Introduction by Martin Cowie, Head of Development Management, London Borough of Barnet
Thanked people for coming. Introduced the speakers for the evening. Purpose of this evenings meeting is to provide an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the application and seek clarification on any issues/concerns that residents may have. It is an opportunity for the Council to listen to residents views which can then be assessed as part of the scheme. As the application is current the Planning and Development Forum (PDF) is not an opportunity to debate the merits of the application or to negotiate changes.
The Mill Hill East (MHE) area was identified by the London Plan and the Unitary Development Plan (UDP) as an area of potentially significant change. The Council therefore decided to draw up an Area Action Plan (AAP) for the area to enable the community to shape the proposals. This process started in 2006 and in October 2008 an Examination in Public (EiP) was held to assess the documents robustness. The Planning Inspector found the document to be sound and it was formally adopted by the Council in January 2009. The AAP provides a robust template against which to assess the application. Any application must be in accordance with the AAP.
Presentation of the application by Colin Darby of the Inglis Consortium
An application has been submitted by the Inglis Consortium (IC) which is made up of the three landowners VSM, Annington Homes and the London Borough of Barnet.
The application is very large and this evening proposing to provide a brief overview highlighting the main points. Acknowledge that the site is sensitive. However, it was originally identified for redevelopment over 20 years ago. In addition to the work done by the Council, the IC held an exhibition in February 2009 which provided a lot of useful feedback that has gone on to help inform the application that has now been submitted.
The application does not cover the whole of the site area identified in the AAP. It covers an area of approx 70% or 83 acres. Things have moved on since the AAP has been adopted the Annington scheme at the bottom of the site is now under construction and the Notting Hill Housing Group properties are not included. As a result the application differs in a number of ways from the indicative masterplans in the AAP. Most notably the location of the proposed east/west route has changed.
What has not changed is that the vision of the AAP and the application remains the same, to create a high quality sustainable community.
Landscape is very important and plans showing the trees to be retained were shown. The proposals would retain all the boundary hedgerows as these were seen as an important feature as was the boundary with the Green Belt to the south, north and east of the site.
The topography of the site was seen by IC as a key characteristic as there was a 30m difference between the top and bottom of the site. This offered some fantastic opportunities to maximise views out of the site but equally important views into the site from the surrounding area needed to be carefully considered.
Due to the previous military use the road network within the site was private. The current proposals would provide a link through the site between Bittacy Hill and Frith Lane. The IC was also in discussion with Transport for London (TfL) about diverting and extending bus routes into the site.
The current application seeks to reflect the AAP densities. Densities can be very difficult to interpret and a number of images showing what type of housing could deliver what type of densities was shown to help people understand what type of development was being proposed.
The IC acknowledged that scale was very sensitive and this would range from 2/3 storey in the north of the site down to 5/6 storey in the square adjacent to the station. The school would be 2 storey and the employment uses 1-2 storey.
The scheme had been developed to create a hierarchy of roads to deter the use of the car. In principle there would be a main through route with a number of cul-d –sacs/homezones off it.
A key question in the evolution of the application was how do you create a place rather than a housing estate? This is to be achieved through scale of development and creation of a number of open spaces. The AAP requires the provision of 5.5 hectares of open space, the application is proposing just under 6 which will include a panoramic parks, the grounds around the Officer’s Mess, a more formal open space in the centre of the site and the school playing fields. Many of these open spaces have been created around a desire to retain trees. There will be no changes to the scout camp. The woodland adjacent to the camp is owned by VSM but the scouts will be allowed to continue to use. Throughout the scheme there will be a mix of local and centralised play provision and there is an aspiration to improve linkages to external spaces such as Bittacy Park.
Sustainability is also at the heart of the scheme, the aim is to provide 20% of the energy requirements for the development on site through renewable technologies. This will be achieved via the provision of Combined Heat and Power (CHP) on the lower part of the site and the use of photovoltaics at the top of the site. In addition there will be measures such as rainwater recycling and charging points for electric cars.
The application is outline and as part of that a series of parameter plans have been submitted which will then provide the framework for more detailed applications on each of the different phases. There will be a net gain of 1,900 new homes as the 2,174 allows for replacement of existing units that will be demolished at the site as a result of the proposals. There will be a mix of different tenures provided at the site, with units designed to achieve lifetime home standards and code level 4 for the code for sustainable homes. 10% of the units will be wheelchair accessible.
