Campaigners have warned Barnet councillors that building a “mini-Manhattan” in Edgware will “decimate” the town centre.
Save Our Edgware presented a petition signed by around 5,500 residents – calling for the proposed 3,828-home scheme to be significantly scaled down – to a full council meeting at Hendon Town Hall on Tuesday (17th).
Developer Ballymore and Transport for London (TfL) want to build tower blocks up to 29 storeys high on the site of indoor shopping mall The Broadwalk Centre, providing 3,365 homes and 463 student flats.
Ballymore claims the scheme would create a “thriving new town centre”. But the petition claims it would create a “mini-Manhattan” that would erase Edgware’s suburban character “at a huge cost to the standard of living of local residents”. It warns the “gross overdevelopment” would lack sufficient infrastructure for thousands more residents and cause “ten years of disruption”.
Anuta Zack, a member of Save Our Edgware, told the full council meeting that Edgware would be “decimated” by the development.
She claimed the scheme would be “one of the densest, if not the densest, in the country” but there was “no clear plan for supporting infrastructure”, and this would contravene national planning policies.
The scheme would involve creating an underground bus garage, which Anuta branded an “experiment”. She said there were “no established safety protocols” for the garage, and no-one could provide reassurances over the fire safety risks posed by electric vehicles.
Anuta told councillors that only 219 people gave their views on the Edgware supplementary planning document (SPD), which sets a framework for development in the area, as the consultation took place during the Covid-19 pandemic.
She claimed this did not follow the relevant government guidelines, and most people were unaware the consultation was happening.
During a short debate that followed the presentation, members of the Labour group pointed out that the SPD, which will inform the planning committee’s decision on developments proposed for the area, had been approved by the previous Conservative administration.
Labour councillor Ella Rose said the SPD could not be “substantially changed”. She said the Labour administration had been negotiating with Ballymore and TfL to ensure the scheme would be “sympathetic” but was “tied” by the “political decisions” that had been made by the Tories.
Conservative councillors for Edgware, Nick Mearing-Smith and Lucy Wakeley ,expressed support for the petition and said they favoured a smaller scheme.
Cllr Mearing-Smith said: “As local councillors, we are absolutely adamant that this development is too tall, is too large, too dense, there is insufficient parking, [and] there is insufficient infrastructure incorporated within it.”
He added that people were “very, very concerned” about the risks of the underground car park because of the fire risks posed by electric batteries.
Councillors were presented with three options regarding the petition; take no action, provide a written response to the lead petitioner within 20 working days, or instruct an officer to prepare a report for a future meeting of cabinet or a committee on the issues with a recommended course of action.
Members of the council’s planning committees had left the chamber on the advice of governance officers to prevent the debate from influencing their decision on the scheme. The remaining Labour and Conservative councillors voted in favour of preparing a report on the issues for a future meeting.
Responding to the petition, a spokesperson for the joint venture between Ballymore and TfL said: “We recognise the need for the development to come forward with significant amounts of infrastructure so the proposed scheme will deliver £1.7billion of investment in the local community, unlocking benefits that local residents have said are sorely needed.
“The safety of our residents and all users of our developments are of paramount importance to us, and we are working closely with relevant authorities to ensure the proposal is designed and built to the highest fire safety standards.
“We will be consulting with the London Fire Brigade, Barnet Council, Greater London Authority and Building Control, and will be engaging with other significant stakeholders such as the Health and Safety Executive throughout the outline and subsequent reserved matter applications processes. The garage would only be occupied by EV buses following approvals from all relevant bodies, including the London Fire Brigade, Barnet Council, the Health and Safety Executive and Building Control.
“Significant and extensive engagement with the aforementioned stakeholders will take place before development commences and we will continue to work with local people as we deliver a thriving future for Edgware.
The developer plans to include an NHS centre, nature park and library, and to make a financial contribution to the council’s education budget.