Thursday, 4 June 2020

Why you should oppose the latest application to change to the Barretts NIMR development

Barretts homes have submitted an application to increase the number of dwellings at the NIMR site on The Ridgeway. The details are here -
Click on the comments tab to object (or support if you think I'm talking nonsense).

Whilst the change will sadly not make the development any less of an eyesore (see this tweet with pictures taken last week), it will make more, smaller flats, at the expense of large flats designed for family groups (something which does not conform with Barnets local plan, see extracts) and will add even more traffic to the already congested Ridgeway.

It is so disappointing to see what a blot on the Totteridge Valley the Barrett’s NIMR development is becoming. In design, every expense is spared, taking no account of the surround. This is the view from the Orange Tree side of the Valley.
Just to be clear, the Barnet Council local plan recognises the need for more family housing. Here are a few excerpts from the  Barnet Council local plan

'Barnet’s Local Plan | Core Strategy | September 2012285.1.10In order to protect the suburban distinctiveness of the borough we have to make more efficient use of previously developed land. We are faced with an imbalanced housing stock with one household in three considered to under-occupy, while the demands for increased housing choice, affordable housing, and family homes to meet aspirations of home ownership are increasing'

'Our Housing Strategy emphasises that to improve choice we need to increase housing supply, including family sized homes.'

'Over 50% of residential conversions generate one bedroom units. Family homes such as those containing three bedrooms or more are likely to be generated via new-build developments.'

'Our dwelling size priorities are for family accommodation across all tenures :For social rented housing – homes with 3 bedrooms are the highest priorityFor intermediate affordable housing – homes with 4 bedrooms are the highest priorityFor market housing – homes with 4 bedrooms are the highest priority, homes with 3 bedrooms are a medium priority'

'Barnet’s Core Strategy has to address the demands for family accommodation at lower densities while meeting the demands for higher densities driven by the planned growth as part of our development pipeline and housing targets in the London Plan.'

'The North London SHMA bed size requirement model, based on housing affordability according to London Plan definitions, in general supports our prioritisation of family accommodation. It shows that in the market sector there is the need for family homes of at least 2 bedrooms, in particular 4+ bedrooms. This supports our stated levels of priority. In the intermediate and social sector there is also a marked need for 4+ bedrooms as well as 2 and 3 bedrooms.'  
The new Barratts planning application states
Since planning permission was granted a number of changes have taken place,which are material to the deliverability of the approved plans for the final phase. Principally this comprises of a shift in market demand away from larger (oversized) units towards more modest sized homes, more closely aligned with Mayoral standards. In order to avoid the risk of a slowdown in the rate of housing delivery on the site (or at worst the scheme stalling), the applicant wishes to revise the scheme to make it fit for market
 This translates to "we want to build more, smaller flats on the space, rather than family spaces". I wasn't aware of the huge demographic change that meant all of a sudden, the families that needed space in 2018, when the permission was granted have magically disappeared. Where have they gone?

Whilst the planning application makes repeated references to the Mayoral plan, this is a London wide document. The Barnet plan reflects the needs in our local community. It is interesting that Barratts are much keener to refer to the Mayors plan. It says much about their commitment to our local community. Those of us who live locally and have raised families locally, want a community locally and this means provision for families.

Whilst housing is a priority, the council has a policy. We believe that there is still a responsibility to make buildings look attractive and fit in. The Totteridge Valley is one area we can all enjoy for free. During the lockdown, many young families have discovered Darlands Lake and the surrounding fields. Allowing such blocks to blot the landscape is, in my opinion, an act of cultural vandalism and a reason why I will not be voting for Sadiq Khan.
One of the small areas of solace from the development was that there were spaces for families, who would have easy access to the local schools and the local green space. Removing this will add to the traffic on the Ridgeway. Had the new plan been part of the existing submission it would have been rejected. It is simply not on for developers to submit one set of plans to get a scheme passed and then put a series of supposedly 'minor amendments' so that they end up getting what they were hoping for (bigger profits).

For me, the Barratts scheme has failed the local community in three ways. The first is that it is incredibly ugly and has not been a good addition to the Ridgeway. The second is that Barratts have taken no account of the principle of being good neighbours and have shown no consideration for the people who live and work nearby. The third is that they are trying to transform the scheme into one which does not meet the needs of the local community. Family dwellings near schools are clearly desireable.

I note, with a degree of despair that none of the local groups have bothered to comment on this plan. Do the Residents Association and the Preservation Society really have no opinion? As a community, we have a responsibility to keep fighting for what is best for our community. I will happily publish a guest blog from any local group who supports the scheme and can detail why ( so long as they have not been in receipt of funds from the developers). If there is some positive aspect of this monstrosity that I've missed, I'll be more than happy to admit I'm wrong. Sadly it seems to me that the only people who support it are people who have been on the receiving end of funds to help their pet schemes.

I'll finish with a little video filmed by my band, The False Dots, which will remind you of the sad demolition of a famous Mill Hill Landmark.

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