It is envisaged that the proposed retail space will provide half a dozen small shops to serve local needs (e.g. hairdresser, dry cleaners, and newsagents). The employment space will effectively be an extension of the existing Triassic Business Park. The proposed new school is at the heart of the scheme and will principally serve the new population but will be available out of school hours to the wider community. Houses/open space take up about of half of the site, 30% of the site will be flats with the remainder being used for employment, retail uses etc.
The parameter plans once adopted will be fixed and ensure that development is of a high quality.
The southern gateway (the area adjacent to Mill Hill East station) will range in height from 3-6 storeys with active uses at ground floor. A new pedestrian space opposite the station is proposed and IC is working with TfL to see how this can link into improvements to the station.
The areas adjacent to Frith Lane and Partingdale Lane will be less dense to reflect their location and will use the levels to minimise scale.
Development on the central slopes will reflect the levels and use the opportunities presented to enable parking to be integrated and to minimise scale.
The 8 parameter plans reflect the AAP and will provide a ‘rule book’ for future development. Land use will be mainly residential; scale is very important and the parameter plans provide a detailed schedule giving minimum and maximum heights for each of the blocks. The proposed blocks on Bittacy Hill were reduced in height following comments at last years consultation event. Levels are also detailed in order to ensure that the site is accessible. The development will not all happen at once and the phasing plan shows how this can be rolled out. It is proposed to start developing the top of the site, followed by the creation of the east/west route, delivery of the school and then the rest of the residential development.
The presentation was concluded by showing a number of illustrative images of how the final development may look.
Martin Cowie (MC) thanked Colin Darby (CD) and then recapped on the current situation. The AAP is a statutory planning document and forms the most important piece of guidance to inform the development. The AAP envisages 2,000 new homes, 500 jobs, a GP practice, new school, open space and improvements to the tube station. The current application for 70% of this area is proposing 2,174 houses, 3,470sqm of employment space, a GP practice, new school and open space. The outline application is accompanied by an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and a Transport Assessment (TA) documents which have to justify how the development complies with the AAP. The Local Planning Authorities (LPA) role is to scrutinise these documents extremely carefully. The LPA is currently going through these documents. These documents will need to be the subject of robust testing before the application can be considered by the planning committee. The scheme may be the subject of change. He advised the audience that this was an informal opportunity for residents to comment on the proposals. He advised that the consultation period had been extended until the 16th February 2010 for residents to submit any further comments that they may wish to make, but if additional time was required then please contact him to discuss.
He then opened up the session for questions/comments from the audience.
Robert Shutler, Woodside Park Residents Association: Concern about traffic generated from the scheme. The proposals would result in an additional 11,000 people in the area which is dominated by residential rather than strategic roads. How is the application addressing this?
MC advised that transport is one of the key issues for delivery, in particular how to mitigate the impact of the development and what improvements would be necessary.
James Hunter (JH) the transport advisor to the IC responded that need to consider what happens at the moment, current congestion is caused by buses stopping on the short part of Bittacy Hill between the Frith Lane/mini roundabout and Holders Hill Circus. The application includes proposals to widen this part of the road, to enable buses to stop but the traffic to keep flowing. The road widening could be accommodated within highway land. In addition to this the proposed strategic route through the site would take traffic away from the congestion points on Frith Lane. The application had been the subject of robust traffic modelling and the result was that the proposals would result in ‘nil detriment’.
Victoria Ainsworth, local resident: The proposed east/west route would cut the development in two. What arrangements are proposed to ensure that residents can get from one side of the site to the other safely?
CD agreed that the IC didn’t want to create a development that was cut off and that the proposals would include a method for residents to make a safe crossing this could include traffic calming feature such as a table or use of different materials to slow traffic and give pedestrians priority.
Resident of Bittacy Hill: How is it possible to widen Bittacy Hill under the railway bridge as this area is limited to two lanes?
JH replied that the widening was proposed for the area of Bittacy Hill between the junction with Frith Lane and Holders Hill Circus.
