Hundreds stage protest to ‘save our Edgware’ amid fears over impact of major redevelopment

Developer Ballymore wants to build thousands of homes on site of The Broadwalk but residents say it is far too dense, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

The rally in Edgware (credit Solly Abraham)
The rally in Edgware (credit Solly Abraham)

Residents took to the streets of Edgware on Thursday (17th) to protest against a “monstrous” development being planned for the town centre.

Traffic came to a standstill as demonstrators chanting “save our Edgware” marched through the town to The Broadwalk Centre, an indoor shopping mall where developer Ballymore and Transport for London (TfL) want to build a series of tower blocks up to 29 storeys high.

Organisers estimate more than 200 people took part in the rally, which began at 2pm at The Railway Hotel before moving towards the development site itself. It comes amid growing anger over the scale of the proposed development near to Edgware Station, which is set to house up to 7,000 new residents in 3,365 homes and 463 student flats.

Ballymore claims it will create a “thriving new town centre” but many locals fear it will block out daylight and put further strain on roads, schools and other infrastructure.

Addressing the rally outside The Railway Hotel, Edwin Solomon said residents found themselves “under siege with this monstrous scheme proposed by Ballymore”.

He told the crowd: “When The Broadwalk was originally considered, the initial proposal was to have two levels for shopping, and Barnet Council refused it on the grounds that it would be too high and the overall height should not exceed that of the station.

“We are now overwhelmed at the thought of 13 buildings [of] 20 to 29 floors, twelve buildings [of] ten to 19 floors, and several other lower-sized buildings. [It is] difficult to imagine.”

Edwin urged Ballymore, TfL and Barnet Council to go “back to the drawing board”, warning the scheme was an “overdevelopment” that would put a strain on infrastructure and cause “ten years of misery”.

He added: “If this project was designed realistically and sympathetically as a vastly reduced scheme, and [with] input from local residents, it would be a lot more acceptable to the community, and the period of construction would be vastly reduced […]

“If this regeneration is for the residents of Edgware, residents should have a say in how the town is being redeveloped.”

Residents taking part in the rally told the Local Democracy Reporting Service the scheme would cause traffic congestion, particularly during rush hour, and warned over the impact of an influx of newcomers on schools and the local hospital.

Others pointed to a lack of maintenance of existing infrastructure such as roads and pavements, and claimed there was not enough street cleaning.

Richard Joseph, a chartered accountant, claimed Edgware would be “unusable” during the ten-year construction period, and many elderly residents would not see the benefits of the development.

He added that the scheme would lead to “overcrowding”, with not enough extra facilities planned for residents, claiming it would “absolutely wreck” the town.

When the rally reached The Broadwalk Centre, Anuta Zack warned over the loss of car parking, claiming there would be a reduction in spaces for people who commute to Edgware from towns such as Borehamwood, Elstree and Radlett. She said the current car park had 250 spaces for commuters, but residents would be  “lucky” to get 94 on the new scheme.

Anuta said the development would involve building the “tallest towers in Barnet”, and the new library would be attached to a multi-storey car park rather than built in the town square.

The development includes plans to move the existing bus garage underground and create a new transport hub. Anuta likened the plan to “building a volcano”, warning there had been instances of electric buses spontaneously catching fire.

She said: “A place to experiment with bus garages is not in the middle of a town. It is somewhere out of town, with access to the fire brigade.

“This is not being against development, but you have to apply some common sense, and common sense tells you: ‘do some studies, do some research and find the experts’.”

In a comment piece this week for Barnet Post, the Edgware town centre project team said the proposed scheme was not the densest in the UK as some had claimed but was “comparable to other development sites in London, such as the nearby Silkstream development in Hendon”.

But Anuta disputes this. She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the Silkstream development was 1,309 units spread over nine acres, while the Edgware scheme would be 3,828 over around 20 acres, claiming Ballymore’s calculations included a nature reserve and railway sidings that could not be built on anyway.

An online petition against the development has now been signed by almost 5,000 people. Campaigners plan to hold another rally in the town centre at 2pm on Sunday, 3rd September.

Another campaigner, Savio Gimmi, urged residents to “stand together” against the development and “inform everyone in the area”. He said: “At the next protest, everyone has to be here. The 5,000 people who have signed it need to be here, and everyone here needs to spread the word amongst friends and family.”

A spokesperson for Ballymore said the local community’s “ideas and contributions” had been “invaluable in guiding the design of the development and […] have prompted significant design adaptations”.

The spokesperson said the development would be “carried out in phases to minimise disruption and localise construction” during the ten-year period, adding that the delivery of public benefits such as the nature park, NHS centre and library – which would be “deliberately close to parking locations to help those with accessibility requirements” – would be prioritised.

Responding to concerns over the bus garage, they said there would be “multiple points of access for firefighters” and the proposals were being “worked up in collaboration with the London Fire Brigade and other significant stakeholders, such as the Health and Safety Executive”.

The spokesperson said Ballymore had agreed with the council that a new school was “not warranted upon the site” based on Greater London Authority data and given falling demand for school places across London, but it would make a financial contribution to the council’s education budget.

They added: “Our scheme provides 769 parking spaces (residential and town centre) alongside convenient and innovative car club and Dial-a-Ride schemes, a new underground/bus/taxi/cycle transport interchange to promote active travel and a significant number of new walking and cycle routes into and out of the site.

“We believe this level of parking provision and additional interventions to promote alternatives will create long-term benefits, helping to reduce congestion and improve air quality within the future town centre, while still providing parking spaces for those who need them. […]

“The joint venture (JV) proposals would not be the densest scheme in Barnet let alone London, the Silkstream site is 9.1 acres which includes the open space provided by the scheme, this equates to circa 144 dwellings per acre. The equivalent size of the Ballymore/TfL scheme is 25.4 acres, including the open space provided by the scheme (though not the railway sidings). The number of homes in the JV application is 3,550 homes (taking into account the guidance on treatment of student accommodation in the London Plan on homes equivalence), the dwellings per acre therefore equating to circa 140.”

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