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Colindale estate residents rage at Barnet Homes over hiked charges while issues pile up

More than 200 residents sign petition claiming Barnet Homes has failed to manage Grahame Park Estate effectively, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Grahame Park Estate residents
Grahame Park Estate residents

Residents on a Colindale estate have accused Barnet Council’s housing arm of “fleecing on an industrial scale” as they pay higher charges for dwindling amenities.

People living at Grahame Park Estate, which is undergoing large-scale regeneration, say they are “outraged” by increases in service charges as play areas remain “unsafe”, green spaces are removed and parking bays are used for development.

More than 200 residents have signed an online petition claiming Barnet Homes has failed to manage the estate effectively and demanding that it be made more accountable.

Grahame Park was built in the 1960s and 1970s, its 1,777 homes making it the borough’s largest estate. The regeneration, which will see existing blocks demolished and replaced, with new homes added, is ultimately set to provide around 4,000 homes.

But Joan Roselie, chair of the Grahame Park The Strands Residents’ Association, says that while the regeneration takes place the estate is not being properly maintained.

Joan said service charges had increased by roughly £100 over the past two to three years, although the figures differ significantly between residents.

At the same time, as the estate has undergone regeneration, she said parts had “broken off” so it had a smaller curtilage than during the 1970s and 1980s when the service charges were created.

Yet while charges have increased – Barnet Homes blamed this year’s hike on “the rise in wholesale utilities prices” – Joan said external areas were neglected and dangerous, with broken bricks, pavements and unsafe play areas, while there is also “a lot less green space” than when the estate was created.

She said: “We have people paying increased service charges but we have an external area that is pretty much neglected and dangerous, play areas that are not safe to play in. Bricks come up – the pavement rises, but the bricks eventually chip out and there are broken bricks everywhere […] It is almost like it is abandoned, and many places are like that.”

Residents are also up in arms over the loss of parking. Joan said many estate car parks are being used for new residential development or closed for construction work.

She added that some roads have been adopted by the council and controlled parking zones (CPZ) introduced, meaning residents now have to pay extra to park.

The residents association said this means many people have to park further afield, which is “especially problematic for residents with disabilities or who have young children”. It added that one road, Little Strand, will lose up to 80 spaces.

Joan said: “There are already people who have given up their cars because they can’t afford a permit, or the service charges, really. And then, on top of that, people are getting fined.

“The parking has been reduced to nothing. People are fighting for parking, literally, and it is getting worse.”

The petition states: “Barnet Council’s failure to intervene in the appalling lack of parking issues has resulted in can only be described as fleecing on an industrial scale via charges, permits for poor service. Many residents are being forced to leave their homes because they can no longer afford to live here.”

Joan also said £33million had been spent refurbishing and retrofitting properties that are set to be demolished as part of the regeneration.

She alleged there was a conflict of interest because Barnet Homes was acting both as a developer and as an arms-length management organisation (Almo) owned by the council. Joan said that as the estate manager, Barnet Homes should have the responsibility for resolving parking problems, but if it becomes a developer and takes spaces away it is actually causing problems.

Joan said residents had tried to engage with Barnet Homes – which describes itself as “the development agent for Barnet Council” – to resolve the problems and maintain their properties while providing new homes, but it wants to go ahead with the development in its entirety.

The campaigners want play areas to be made safe, pavements to be fixed and more parking spaces allocated to existing residents.

A Barnet Homes spokesperson said: “Barnet Homes is committed to working with Barnet Council to provide homes where Barnet residents can live fulfilling lives. At Grahame Park, this means building new homes for affordable rent, in addition to the regeneration being led by the council in partnership with Notting Hill Genesis, and investing significantly in existing homes so that residents can continue to live happily and healthily.

“The new homes at Little Strand will provide much-needed affordable housing for Barnet residents. The designs for the new homes were approved following a thorough planning and consultation process with local residents. This included in-person events and further consultation from local planners. Barnet Homes is acting as the development agent for Barnet Council, on council-owned land.

“As well as new homes, the works will create new pedestrian footpaths, cycle parking, electric car charging points and new car parks, replacing areas of informal parking. These improvements will make the area safer for all residents and reduce parking on pavements and verges. There will also be significant environmental improvements, with new landscaping creating a greener, pedestrian-focused estate, as well as a new park providing a safe play area for younger residents.

“Barnet Homes and Barnet Council are investing £33m into existing homes at Grahame Park, installing new kitchens, bathrooms, windows and doors, as well as carrying out significant fire safety works and improvement to public areas, so that residents can continue to live in quality homes. New play areas have been installed and existing areas have been refurbished.

“Resident service charges contribute to grounds maintenance, caretaking, water supply and the use of the district heating system on the estate. Regrettably, there has been an increase in service charges this year due to the rise in wholesale utilities prices.

“Barnet Homes is committed to supporting any resident who is facing financial difficulties. Boost, our dedicated employment, finance and cost of living support service, provides one-on-one support and can be contacted at boostbarnet.org.

“Parking permits are available to Barnet Homes tenants on the same terms as other qualifying residents. Permits can be bought on an annual basis or on a quarterly basis to help spread the cost.”


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