MC then asked if JH could explain some of the work/traffic modelling that had been undertaken to demonstrate by IC that the situation would be no worse than it currently is?
JH advised that there were a number of issues, the application dealt mainly with design of access. Two traffic surveys were undertaken in 2006 and 2007 and these were combined with traffic counts provided by the Council. This provided a picture of traffic flows in the area. This data was input into a virtual model which enabled the highways experts to look at the network as a whole and how it currently worked. It enabled assessment of how current junctions worked and what would happen if additional traffic was put onto the network.
Resident of Argyle Road: The traffic is a huge problem, moving bus stops and widening the road will not solve the problem. 11,000 people will live on this site which will result in 4-5,000 additional cars. Where are they going to go? There are no through routes, no alternatives. In terms of congestion you need to look at the wider area. There is currently stationary traffic on Argyle Road, what is proposed will not mitigate the impact of 4-5,000 cars.
MC responded by bringing in Mervyn Bartlett (MB) from the Council to explain how the highway authority would assess the work that had been done to make sure that the issues raised did not occur. MC advised that the Council will not be recommending the scheme for approval if they are not satisfied with the TA.
MB explained that the Council was looking very carefully at the Transport Assessment and in particular that the traffic modelling had been done correctly. They will be looking at the detail of the junctions and will need to be reassured that the development can accommodate the traffic impacts predicted now and in the future. From the work done so far it would appear that the data backs up the conclusions. TfL are also included in the process and they also will need to be satisfied with the conclusions reached. It is envisaged that the east/west link through the site will be an important conduit for movement and there is a need to balance flows both east/west and north/south. There will not be any traffic humps as part of the scheme.
MC reiterated that TfL will also be considering the proposals in detail to ensure that there are no impacts on the road network.
Cllr Brian Coleman, Totteridge Ward Member: Requested, given the concerns raised regarding traffic, that the council seek independent traffic advice on the application rather than it being considered ‘in house’.
MC responded that the Council’s Highways group will look at the plans carefully and if they require assistance they will let MC know.
Resident from Linkside: Doesn’t have the time to read through the documents, two questions 1) what is the process, how does the decision get made? and 2) concerns about traffic in the wider area in particular on Walmington Fold and the railway bridge at Finchley Central. Additional cars will just add to this congestion.
MC advised that with regard to process if they would like to set down their question in more detail he would respond direct and that their concerns on congestion in the wider area were noted.
Local resident: The Mayor (for London) has put the onus on the provision of sustainable homes. He has given the borough a target of providing 20,000 new homes. Isn’t there therefore a pressure on the Council to maximise development as a result. From a macro prospective he considers that 1,900 new homes are too much given the hectarage of the site.
MC acknowledged that the Council has been give a housing target by the Mayor and that Mill Hill East would help deliver part of that. However, it was because of the pressure to maximise the development value of the site that the Council produced an AAP for the site to enable its comprehensive redevelopment. If the Council hadn’t adopted the AAP then development of the site could come forward in an ad hoc way e.g. as had happened with the Annington Scheme that was currently under construction. The AAP sets out a comprehensive approach. The Mayor has identified MHE as an area for change. The Council is obliged to deliver development and the current proposal for 1,900 new homes would help to deliver this. However, on detailed consideration the Council may find that they can’t support the proposal.
Robert Shutler, Woodside Park Residents Association: Advised that he didn’t consider the AAP to be robust as it referred to the provision of homes not habitable rooms. If consider the proposed densities on the basis of habitable rooms then you get a larger population and greater traffic impacts.
MC asked CD to respond. CD advised that the population projections contained within the EIA had been the subject of robust testing and used census data and other published population statistics as a result the site would have a projected population of 3,966 people and 2,000 cars.
Local resident: What happens if the scheme is refused?
MC advised that there may be the opportunity for the applicant to amend the scheme to address concerns that have arisen out of consultation. If the scheme was refused then the applicant had the right of appeal. Whatever happened the AAP would still provide the template for future development options. What the Council wanted to avoid was the site becoming fragmented.
