Monday 9 September 2013

Eric Pickles won't intervene in Welsh Harp development

Liberal Democrat and Conservative councillors tonight joined the Brent Council ruling Labour group to condemn Eric Pickles' decision not to intervene in the West Hendon redevelopment on the banks of the Welsh Harp reservoir and nature reserve.

The Barratt Homes  development in Barnet was narrowly approved by  Barnet Planning Committee but opposed by planners in neighbouring Brent. The reservoir straddles both boroughs.

The news was received only shortly before the Council was due to discuss a Labour motion calling for Pickles to intervene because of the scale of the development (flats of up to 29 storeys) and the damage it would do to a cherished and rare open space.

An amendment was quickly tabled condemning his failure to intervene and was passed unanimously in a very rare show of cross party unity.

Pickles to be urged to call in West Hendon-Welsh Harp development

The motion below is being put to tonight's full Council meeting by Cllr Roxanne Mashari. I understand it will have Liberal Democrat support but I don't know the position of Conservative councillors:

West Hendon development
This Council opposes the West Hendon Development plans which have recently been approved by Barnet Council and the Mayor of London.
Members note that the Welsh Harp Reservoir and Nature Reserve is the only site of special scientific interest (SSSI) in Brent or Barnet and has London wide and national ecological significance.
Members note that Barratt Homes has failed to address concerns raised by Brent Officers, community groups and wildlife organisations who have opposed these plans, which will lead to 6000 new residents moving into tower blocks up to 29 storeys high and the construction of foot bridges leading directly from the site into the SSSI. Members agree that the scale and design of this development amount to an act of environmental vandalism.
This Council notes that the scale and design of the proposed development contravenes official guidance in both the Barnet and London plans.
This Council wishes to reaffirm the value of our Welsh Harp Nature Reserve and reservoir and its belief that this site must be preserved for future generations.
This Council therefore urges the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to call in this decision with the utmost urgency. This is in light of the numerous and grave concerns raised by a number of professional and community bodies which remain unaddressed.

Thursday 8 August 2013

Boris Johnson refuses to intervene in destruction of Welsh Harp

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson has ignored the concerns of local residents regarding Barnet Council’s West Hendon Planning Application, despite strong objections. The development launched by Barrett Homes is set to build 2000 new dwelling units, including four large tower blocks next door to Welsh Harp, one of London’s biggest and most significant nature reserves. Residents and campaigners are concerned that this development will destroy permanently the natural landscape which contains a wildfowl reserve and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

A cross party joint letter from Brent and Barnet campaigners was issued to the Mayor detailing their concerns regarding the planning application asking him to reject the application. 

The Mayor has decided that he is content to let Barnet Council decide the application, subject to any action the Secretary of State may take,  and does not want to exercise his right to refuse the application or take over as the planning authority.

Local London Assembly Navin Shah AM said:

‘’This is an outrageous decision by the Mayor of London which will obliterate the beautiful landscape, tranquility and ecological values of a site which should be protected for its special scientific interest. The Mayor has ignored the policies of his own London Plan and given Barnet Council the green light to vandalise this site of  great value.

‘’340 people have written to the Mayor asking him to refuse this application. Furthermore, there has also been a submission of two petitions that have been signed by 987 people. It is disgraceful that the Mayor has yet again refused to listen to local communities in Brent and Barnet. People will never forgive him for signing off the destruction of this site’’.  

Wednesday 7 August 2013

Final appeal as London Mayor decides on West Hendon/Welsh Harp development

Today Boris Johnson will meet with GLA planners to decide what action to take on the Barnet Council-Barratt Homes West Hendon development on the banks of the Welsh Harp nature reserve and SSSI.

The cross-party campaign sent the following joint letter asking him to refuse the development. He can decide to refer it back to Barnet Council to make the decision, reject it or take over the planning application as the planning authority.

Dear Mr Mayor,

Ref: Application No. 13/0938. West Hendon Estate, NW9

We, the undersigned, have considered the above application and wish to confirm our objection on the following grounds:

Site Considerations
This is an exceptional and most significant site located in a conservation area enjoyed and cherished by the people of Brent and Barnet and is of a remarkable value to Londoners and visitors as a whole. The site is rich in its heritage and unique given that it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI); accommodating a Reservoir; unique ecological heritage and green un-spoilt environment with leisure and recreational facilities. The proposed development will see some four-fold increase in the current population. This proposal amounts to gross overdevelopment on this site and will destroy the heritage and value the site provides locally as well as strategically.

Scale of the Development
The scale of the development with 2,000 residential units, commercial and community facilities including a two form entry primary school is wholly inappropriate for this sensitive site. The built environment with tower blocks and the resultant bulk dominating the skyline will not be in keeping with the character of the area, will have a serious detrimental impact on local views and set a precedent destroying permanently the outstanding character and the natural beauty the area provides as well as jeopardising the maintenance of the Welsh Harp SSSI status into the future.

