Block of flats approved despite no affordable housing

The flats will be built on the site of the former Jobcentre in Ballards Lane
By Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

The plans for the nine-storey block in Ballards Lane (credit Abbey Commercial)
The plans for the nine-storey block in Ballards Lane (credit Abbey Commercial)

A plan for a nine-storey block of flats in Finchley Central has been approved despite containing no affordable homes.

Developer Abbey Commercial won permission to build 22 homes and commercial space at the site of the former Jobcentre Plus in Ballards Lane.

During a public consultation on the scheme, Barnet Council received 42 objections and three letters in support. Local MP Mike Freer was among the opponents, claiming the development would cause “severe overlooking” and be “detrimental to the visual amenity of the local residents”.

Although most buildings nearby are no higher than three or four storeys, planning officers said in their report that there were existing buildings of eight and nine storeys in the wider area, and the height was “on balance acceptable” under planning policy.

Their report added that an independent financial viability assessment had confirmed the application could not afford a contribution towards affordable housing. However, the applicant had agreed to offer £10,000 towards “town centre improvements” near the site.

Local Labour councillor Ross Houston spoke in objection to the scheme during a planning committee meeting on Wednesday, claiming the building would lead to loss of light and privacy, cause “severe overlooking” and harm the visual amenity of residents.

He said: “The development is not sensitive to the context of Finchley Central being a suburban town centre of predominantly low-rise buildings, and this development will alter the character of the area.

“Astonishingly, for a development of 22 flats in a town centre, there is no affordable housing. There is a £10,000 donation towards town centre improvements, which I think is laughable, to be honest.”

Planning agent Tim Sturgess, from Ernst and Young, told councillors the scheme would “act as a catalyst to support the wider aspirations of Finchley town centre” and there would be “no adverse impacts on neighbouring amenity”.

Tim added: “The innovative, high-quality, sustainable development will positively address a site that currently detracts from the town centre. It is supported by policy which directs the effective use of land in an area suitable for tall buildings, providing a mix of uses to encourage investment, as well as a balanced mix of new homes.”

Roberto Weeden-Sanz, a Conservative committee member, said the borough needed three and four-bedroom homes, and he was disappointed to see a development “so heavily stacked towards one and two-beds” with only “a handful” of three-beds.

Tim responded that three-bedroom homes would make up 23% of the development and said it was a “good mix” that would be “suitable for this location”.

Four Conservative committee members voted to approve the scheme, with the two Labour members voting against.

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