David Howard, Federation of Residents Associations of Barnet: This is a large scheme that will have an impact particularly when considered against the larger picture of Barnet delivering more homes. The proposal will put additional cars on the road and the modal shift envisaged by the Council will not happen. Buses are using the already congested roads and the tube doesn’t have the capacity. There are no planned upgrades to the Northern Line. At the EiP for the AAP TfL left before answering these vital questions. You can’t look at MHE in isolation, must take into account the future development for the whole of the borough.
MC responded by stating that the AAP did take into account the growth in the wider area he then asked MB to respond on the traffic issues.
MB advocated that the 2001 census data had been used to assess the growth. To encourage a modal shift there were proposals to extend and divert bus routes into the site. TfL had confirmed that there would be capacity improvements on the Northern Line in 2011/12 and these had taken into account projected growth in Barnet.
Cllr Richard Cornelius, Totteridge Ward Member: Voiced concerns with regards to traffic, in particular with the proposed east/west axis and how vehicles would turn right without a stop signal. Won’t this cause congestion?
JH responded that the junctions at both ends of the proposed east/west route would be signalised (traffic lights) in order to enable traffic to turn right. He acknowledged that this may cause some congestion.
Cllr Jeremy Davies, Mill Hill Ward Member: Given the current congestion experienced within the area he remains to be convinced how this proposal will alleviate congestion. He requested assurances that the Transport Assessment would be robustly tested and advocated the use of external advisors to do this.
Resident of Chanctonbury Way: Number of points including concerns about traffic. Frith Lane has been widened by the Annington Scheme, is it not possible to widen the whole of Frith Lane to alleviate congestion? Due to current problems, traffic uses surrounding residential roads which is not what he envisaged when he bought the property. Finally, a secondary school is also needed for the area.
Steven Kingsley, local resident: Major concerns with regards to traffic. Considers that the present proposals are too dense as shown by the proposed 6 storey blocks. Concerned that it is too much for the site. This is a rural site but the development has an inner city feel. The proposals would change the character of the area.
Resident of Chanctonbury Way: When they were undertaking the TA did they take the rat runs into account in their calculations. 85% of traffic going through the area exceeds the sped limit, which is not helped by the lack of traffic calming.
MC asked JH to respond. JH advised that the study areas for the TA were agreed with Barnet and TfL; he advised that they covered most of the key residential roads such as Devonshire Road, Holders Hill Road, Bittacy Hill, Lullington Garth, Frith Lane etc but confirmed that didn’t include Chanctonburry Way. 2,000 parking spaces were proposed within the site on the basis of 2 per family unit/1 per flat in addition a CPZ was proposed in order to prevent commuter parking. CD advised that the parking had been calculated on the standards within the London Plan.
MC asked whether the TA could be widened to include the areas referred to. JH advised that there were lots of traffic problems in the wider area and that the TA had been based on the area agreed. MC advised he would look into whether the scope of the TA could be widened.
Resident of Lullington Garth: The proposal is for 2,000 new family homes which is 4,000 additional adults and 6,000 additional children. This equates to 300 children per school year. What about secondary provision there will be 2,000 extra children who will need a school place. What will all the people be doing in this very dense area? There are no community facilities proposed such as a swimming pool, pub, community hall or place of worship.
MC advised looking at these issues very carefully. CD stated that only 30-40% of the proposed new units would be family housing the rest (60%) would be flats and as a result the population and educational requirement calculations had been done on this basis. With regards to the other issues these were being looked at and some of these may be delivered off site e.g. improvements to Copthall.
Local resident: The AAP states that there should be 2,000 houses in the area. This scheme is for 2,174. The Annington scheme which is currently being built is about 300 houses. As a result the 2,000 AAP figure has already been exceeded. The scheme should therefore be reduced and more space allowed for other things.
MC stated that the AAP referred to 2,000 new homes in addition to what already existed on the site.
Local resident: The site was previously a military barracks and the majority of housing on the site was barracks accommodation for squaddies.
CD responded that there was a mix of both barrack and married quarters accommodation on the site. The AAP advocated the provision of 2,000 new homes, the reprovision of the 300 units already on the site, plus the 360 units consented as part of the Annington Scheme which gave a total of 2,660 units on the site.
Local resident: What happens if the development goes ahead and the traffic problems envisaged by local residents occur, can the developer get fined?