Conservation and Impact on Environmental Amenities
The applicant’s design and access statement refers to the Brent Reservoir SSSI, primarily notified for its wetland breeding birds, wintering water fowl and botanical interests. According to this document, studies undertaken for 2004 ES identified ‘the existing ecological value of the site to be low’. We challenge this statement as the conclusion in this document is not backed up by clear evidence and is in direct contradiction to the assessment of this site by many professional organisations and individuals. The influx of some 5,000+ residents together with the massive development itself within the 20M ‘No build zone’ would threaten the ecological amenity. The site is of London and National ecological importance and the development in question lacks adequate research and evidence to demonstrate that the scale and design of the development can sustain and enhance the quality of nature conservation aspects. We would like to draw attention to the specific environmental concerns raised by Brent Council Environmental Officers which  ‘remain’ despite assurances from the developer:

It is considered that the edge of the Welsh Harp Reservoir, marshland and tree line will be affected as a result of the development for the following reasons:

·        The new buildings are planned to be considerably closer to the water’s edge than the buildings of the existing development. This reduces further the belt of green-space between the development and the reservoir.

·        The two new footbridges that are proposed across the Reservoir and SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) to link to play-areas and park at West Hendon is likely to affect the reservoir by introducing infrastructure into the reservoir and disturbance by users.

·        Apparent lack of improvements to enhance the natural environment of the reservoir – There is mention of ‘linear woodland’ but it is unclear where this will be provided as there is insufficient space between the development and the water’s edge to create woodland.

·        The proposed felling of trees that contain features conducive for roosting by bats.

·        Lighting: the impact of lighting on bats is likely to be a direct impact. (The Environment Statement: non-technical summary, suggests that lighting is likely to be an ‘indirect’ impact).

·         Insufficient research into existing fauna and flora and underestimating its national and local importance.

·        The applicant's report mentions wildlife but seems to play down its national and London wide importance. A GiGL search of the area has revealed that the reservoir supports the country’s largest breeding group of great crested grebe whilst in winter it supports nationally important numbers of waterfowl as well as over 40 nationally rare species. The applicant is advised to contact GiGL for accurate info.

We believe that whilst the above environmental concerns remain unaddressed by the developer that the proposals cannot legitimately be granted planning permission in their current form.

High Rise Blocks
The site is designated (Barnet’s Core Strategy: Tall Buildings policy CS5) as appropriate in some strategic locations for tall buildings of 8 – 20 storey but the proposed tower blocks of 29, 27 and 21 storey height are contrary to Barnet’s policies and will completely destroy the physical character of this site. Equally, the high-rise blocks fail to comply with the stringent policies set out in the London Plan. The London Plan policy 7.7 (Location and Design of Tall Buildings) requires tall buildings to be located in town centres and major zones of economic development and can be considered only ‘in areas whose character would not be affected adversely by the scale, mass or bulk of a tall or large building’. Section 7.7E of the London Plan also states “a matter for particular consideration is the setting of tall buildings on the edge of Metropolitan Open Land”. The applicant has not submitted the necessary information to do this, and therefore does not comply with the criteria for assessment set out in London Plan policy 7.7E

Residential Proposal

Provision of ‘Homes’: Barnet’s Core Strategy states (clause 9.2 for homes of
different sizes) that the majority of units are houses which account for 62% of the stock. ‘Design And Access Statement’ of the applicant claims “The mixture of typologies provides opportunities to accommodate people’s preferences for housing” but this is not backed up in the scheme offered in the application. In reality, the proposal is driven by a commercial scheme with no relevance to the preferences of Barnet’s residents. Woefully small provision of 20 ‘houses’ (only 1% of total) fails to provide an acceptable mix of residential accommodation to reflect the character of Barnet’s existing residential stock and preferences of residents to live in traditional homes and not flatted accommodation in towers as tall as 29 storey high.

Inadequate Affordable Housing: Provision of a meagre 25% Affordable Housing is market driven to maximise the return at the cost of much needed affordable socially rented housing. For a scheme of this scale a minimum of 35% stock of housing for socially rented housing is required and the deficiency is serious enough to demand refusal of the scheme.

