Comment News

“Planners don’t seem to have a clue”

Architect and local resident Abe Hayeem gives his view on the Ballymore Edgware development

The Broadwalk Centre in Edgware and (inset) plans for its redevelopment
The Broadwalk Centre in Edgware and (inset) plans for its redevelopment

This is a most outrageous scheme, led by developers for profit rather than people. It is the development equivalent of HS2 which has turned Euston upside down, and will bring unsolicited upheaval to Edgware for over a decade. 

It is generic developers’ fare with luxury flats stacked into blocks and towers, with other characterless commercial buildings that have no sense of place or distinctiveness or with regard to planning an attractive environment or proper streets and accessible neighbourhoods. Where are the environmental impact studies for this grandiose scheme that would be out of scale even in central London? 

Edgware is an important terminal for rail and bus transport and needs the important commuter parking, the bus terminal and the bus servicing garage, on the level. All this should be retained because it works well, instead of imposing yet another greedy TfL scheme on station car parks that have been so controversial and unworkable.

No more Canary Wharves!

This scheme which looks like Canary Wharf or ‘Metropolis’ brought to a distinctively suburban area, is grotesque and faceless, out of scale and character with the area, and will not cater to real housing need, which is for council and more affordable housing. 

The super-density of 4000 + units, the size of a small town, is unsustainable and will bring Edgware to a standstill. There is no infrastructure to deal with such gross overdevelopment. Local services like utilities, schools and GP surgeries would not cope with the huge influx of population.

This project is a disaster and it looks like the planners of Barnet once again have allowed it to develop contrary to what the general consultations have requested which is no high buildings, with a height limit of 6 to 8 storeys, but with more homes with gardens for larger families. 

This scheme must be scrapped, and should become the subject of a competition to provide a more meaningful solution. Significantly, no working models of the scheme were provided, except for drawings that bore no relation to the scale, locality or context of the area.

There is nothing in the previous ‘consultation’ that suggested support for the horrendous group of 6 or more skyscrapers that  wreck not only the suburban Metroland character of Edgware, (already ruined by an additional 17 storey block that is in slow construction), but will have a terrible impact on the landscape and skyline, so close to the Green Belt. 

Skyscrapers going up to 30 storeys, on a podium, three storeys above ground, so it forms a private gated community with its own postage stamp landscaped garden is the worst form of selfish housing, vertical sprawl, that would look utterly incongruous and oppressive.The green space for the podium, three storeys above ground would be dwarfed by the 30 storey blocks and would be impossible to use with the massive downwind that would be created.

This policy of tall buildings has literally wrecked the whole of Colindale and large areas of Barnet, creating hostile fortresses, many looking like prison blocks of flats in concrete and brick. Far from catering to housing need, there seems to be a glut of buildings, many standing empty. 

The Barnet planners don’t seem to have a clue that they have already wrecked Edgware with Premium House (with an approved further 3 storeys added!) and the second 17 storey monstrosity that is under construction, again built on a podium, when it should have been a public square on street level.

The new proposals currently shown looks like it was pre-determined by Barnet’s planning department, working closely with developers, ignoring all the sterile schemes that they have allowed through that have ruined the environment in Barnet including huge areas of Colindale. This does not indicate a true understanding of what really constitutes professional urban design.

What is needed is a much more moderate scheme with much fewer housing units, relating to the scale and needs of the area, arranged in streets rather than a series of blocks, and mainly for council housing for low income families and key workers. 

Developer flats in towers are unreachable to the mass of people and key workers, and will only cater to the rich and to foreign buyers for investment. “Overseas investors now own around £90.7 billion of property in England and Wales. These figures are set to grow further as foreign investors are attracted by the price growth witnessed in the UK property market over the past few years.

Here is quote from “Overseas Property” which helps foreign buyers of UK property: “Despite recent global economic upsets, the UK housing market continues to outperform predictions, and the appetite for real estate remains high. A weaker pound makes now an ideal time for foreign buyers to take advantage and snap up cheaper housing. The pound is expected to recover as supply chain issues normalise and green energy alternatives begin to offset the fuel crisis. This makes the UK housing a prime choice for overseas investors interested in long-term growth. Additionally, the end of the London ‘Help to Buy’ scheme might greatly impact the market in the near future. Housing sales to domestic buyers will likely fall. The resulting drop in demand will make housing even more affordable to foreign buyers.”

