote to approve a Strategic Outline Case or SOC: i.e an exploration of the financial impications of the plan. I was told that there would be extensive committee debate once the plans were fully framed, and a public consutation before any final decisions were made. So what? The scheme will happen because the scheme suits Middlesex University, and this small, senstive area of old Hendon will beyet further bombarded with buildings and traffic. I have no grudge against MU, far from it, but the University is just one other organization that Barnet's Tories are in thrall to. In Hendon it's MU, elsewhere in the Borough, it's the major building developers,' free' school chains, even Saracens RFC. (Of course, internally, Barnet is under the thumb of Capita.) This suits Barnet's complacent, ignorant and idle Tory councillors perfectly. Let such organizations decide what they want, and then simply vote in favour of it. Curiously, the only group that Barnet's Tories are not in thrall to is the Borough's ordinary residents; they are of no importance and may be safely ignored.

Here is a small film I made with Gerrard on the day Church Farmhouse museum closed.

Gerrard Roots is a resident of Hendon and the former curator of Church Farmhouse Museum. Guest Blogs are always welcome

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