Dearth of Family Size Housing: Barnet’s Core Strategy says 33% of all Barnet households contain children, the majority of these comprising an adult couple with children. Barnet’s specialist Housing Strategy sets out housing priorities and delivery by 2025 with overarching objective of ‘providing housing choices that meet the needs and aspirations of Barnet residents’. The Core Strategy further states ‘to improve choice we need to increase housing supply including family sized homes.’  ‘Our dwelling size priorities are for family accommodation across all tenures.’ (3 Bedrooms higher and 4 bed rm medium priority). The Mayor of London’s Housing Strategy for affordable housing (Policy 1.1C) specifies the requirement for more family-sized homes, with 42 per cent of social rented and, by 2011,16 per cent of intermediate homes having three bedrooms or more. A meagre provision of 20 houses (8 no. 3 bedroom houses and 12 number 4 bedroom houses) and 290 (14.5%) duplex apartments completely undermines Barnet’s Core Strategy, Specialist Housing Strategy and the Mayor’s Housing Strategy.

Social Infrastructure
We do not believe that Barnet Council has demonstrated a robust assessment of the proposed community amenities such as the 2 form entry primary school, nursery and community centre in order to gauge the adequacy of these facilities to support the scale and size of the scheme. Significantly, the scheme contains no provision for a GP surgery or medical centre facilities for the new occupants. There already exists an acute shortage of medical facilities locally and the absence of this provision in the proposals is a serious omission which must be incorporated to provide adequate social infrastructure. There appears to be an overall lack of long-term vision for the plans, particularly from a health and safety and emergency perspective.

Transport, Parking and Congestion

Bus Priority Lanes & Cool Oak Lane
Serious concerns exist with regards to the acute traffic and congestion problems resulting from this massive development on the already busy A5, local road network and junctions. We disagree with the proposal of deleting sections of priority bus lanes on the A5 as part of the new proposal as this will remove the ‘multi – modal’ aspect agreed with TfL to provide non-car sustainable transport and the objectives agreed for A5. In addition, there are concerns about capacity of junctions, trip generation and increase in flow of traffic on the A5. The objectives for the A5 have been split into two groups, one set for the north, one set for the southern section. These are set down in the North London sub-regional transport plan 2012, and the objectives for the northern section (which this site adjoins) are –
  • To encourage longer distance traffic to exit the A5 at appropriate points
  • To minimise the impact of developments on the performance of the A5 corridor
  • To further improve highway performance by tackling issues at identified delay hotspots
  • To protect the status of local and district centres through environmental, public realm and active mode initiatives
  • To encourage greater use of public transport from local neighbourhoods to facilities along the A5
  • To accommodate longer distance freight and facilitate deliveries and servicing whilst minimising its impact on residents, congestion and air quality.
Assessments to accompany developments should illustrate how these objectives are being worked towards, or at least not acted against.

Furthermore, the adjacent Cool Oak Lane which cuts through the Welsh Harp itself is a narrow, winding and picturesque road which is simply not designed to cope with a four-fold increase in the local population.

Trip Generation Levels
The tables showing the levels of trip generation have been reviewed. Whilst the levels of junction saturation are stated, the developer does not  illustrate the overall level of increase in flow on the A5 (current and future flows) as a result of the development. The junction looks to be very close to capacity already – the assessment states that where development traffic is factored up by 10% to provide a robust assessment, this makes little difference to the operation
of the junction, and that queue lengths only increase by a maximum of 2 pcus. This seems very low and Brent Council has asked that this figure be re-checked.


In conclusion, the application drives a coach and horses through all significant planning policy justifications. The applicant has given inadequate consideration to the local, London-wide and national significance of this unique site and the proposed development would seriously threaten the SSSI status of the Welsh Harp (The only SSSI in Brent or Barnet).

We believe that there are a great number of important factors which remain unaddressed by the developer and if approved, the decision would be tantamount to an act of vandalism.

We, as a cross party alliance in addition to the 800+ Brent Residents who have formally objected to this scheme, urge your good offices to refuse this development in light of the breadth and scale of the concerns outlined above.

Yours sincerely,

Navin Shah AM
London Assembly Member for Brent & Harrow

Cllr Muhammed Butt
Leader of Brent Council
Cllr Roxanne Mashari
Labour Councillor for Welsh Harp Ward
Lead Member for Environment & Neighbourhoods

Cllr Alison Hopkins
Liberal Democrat Councillor for Dollis Hill Ward
Chair, Welsh Harp JCC
Cllr Suresh Kansagra
Leader of the Conservative Group
Brent Council

Brian Orr
Chair, Brent Green Party
Martin Francis
Chair, Brent Campaign against Climate Change

Cllr Javaid Ashraf
Liberal Democrat Councillor for Dollis Hill
Chair, Brent One Council Overview & Scrutiny Committee

Viv Stein
Transition Willesden
Brent Friends of the Earth

Maurice Hearn
Chair, Dors Close and Doreen Avenue
Neighbourhood Watch
Former Conservative Councillor

Roland Santos
Chair, Wood Close Neighbourhood Watch
Alexander Melia
Chair, Comber Close
Residents Association

Friday 2 August 2013

Welsh Harp JCC on why Mayor should reject West Hendon development

The letter below was sent to Boris Johnson today:

West Hendon Estate, Barnet (planning reference: H/01054/13)

I write as chair, and on behalf of, the Welsh Harp Joint Consultative Committee, which includes elected councillors from both Brent and Barnet and is a cross party body. Our charter is to consider and co-ordinate all the interests of recreation, leisure, maintenance and nature conservation together with the statutory requirements of the British Waterways Board and the Environment Agency at the Welsh Harp (Brent Reservoir) Our resulting objective is to protect the Welsh Harp Reservoir and surrounding open land as a unique environment for both recreation and wildlife conservation.

