Reduction in homes planned for Edgware town centre ‘negligible’ according to Tories

Overview and scrutiny committee members discussed the borough’s Local Plan on Tuesday as it nears completion, reports Grace Howarth, Local Democracy Reporter

Homes under construction in Edgware
Homes under construction in Edgware

A Barnet Council committee discussed housing density in Edgware, flood risks in Finchley and rail plans for New Southgate as the borough’s Local Plan continues to take shape.

The Local Plan document, once approved, will provide guidelines for development in the borough and address housing needs and employment opportunities.

Overview and scrutiny committee members last night (Tuesday 5th) made recommendations for the Local Plan which will now be considered at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday (12th).

Conservative committee member Dan Thomas asked about the “negligible” reduction in the number of homes set to be allocated for the Edgware town centre site, from “over 5,000 to 4,700”. 

He asked Cllr Houston how this was in keeping with the Labour administration’s promise in its manifesto to avoid “tower block blight” and said: “If you were serious about that, wouldn’t you have reduced those numbers even further?” 

Cllr Houston said when the administration changed in 2022, from a Conservative authority to a Labour one, they inherited a planning framework for Edgware. 

He said the Local Plan was now in its final stages, and if they reduced the numbers allocated to Edgware they’d have to find equivalent numbers of homes elsewhere in the borough to still meet Barnet’s housing target.

Cllr Houston added he understood height and density would be a challenge on the development, but said it was a brownfield site which was identified as one of the “preferred sites” to deliver density and housing numbers. 

He finished saying the Local Plan was taking a “design-led” approach to developments, particularly in the “more dense” areas. 

Conservative committee member Richard Cornelius asked for the wording around plans to de-culvert watercourses in the borough to be changed. De-culverting involves removing a channel or pipe to restore a watercourse to a more natural state. 

He spoke about a stream in Finchley, Dollis Brook, which was referenced in the plan, and emphasised the need to ensure its was protected to reduce flood risk. 

Cllr Cornelius said: “A phrase can be added in that section just warning of the dangers of flooding so no-one goes out with an axe and chops these boards out too quickly.”

Ross Houston, cabinet member for homes and regeneration, agreed this was a “valid” point.

Nick Lynch, the council’s planning policy manager, said the proposal was part of an objective to help improve biodiversity and said it was counterbalanced by other policies around flood risk, to ensure it was mitigated.

He said: “I couldn’t imagine Dollis Brook would be de-culverted at the risk of flooding, and the Environment Agency has been a significant contributor to the plan and modifications.” 

Cllr Cornelius also asked for a phrase to be added to the plan to protect a council depot from becoming a “stabling for trains” as a consequence of a new Crossrail 2 station planned for New Southgate. 

Crossrail 2 is a proposed railway link connecting north-east and south-west London and Barnet’s Local Plan states that one of the railway’s northern spurs would “connect to New Southgate”.

The rail project is currently on hold, however, until funding can be found to revive it. Transport for London and the Department for Transport are currently safeguarding the route, making sure the space needed for it fits in with proposed new development around it.

This, according to the Local Plan, will involve a “revised alignment of the proposed New Southgate branch”. 

In response, Cllr Houston said: “The Southgate area is subject to the London Plan, and to some extent we have to take the London Plan’s word as they’ve identified that as an area.” 

“I think we’re all interested in the depot staying,” he added.

The London Plan is City Hall’s framework for the capital’s economic, environmental, transport and social development.

Nick said Barnet’s Local Plan would reflect the safeguarded route for Crossrail 2, and as far as the latest plans were concerned Crossrail 2 was still coming to Barnet borough.

He said the council had not been directed to change this and added the issue may be fully addressed in a development framework for New Southgate and during a review of the Local Plan, which will happen within a year of its adoption.

Committee chair Danny Rich agreed to make recommendations to strengthen the Local Plan’s clauses around the council depot impacted by Crossrail 2 and the flood risk in Dollis Brook.

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