MC advised that when they assess the application the traffic impact of the development then they will be considering the worst case scenario, the development would need to support itself.
Barbara Hill, Local resident: Where will the tenants be coming from? Concern that the Council may be creating another Graham Park.
CD replied that a housing association had yet to be identified, but that IC will be working with a housing association and the council to identify the local need.
Cllr Brian Coleman, Totteridge Ward Member: What is needed is affordable housing not social housing.
Walmington Fold Resident: When the traffic modelling had been undertaken had it tested what size development would cause breaking point?
JH replied that the modelling had tested a number of different scenarios and sizes of development and that ‘breaking point’ had not been reached with any of the scenarios tested.
Linkside Resident: Mr Cowie has made references throughout the evening to the fact that the council will be assessing or looking into various issues. You have had the application since November what has the Council been doing in this time?
MC responded that the application was very complex with a vast range of documentation which takes time to consider thoroughly. He advised that he needed to be satisfied that every angle had been covered and every option considered before he was prepared to recommend the application for consideration by the planning committee. He advocated that he was satisfied with the time it had taken so far and would have been concerned if it had been dealt with any quicker.
Local resident: With regards to density would half the developing half the site still be profitable?
MC advised that this was not a planning matter.
Local resident: Could you please advise when work would start and how long it would take to complete the development?
CD advised that subject to planning permission the earliest they envisaged starting on site would be 2011 and it would probably take around 10 years to build.
Steven Kingsley, local resident: Would the developer not be testing lower density options? At the moment it would appear that development is being crammed on site like shopping being crammed into a bag and the bag is bursting as it gets overloaded.
MC advocated that the 1,900 new units were within the 2,000 limit set by the AAP.
SK responded that shouldn’t it be down to what the site can sustain not what the AAP states?
MC replied that the applicant was here this evening to listen and that density was obviously a concern of local residents.
Local resident: The proposals will have a huge impact on the local area, of particular concern is need for healthcare facilities. With an increase of 11,000 in population the site needs a polyclinic including a dentist.
MC advised that the Council was working with NHS Barnet about healthcare needs generated by the site and what is proposed in terms of health care provision on site.
Local resident: Concerned that there are no faith facilities (temple, church, synagogue etc.) proposed on site.
CD responded that they would discuss with the local authority about the possible provision of a multi-purpose hall. With regard to health provision in addition to the proposed provision on site of a GP practice the developer would be required to make contributions to the enhancement/expansion of existing health facilities in the area.
Local resident: Difficult to envisage what is proposed, what will it look like? How many people currently live in Mill Hill East?
MC advised that he didn’t know how many people currently lived in MHE and would need to come back on that point.
Local resident: Given the housing targets mentioned earlier are there any other big schemes in the borough?
MC responded that there were large housing schemes also proposed at Brent Cross Cricklewood and in Colindale which would help deliver the boroughs housing targets.
David Neale, local resident: Considers that the proposal is a departure from the AAP, which advocates that the officers mess should be for community use and not residential as is currently proposed. Voiced concerns that the proposed access point onto Frith Lane was hazardous.
Local resident: Concerned about parking, what is proposed for commercial retail/employment uses?
CD advised that the employment use would have its own car park. The retail uses were envisaged for use by local residents on their way too and from the station, but a number of short stay spaces were proposed in the square to serve these units.
Robert Shutler, Woodside Park Residents Association: main concerns relate to traffic, traffic generation and density. The developers should look at reducing the scheme, in particular the commercial area were up to 2-3,000 people could work.
MC then concluded by thanking people for their comments, he hoped that the applicants had taken the opportunity to listen to what was being said and advised that minutes of the meeting would be prepared and published on the Council website.
He then advised that residents had until the 16th February 2010 to submit any further comments on the scheme. If residents wanted further information they could contact him/MB or the case officer Jo Dowling. If residents needed additional time to comment then please contact him.
The Council would continue to analyse the documents submitted. At this stage MC could not advise when the application will be considered.
Local Resident: stated that the school hall had been designed as a theatre and as a result had a microphone system. Given the difficulties for people to hear some of what had been said it was disappointing that this system had not been used. He also suggested that a laser pointer would have been helpful.
Meeting closed at 9.15pm