At our last meeting on the 24th July 2013, the committee noted with considerable disappointment and concern that the London Borough of Barnet Planning and Environment Committee had granted planning permission to the redevelopment of the West Hendon Estate. It was agreed that we would write to you to express our objections to the scheme as it is currently proposed.

Our grounds for objection are based on the environmental impact of the scheme and are therefore in line with our remit.

SSSI endangerment

The Welsh Harp – also known as the Brent Reservoir – is a nature reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). As one of only approximately thirty-six SSSIs across London, the area is of considerable value not only locally but also London wide and nationally.  Both the London and Barnet Plans contain directives regarding the protection of SSSIs. This scheme clearly breaches those directives.

The proposed development will cause considerable disruption and therefore harm to the wildlife of the SSSI. This disruption will be caused by the process of construction, the size and scale of the development, the resulting increase in population density, together with light and noise pollution.

We have grave concerns that allowing such a scheme will create a precedent and endanger similar areas in the capital and beyond.

Risk to flora and fauna

We wish to  highlight that one of the proposed pedestrian bridges would span the wetland breeding grounds on the SSSI and it would be impossible for this to not negatively impact the birds nesting in the area, both during construction and afterwards when in use. Migratory birds using the area include Gadwalls and Widgeon and it is known that there is a colony of Daubenton Bats roosting in the area.

Some of the buildings will be 29 storeys in height. This will impact on the bird population, especially as they are a mere 20 metres from the water’s edge.  A particular issue is the effect this will have on wind currents which could cause birds to fly into buildings or become confused and be displaced. There has been no mention of this issue in the application for the scheme.

Inadequate assessments and safeguards

We consider that the wildlife assessments which have  been undertaken are  lacking, and are deeply concerned that the proposals for the scheme make no specific mention of the reservoir or of flora and fauna.

 The committee also noted the views of Natural England which were reported as advising that construction should not go ahead either in summer or winter due to the disruption that would be caused to birds. We are aware that Natural England has also supported the appointment of an SSSI Warden to monitor the impact of the scheme on the SSSI.  However, very little detail has been provided regarding the powers of this post and the funding provided is considered insufficient by the committee.

In summary, therefore, we believe that the scheme as currently designed presents a grave risk to the status and environment of one of the very few wild spaces left in London. As a city, we cannot afford to risk endangering and damaging this priceless and very special place.

We urge you to direct the Local Planning Authority to refuse the application or failing that to act as the Local Planning Authority yourself so that the application can be considered fully in the light of all the appropriate development plan policies.

Yours sincerely,

Councillor Alison Hopkins

Chair Welsh Harp Joint Consultative Committee
Liberal Democrat councillor for Dollis Hill (Brent)

Boris Johnson to decide on West Hendon development on Wednesday

Following Barnet Council's referral of the West Hendon Regeneration Planning Application to the London Mayor last Friday, Boris Johnson will be making his decision on Wednesday 7th July.

He can decide that Barnet Council should make the decision, reject the application or decide to act as the Planning Authority for the application.

Navin Shah AM for Brent and Harrow; Cllr Roxanne Mashari, Brent Council's lead member for environment and Martin Francis, Brent Green Party, met with GLA planners today to put the views of those opposed to the application.

They will be circulating a letter over the weekend to go to Boris Johnson and the planners which will summarise the case against the development and urging him to reject the planning application or failing that, to act as the planning authority. The aim is to get the letter signed by members of all the main political parties in Barnet and Brent as well as all those organisations opposed to the development.

If you do not receive the letter by 9pm on Sunday evening please email Martin Francis at to request a copy.

Thursday 25 July 2013

Consternation as Welsh Harp development go ahead

Today's Wembley and WillesdenObserver
Jenny Jones, Green London Assembly Member, who made a submission opposing Barratt's West Hendon development, criticised the Barnet Planning Committee's approval of the West Hendon development:
This is a short-sighted decision that will damage the integrity of the Welsh Harp SSSI. We should be protecting this space for the enjoyment of future generations and for the sake of the other species that live there.