Last August, we sent the Society’s 20-point criteria for development* to Transport for London and its developer partner Taylor Wimpey (TfL/TW). Download ‘Barnet Society criteria for development’
When the latest plans were exhibited in early November, only about a third of these criteria had been met. Most of the greenery at the north end would be kept, the number of homes reduced from 450 to 300, the northern pedestrian ramp improved, and access between the station and bus-stops made easier. But six slabs would dominate Barnet Hill and its surroundings, and less than a quarter of the long-term parking spaces would remain.
Before responding to TfL/TW, we emailed some 500 of our members for their views. We received many pertinent criticisms – and approval of some aspects of the re-design. But the great majority were opposed to the plans, either wholly or considerably. Below is a summary of what we wrote to TfL/TW on 18 November.
TfL/TW subsequently invited us to a meeting on 5 December. We were told that some modifications were being considered: the number of parking spaces might be slightly increased, the number of housing units slightly reduced and the height of some slabs lowered. But we have still not been shown any elevations, sections or visualisations of the most critical views of the scheme (up, down and across Barnet Hill).
Nor do the benefits offered to the community outweigh the loss of parking and the impact of on neighbourhood views, streets and services.
TfL/TW hopes to submit a planning application towards the end of January 2020. Unless it can show us significant further improvements to the design, the Barnet Society will have to oppose it.
Barnet Society response to latest proposals, 18 November 2019
We welcome a number of the revisions:
- Retention of the ‘green gateway’ at the top of Barnet Hill.
- Planting of 100 more trees. Reduction in quantity of homes from 450 to a maximum of 300.
- A larger proportion of family units. Enhancement of the ramp between the station and the A1000/Meadway junction.
- Quicker and easier interchange between tube and bus.
- A second pedestrian crossing further down Barnet Hill.
- The closer attention to certain aspects of the building and landscape design.
However, four of our five key priorities have not been addressed, or only in part.
Priority 1 – High rise and high density
The gaps between slabs are mostly narrow. The overall effect is of an oppressive, near-continuous wall dominating views from the east, south and west. Their impact would be especially detrimental to the trees on Barnet Hill, currently seen against the sky.
Since the affordable housing would be concentrated at the southern end of the site, we understand, it would achieve the doubly unfortunate feat of subjecting its inhabitants to the most constrained, least connected and most polluted corner of the site, while simultaneously casting the maximum visual blight over the existing residential streets and green spaces of Underhill and New Barnet north of Station Road.
Priority 3 – Interchange between station, buses and taxis
This wonderful opportunity to design a properly integrated transport interchange – probably unique in this generation – has been disregarded. What is worse, if this current (or a similar) proposal is implemented it would close off – or seriously compromise – any future, more radical, rationalisation of High Barnet Station.
Failing that, at least allowance must be made for a hopper/shuttle bus to stop in the Station Square, now or in the future. There must also be better provision for ‘kiss-and-ride’ drop-off and pick-up.
A more prominent street presence for the station is desirable, both at the top of the northern ramp and on Barnet Hill.
Priority 4 – Car park
Cutting long-term parking spaces by nearly 4/5ths would exacerbate existing traffic problems. High Barnet’s end-of-line situation is different from stations further into London because buses do not meet the needs of residents in outlying parts of either Barnet or Hertfordshire.
Some reduction might be acceptable if coupled with better bus services and cycle routes, but those don’t form part of this proposal. Removing car spaces is likely to result in more demand for local street parking (despite the new CPZ area proposed), for driving further into London or to divert to nearby National Rail stations with parking (e.g. New Barnet).
Priority 5 – Pedestrian access
The intermediate resting/observation platforms off the northern ramp could be pleasant – but only if they are perceived as really safe and secure at off-peak times. Artificial lighting and CCTV are notably lacking from the visualisation supplied, as is a handrail.
Access to and from New Barnet would not be improved. No location for a future footbridge across the rail tracks or Barnet Hill has been identified.
Several other issues also require attention.
Since the site is public land it should be prioritised for social housing, either Council or housing association, to house people on the Council waiting list.
We would like to see at least half of the affordable housing provided at London Living Rent levels to make it truly affordable for local people, and to provide homes for lower paid keyworkers such as hospital staff.
The northern section of the development would at least benefit from a proportion of tube passengers walking through en route between the station and the lower Barnet Hill crossing. The southern section, however, would be a pedestrian and vehicle cul-de-sac in the most isolated part of the site. If this were to be the location of the affordable housing, there would be a real risk of creating an urban ghetto.
The present designs are bland, and should pay more regard to the historical identity of Chipping Barnet. They should not be pastiche but could share brickwork details, proportions and roofscape, for example.
This should be a showcase for exemplary design, especially given that it is a TfL/TW joint venture and should set the standard for other transport hub developments.
The new one-way loop is shown as a shared surface that could be hazardous for both traffic and the children and adults living in the new housing, especially at peak times. There must be clear separation between vehicle and pedestrian realms. Traffic lights are likely to be necessary at the Barnet Hill exit.
The loop would also be prone to disruption by emergency vehicles. With no alternative vehicle route, ambulances or fire appliances could easily obstruct the passage of cars, with knock-on delays and traffic back-up onto Barnet Hill and possibly beyond.
Increasing the number of stands for cycles (and e-cycles) would be good – but only if cycle routes up and down Barnet Hill were provided so that cyclists could reach them safely in the first place! The stands would need to be clustered and informally supervised for security.
This would be welcome. But it is shown built into the unstable slope west of the station, hence expensive to build and prone to being cut.
Robust assurances would be needed as to the health and safety of residents and others close to the transformer, particularly children playing next to it.
Cladding the building with mirrors (as seems to be proposed) might help disguise its considerable bulk, but mirror-cladding would reflect light and heat, with possibly hazardous consequences.
The sketch designs are interesting but need more thought.
Children’s play areas must be safe, quiet and free of air and noise pollution.
The pavement on the east side of Barnet Hill needs enhancing (as mentioned in Priority 5 above).
We believe that TfL/TW has under-estimated the engineering complexity of building on this site, which comprises artificial ground over multiple layers of steeply inclined earlier landfill supporting the A1000. This would make building costs abnormally high and the housing and hub correspondingly more expensive – and possibly commercially unviable.
A geotechnical survey must be carried out prior to any planning application, and the results made known.
The residents of this development as a whole would inhabit an exceptionally unhealthy environment, both and mentally.
TfL/TW’s claims to be committed to unusually high standards of sustainable design require rigorous substantiation. Only if a scheme were to be an exemplar of environmental and ecological sustainability and diversity might it be acceptable. We would expect such a scheme to be zero-carbon including a whole-life carbon assessment, together with material passporting and other moves towards a circular economy.
The 900 or so residents would require schools for their offspring, doctors when they’re ill and hospitals when they’re sick, amongst other amenities. Yet local primary schools, GP and dental surgeries are already over-subscribed.
We note that 18 new on-site jobs are promised and 43 off-site. Against those must be set the loss of scaffolding and container storage business jobs.