Developer loses appeal against rejection of plan for 539 homes in New Barnet

Barnet Council had rejected the revised Albert Road plans from developer Citystyle Fairview in February
By Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

A visualisation of the plans for the former British Gas site in New Barnet (credit Citystyle Fairview)
A visualisation of the plans for the former British Gas site in New Barnet (credit Citystyle Fairview)

A developer hoping to build hundreds of flats in suburban New Barnet has had its appeal against a planning refusal quashed.

Citystyle Fairview failed to overturn Barnet Council’s decision to reject its latest version of the Victoria Quarter scheme, which would have seen 539 homes built in blocks up to seven storeys high at the former British Gas site in Albert Road.

The developer – a partnership between Fairview New Homes and One Housing – won permission to build 371 homes at the site in 2017. But, instead of going ahead with the scheme, it came up with a new plan for 652 homes that was resoundingly rejected by councillors in 2020.

Scaled-down plans to build 539 homes in 13 blocks between four and seven storeys high were blocked by councillors in February after sparking nearly 800 public objections. Citystyle subsequently appealed to the planning inspectorate, triggering an eight-day public inquiry that took place in July.

In a decision notice published on Friday, 19th August, government-appointed planning inspector John Wilde wrote that the benefits of the proposed scheme, including new jobs and affordable homes, would not outweigh its conflicts with a range of planning policies.

The inspector said the scheme would insert an “alien typology” into the suburban character of New Barnet – where most homes are two to three storeys high – and disrupt “any sense of continuity”.

Although he acknowledged that the London Plan promotes higher density developments to address the housing crisis, he wrote that he “cannot accept that this approach should mean a complete disregard for wider context”.

The inspector also upheld concerns over the living conditions of the people who would occupy the homes. He wrote that more than 90 rooms – 6% of the overall number – would receive “less than adequate daylight”. He also noted that there was a “deficit of play space”, and that he had “concerns regarding the suitability of the play space actually provided”.

The design of the scheme meant flats facing roads and the East Coast Main Line railway would require mechanical ventilation and cooling systems, as opening the windows would breach internal noise thresholds. The inspector wrote that cooling systems could take up floorspace in rooms that just meet national space standards, also noting that 30% of the planned flats were single-aspect homes that are more likely to overheat.

Taken together, he said, these issues “do not indicate to me that the scheme can be considered to be of good design”.

Citystyle Fairview and Barnet Council were both approached for comment.

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