Tuesday 18 July 2023

“Isn’t it awful what they did with Edgware" - A guest blog by Muted of Edgware

By Muted, of Edgware,  

This is going to be the first of I hope many contributions I am going to make to the blogs of Barnet Eye. I have long admired the work that Roger Tichborne has done over the many years (Ed note: I didn't pay them to say this, I'd rather people didn't but I don't edit guest blogs unless asked to check). He has dedicated himself to what is truly a community-centred journal. It gives residents of Barnet borough and beyond a different take on what goes on in this part of London.

So, what is my first contribution? Well, it’s Edgware. That often-maligned town on the A5 and the end of the Northern Line. Once a place of 1920s suburban aspiration, where new homes were built in what was Middlesex countryside. Of course, it existed before then, as a linear village along the old Roman Road of Watling Street, with many inns serving the coaching trade that ran along the road from London to St Albans and beyond. Many historians will probably tell you that Edgware has never really known stability, it has responded to change and grown over the years, it is therefore not a place for stagnation. Just as the A5 brought people through Edgware in the pre-Victorian era, so too did the arrival of the Great Northern Railway in the 1860s, and then the London Electric Underground in the 1920s. 

Now in the 2020’s Edgware is about to undergo another moment of change – the arrival of the Ballymore redevelopment of the town. Since buying the late 1980s Broadwalk Shopping Centre , in 2020, the company intends to build a huge new housing and retail development that will swallow up the old shopping centre, as well as the car park and some of the surrounding land. You can read more about the scheme here, given favourable support on a housing journal - https://www.housingtoday.co.uk/news/ballymore-unveils-plans-for-4000-home-edgware-redevelopment/5122344.article

Naturally, this new proposal has shaken up many residents, and quite rightly so. The very fabric of Edgware town centre is going to be changed forever and it is likely to mean that Edgware will have a very different feel to it. As usual with many of these schemes, Ballymore has promised much, along with its partners in the scheme, Transport for London ( who will donate the land their bus garage and bus station which currently sit on the site, as well as some legacy land along the Northern Line), Barnet Council (who since the scheme was initiated changed from Conservative to Labour control), and the ever-so -fluffy looking NLA ( New London Architecture), who describe themselves as “…an independent, purpose-led organisation for everyone with an interest in London’s built environment.  NLA’s programme and its family of brands and projects engages the broadest possible audience across government, business and the public to educate, challenge, connect and create positive change.” NLA is composed of the Corporation of London, City of Westminster, London & Partners (yes, that is a new one to me too), something called ‘London Councils’, the Mayor of London, Network Rail and Transport for London. 

The overall scheme clearly uses the need for housing in London as its primary excuse for existing. Yes, London needs more homes, in fact what it needs is more affordable homes, and the Ballymore scheme will include this, but it is not a major component. In September, Ballymore will submit its planning proposal, and at that point the residents of Edgware will have an opportunity to voice their thoughts. One thing is for sure, Ballymore and its partners will have their way. They spent a reported £75 million buying the Broadwalk shopping centre, and they will want a return on that investment, plus profits.

As a soft front to this major scheme, New London Architecture, along with Ballymore, Barnet Council and Transport for London came up with a jolly thing called ‘More Edgware, Less Anywhere’  - a competition described as… inviting emerging architects, landscape architects and designers to develop and submit a proposal for a new public realm intervention that will test ideas for ‘re-greening’ Edgware town centre and can help inform long term improvements to the area.”  - if you can make sense of that, then you are a better person than me. 

Effectively it means a load of opportunities for these applicants to create art installations murals and such like to make it look like the developers are caring and understanding…which they may be, (I do not think so myself, but do not let me cloud your opinions). The first of these ‘interventions’ have already appeared in the form of some wooden boxes on the island in the forecourt of Edgware tube station.

So, with this huge development, (that will apparently take ten years to build), one would think that the voices of disquiet would be piercing the suburban air of north west London…., but as yet it seems not. There appears to be two Facebook groups one with over 600 members called ‘Save Our Edgware’ and another with about 270 members called ‘Local residents against Broadwalk development’. There is also an anonymous platforms that exists in the form of a website, Twitter and Facebook accounts, called ‘Edgware Voice Future Edgware’. The weblink is here - https://www.edgwarevoice.org/ . It claims ‘We are an independent community-run account’, but there are no physical addresses and no names attached to it. Its Facebook page was set up in June 2022, and has 38 followers. Its Twitter account was set up at the same time and has 85 followers.  Of course, there are other voices of disquiet to be seen on social media all acting independently.

One thing I must say is that the NLA competition name of ‘More Edgware, Less Anywhere’ is really quite something. It is effectively suggesting that Edgware is currently a place that (to quote the Beautiful South), could be anywhere, at all. It gives the impression that Edgware is just another dull, anonymous London suburban town, and that somehow, the benevolent forces of Ballymore and its partners will magically transform it into …’a destination’. Pretty insulting stuff really. It is the sort of mission that is carried out from a central London office, by a team of 20 to 30 somethings called ‘Seb’ and ‘Jaz’,  who have probably never visited Edgware. 

The fact is that Edgware is a place, that has a history, that has an existing community and quite frankly the idea that these assorted bodies can come in without any proper opposition and change the face of Edgware is rather galling.

So, how do you feel about that? Maybe you don’t care. Maybe you are one of the many people who exist on Facebook memory groups who used to live in Edgware and now consider it past its best (or in other more colourful and vulgar terminology). Maybe you do care, and maybe you might just want be ready in September for that Ballymore & Co planning application and get ready to speak your mind. Either way, don’t be the person who says in ten years’ time. Isn’t it awful what they did with Edgware, someone should have done something”.


Back in January 2020, I made a film about the decline of Edgware with local historian Mark Amies. Who knew then that things would get worse?


Muted of Edgware is a local resident who is sick to death with what they are seeing happen in Edgware. They do not wish their name to be public.

Guest Blogs are always welcome


ANON said...

Muted has written a very muted blog post about the imminent demise of Edgware. I feel more vigorous in my criticism of the Ballymore/TFL/Council proposals. My biggest concern is that the only sizeable FB group may be run by affliates of Ballymore, as they are driving traffic to the commonplace.is site encouraging comments. Unfortunately, the site doesn't accept all comments, I've tried frequently, and craftily edits comments to present on its marketing blurb. I would like a site dedicated to resident's objections, which cannot be manipulated and can be submitted to the Council planning committee who make the final decision. If its not a forgone conclusion that is.

Anonymous said...

I went to the ‘consultation’ and chatted to the very nice young lady who was installed .I don’t know her position in the hierarchy of the company.She spouted the company mantras.As usual it way just a platform for telling us how lovely it was going to be.Will we have an opportunity to speak to someone in authority.
On another note, if The money that was spent on the Boxes and ‘Artwork’ was in my view a disgraceful waste of our money, an example of my view of commercial companies running rings around public employees.
This Edgware development is a major example on a huge scale.