Wednesday 13 December 2023

Freedom of Information Request to Barnet Council lays bare their negligence

 A friend (Billo) of this blog was so appalled by the neglect of the Railway Hotel in Edgware, that they sent a Freedom of Information request to Barnet Council, requesting that they respond detailing the number of visits that council officers have made to the site. It is very illuminating and damning on the former Conservative regime, the current Labour regime, but most of all, on the Council Officers who's job it is to enforce planning and also to preserve our local heritage. 

Here is there response

Barnet Council FOI Railway ... by Rog T

Just to make the point. Barnet Council has a statuatory responsibility to protect the fabric of the Railway Hotel building, which is Grade II Listed. Historic England also have a responsibility for such buildings. So the question is, are they doing this? Are they aware of the state of the building. This can irrefutably be demonstrated to be the case and we can also see the inaction from the response. 

The list is quite appalling, but lets just concentrate on the last two logged visits. 



Grade II Listed building in severe danger of irreparable harm

October 2023, September 2023. Numerous other visits not recorded.

Planning Enforcement

Notice issued. Officer not formally closed

In other words, over a year ago, Barnet Council officers logged that the building was in 'severe danger of irreparable harm' over a year ago. 

A year later, we have the following



The state in which the land has been left is detrimental to the amenity of the neighbouring properties and of the local area.

October 2023. Other visits not recorded.

Planning Enforcement

Notice issued. Officer not formally closed

So not only has the building been deemed at severe risk of irreparable harm, but it is detrimental to the amenity of the neighbours and the local area. The job of the Barnet Council enforcement is to protect residents from owners who neglect properties and cause nuisance.

The council are claiming that there have been 'numerous other visits' but haven't bothered to record them. My assumption would be that if an officer visits, they would log progress and update the case file, but clearly they either haven't bothered to do this or could not be bothered to provide Billo with the details he requested. I find it to be incomprehnsible that officers would visit the site and not make a report. It is also rather damning on the FOI team that they did not supply these details or at least provide an explantion as to why they were 'not recorded'.

Whilst Barnet Council clearly have no interest in discharging their statutory duties, some of us are concerned. Another friend of this blog, Mark Amies, kindly went down to the site and took some pictures yesterday.

Let me start with the issue of the lightning protection, that was reported was cut and non functional (Mark Amies reported this in October)

This places the building at risk of a lightning strike, which would most likely result in it being burned to the ground

I had an email exchange with a local Labour councillor. I will spare his blushes as he was trying to be helpful, but when we requested this be repaired, he replied 

I have been assured that the loose cabling that has been reported is highly unlikely to be a lightning conductor and therefore protection from a lightning strike is not compromised. Nevertheless, the owner has been contacted and been asked to make repairs as soon as possible.

 My cousing happens to be the retired chief surveyor for the Diocese of Westminster and so is very well qualified to assess such issues. Having received the response, I forwarded the picture to him. This was his response.

That is what is left dangling of the copper lightning conductor strap after thieving swines nicked the lower part of the copper strap. This means that there is no lightning protection for the building. I hope the owners are still insuring the premises or perhaps they are not bothered?
I forwarded his email in full to the councillor, who responded on the 10th November stating that he would urgently raise this with officers. It is over a month since then and the cable still dangles. As stated over a year ago, the building is in danger of irrepairable damage, and this is perhaps the biggest risk.

I believe that neglecting to address this issue could be deemed criminal negligence. On many occasions, homeless people, some with alcohol and drug issues, have gained access to the building. If it was struck by lightning and burned down, should anyone be in the building, especially if they are intoxicated, they would be at severe risk of death. This has been flagged for over two months. The crews of the London fire brigade would also be put at risk. This is why this is not a trivial matter. 

As to the amenity and detrimental effect on local properties. Would you want to live next to this?

This blog has been raising the issues with the building for almost a full decade. We have had assurances from both Conservative councillors, when they ran the council and now Labour ones, stating that things will be done.  Just one example from Billo's response lays this bare. This was from 2018



The state in which the land has been left in is detrimental to the amenity of the neighbouring properties and the local area.

December 2018, February 2019

Planning Enforcement

No Further Action (informal compliance)

Decision date


That was five years ago. After a year, it was closed following 'Informal compliance'. Anyone who has read this blog, will know that there has been no compliance, formal or informal. All that has happened is that the building has deteriorated every year. 

I could write more, but the case that Barnet Council has completely failed to do its job, is irrefutably demonstrated. But they are not the only ones culpable, who are not doing their job. I'll finish with this entry


Planning Manager (Heritage)

April 2022 which was also attended by Historic

Conservation and Design

England and a conservation architect

This irrefutably demonstrated that Historic England are fully aware, have visited the site, with a conservation architect. They are fully aware yet it has further deteriorated. It is absolutely clear that if it wasn't for people like Billo and Mark Amies continually keeping up the campaign, nothing at all would have been done and it would probably already be a block of flats.

If I was a Barnet Conservative or Labour Councillor, I would read this FOI response and hang my head in shame. I do wonder what the point of having councillors is. They should be on this. They should not let officers get away with not doing their job. This blog was the first of the Barnet bloggers and is now the last active one blogging about Barnet Council (Mr Mustard does a fine job on local parking issues still). It can be the most depressing job in the world. It seems that when Labour took over, people thought the Council no longer needed citizens to hold them to account. How wrong they clearly are. 

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