Thursday 21 October 2021

Why is Barnet Council hell bent on overdevelopment in Edgware and the Borough of Barnet? - A guest blog by Mark Amies

 This week I became aware of a development document that was marketing the 'Old Railway Hotel', (which was noteworthy in itself, because it had never been called the Old Railway Hotel, so the 'Old' prefix has been made up by the marketing team).  Within the document  were plans for the development of Edgware Town centre, which seems to amount to a wholesale overdevelopment of a sizeable chunk of Edgware. Have a quick scroll through this document from the Knight Frank Estate Agents website marketing the site (you have to register to view on their website). 

Railway Hotel Edgware - Knight Frank Massing Study by Roger Tichborne on Scribd

 In fact, I would say that instead of it being a 'development plan', it's simply a free for all for developers to squeeze as much out of the area. As I have long suspected, Edgware has been in managed decline for years, in such a way that it becomes easier for Barnet to declare it needs to be 'revalitalised'.  The Broadwalk Shopping Centre and its car park looks like it will be replaced by a large number of high density apartment blocks. In the land behind the Railway Hotel there will be a huge tower. All of this is familiar in London. In the name of a supposed need for housing, loads of high density developments have gone up very quickly over the last decade. What was needed was affordable homes,  but so often, what has gone up is often nothing of the kind.

Of course it is good that 'something is being done' about the Railway Hotel. This video I made with Roger from the Barnet Eye shows just how appalling the state of it was in January 2020. Since then, it has deteriorated further, with a recent fire causing much damage.

Barnet Council has embraced the developers wholeheartedly, and with an outsourced 'Planning Department', effectively run Capita Plc, the process of overdevelopment has ravaged great chunks of the borough. Colindale is a very good example, which any spare piece of land developed.  Land that was occupied by the Metropolitan Police, Colindale Hospital and The British Newspaper  Library was duly covered with blocks, to such an extent that it has become unrecognisable to me. West Hendon has similarly been affected, with a former council estate gradually subsumed by a  mass of new blocks, and a huge tower that dominates the landscape. Further down the A5 the Sainsbury's and its car park is being turned over to more out of scale apartments.  Even the pleasant, leafy Mill Hill has seen two developments, again on former public land, the former Army barracks and the National Institute for Medical Research.  Cricklewood  is due to see a huge development of huge towers on the site of the B&Q store.

On and on the developments go, year after year, their path eased by a very relaxed Barnet Council. No matter what concerns local residents have, the new buildings go up. Like a game of Tetris, the blocks keep coming, raining down onto any available,  (or made available) land.

At what point does the situation change? More importantly,  why does Barnet Council care so little for the concerns of its existing  residents? While it may be very convenient to hide behind the perceived virtue of providing new homes, it is not planned. No actual planning is going on. New developments go up, but there is no improvement of existing infrastructure. There are no new schools, health centres, libraries, parks or youth clubs. Roads and pavements are crumbling. A good example is Colindale Avenue, the main route from the A5 to the overdeveloped 'new village' of Colindale.  It is the same road that has been there for over a century.  The irony is that it was Colindale that Barnet Council decided to move its new offices to. I guess that does mean that council officers will be on hand to deal with the upset local residents.

Of course when you massively increase the population of a borough by allowing huge developments of homes, you increase the amount of council tax revenue. But that is outweighed by the increased demands on infrastructure. Another very noticeable thing about this plague of overdevelopment is that it tends to be taking place in the less desirable  parts of the borough,  and the more it carries on the more undesirable they become. Heaven forbid huge apartments  blocks should be built in the 'nice' parts of Barnet...

The fact is, as I said earlier, there's no planning going on, merely a Council that has a very relaxed relationship with developers and builders.  A Council is there to serve its residents, not developers, and the overdevelopment of large areas of Barnet is not doing anything other than line the pockets of developers and builders.

Mark Amies
Mark Amies is a Broadcaster, published author and industrial historian. Mark has worked with The Barnet Eye on several occasions, producing well received short documentary films. 

Guest Blogs are always welcome at the Barnet Eye

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