Selecting a large number of housing units out of the air and then squeezing them into thirty storey towers and other blocks of high rise flats into much too small a site is upside down planning, and not fit for purpose. The tall building zones (and all future tall buildings) should be scrapped as hugely damaging to the environment and the suburban and Green Belt landscape.

Keep the Broadwalk!

The existing Broadwalk is a successful, popular arcaded centre with public spaces within it, and should be retained and renovated. The current trend, highlighted by the climate crisis, is to keep existing buildings, renovate and improve them rather than have mass demolitions and urban upheaval.

The Broadwalk (and Sainsbury’s)  should be retained as a useful arcaded shopping street that can link up with a street of new housing and a new square created at the back of a re-arranged car park, east of the existing Mall, then leading on to Deansbrook Nature Park. Less used areas of the carpark can create links to other green walks and spaces. 

The unfinished tower block near Premium House is another disaster on a podium, with only one staircase for 17 storeys, creating a fire safety danger. This area could have been developed as a town square relating to the main high street (as was suggested at the Planning Committee meeting), with cars parked in a basement (or removed.) 

This can still be done, by excavating out a basement, and having the square and access to the housing at street level, with shops and cafés at the base of the removed podium, all relating to Station Road. 

The bus station should remain where it is where it works well, and the link to the open spaces and the nature park seen as a continuation of the route of the Broadwalk, which could perhaps have some housing or offices on the top of it, or the car parking retained.

The existing main tree-planted car parks should be kept as they are, possibly carefully reduced, as a precious convenience vital to Edgware. A section of the commuters’ car park could also be reduced to create a street of housing, linking from the retained Broadwalk. 

The area in front of Sainsbury’s could become part of a landscaped square, with perhaps a second storey added as an extension to the shops.

This would create a more sustainable project, with little demolition, and general low-rise high density housing along streets and squares created, (See the social housing in Camden, Islington, Lambeth and Southwark for some ideas.)

The area around the Railway Hotel, together with the old Post Office could become a community centre and a cultural hub, including a cinema. Further low rise housing can create a route through to the Edgware Road. 

Roads and parking

The proposals for parking, buses, and Edgware Garage are not clearly shown and are incomprehensible and unworkable in any context. No proper plans or sections to see exactly where the buses will go, how they will circulate is indicated. The bus movement intended to be in front of Edgware Station forecourt again is unfeasible as there is not enough room to manoeuvre and would be dangerous to the public. Where would the buses go after dropping off passengers?

The proposal to bury the bus garage in a basement is a madcap idea. It will involve huge excavations and will create high pollution and a massive carbon footprint at the heart of the equally ridiculous podium flats. This idea should also be scrapped as unworkable.

Where will all the current large areas of car parks which seem to be a necessity for the functioning  of the Broadwalk, go? We hear that there will only be 800 cars spaces provided to replace it, and this should also cater for the 4,000+ housing units. 

This removal of vital car parks seems to be the current TfL and developers’ trend that is pie in the sky since no-one believes this is the answer to traffic and parking in a massive overdevelopment. Massing cars into a multi-storey car park is horribly inconvenient and would again be faceless and out of scale for Edgware town centre.

It seems to be a bonanza for developers to reduce car parking to practically nothing, so they don’t have to bother to provide much, and  let the whole area bear the brunt of hundreds of people chasing the spaces that would deplete parking for the existing residents.

All in all the proposals are an utter disaster for Edgware, will create enormous and unnecessary upheaval, and do not take into account local views as expressed in previous ‘consultations’.

This scheme must be stopped in its tracks. Barnet’s planners must take responsibility for the disasters already created in Edgware, try and repair them, and carefully reconsider a more sustainable approach to this whole project.

Abe Hayeem, RIBA is Development Representative for Canons Park Residents’ Association

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