Campaign to save Finchley green space from developmentBarnet Homes is planning to redevelop The Grange Estate in East Finchley
Neighbours in East Finchley are battling to save a green space that has been placed under threat from development plans.
Residents warn the plans by council housing arm Barnet Homes, to build on the land in Brownswell Road, would remove one of the only suitable play spaces in an area already lacking in parks and open space.
Proposals outlined in February at the council's housing and growth committee would see 43 affordable homes built on council-owned sites at The Grange Estate, including 23 at the site in Brownswell Road. Three existing homes are set to be demolished.
Local resident Yvette Beattie said building on the green space would have a “massive impact”.
“My daughter spends an awful lot of time here, especially during the summer,” she explained. “We don’t have the luxury of gardens, and this is the next best thing. Her friends come and play here - her friends from school live nearby, and they are on it a lot.”
The campaigners say the space is used by a football club and for community gatherings, as well as being used regularly by Barnet Homes for events.
Barnet Council’s parks and open spaces strategy notes that East Finchley has a “particular deficiency” in park provision. An audit carried out on behalf of Barnet Homes states that there is a range of formal open space provision in the area, but this is mainly made up of allotments, cemeteries and bowling greens.
Yvette said: “The nearest park is Cherry Tree Woods or Victoria Park, about a mile away. The kids love this space, they really do. It will be monumentally awful if they take it away from them - and the environmental impact as well is ridiculous.”
Deborah Stachera, who has lived in the area for 25 years, said: “This space is not only used by residents in this area, it is used by communities across the road, the wider Grange Estate, and the Tarling Road Community Centre. With the [Covid-19] lockdown, it became a really important space for health and wellbeing.
“We have got children of all different ages here together, in a safe area where they can play. They [Barnet Homes] are suggesting people might have to let the children go further away, but not all the residents are able to do that. By building, instead of bringing us together, they are pulling us apart.”
Rebecca Weston lives in a home that has been earmarked for demolition under the proposals. She said Barnet Homes had told residents that if they did not negotiate, it would buy up their homes using a compulsory purchase order [CPO].
She added: “They said we could have a new build [...] but I would have to move out for three years and move back again.”
Rebecca said Barnet Homes had initially not offered to rehouse children over 18 but agreed to do so in her case on medical grounds. However, she added that she was being asked for documents such as bank statements for her children that she did not want to hand over.
Another resident, who did not want to be named, also said Barnet Homes had told him it would use a CPO if he did not negotiate.
“There is no help available for us,” he said. “It is going to have a devastating effect. There are three generations who live under the same roof; my family, my brother’s family, and older parents who are retired and disabled as well.”
The resident said he would not be able to afford a property nearby, adding that there was a shortage of available homes.
Deborah said residents had suggested Barnet Homes could use a nearby site that would be more suitable for development - part of a car park that had been occupied by shipping containers for 15 years.
The campaigners are now hoping to have the green space listed as an asset of community value, which would make it easier for residents to bid for it if it comes up for sale.
“We’d like to come together more and enhance the area, and make it a more useful space with a communal garden area,” Deborah said.
A spokesperson for The Barnet Group, the council-owned company that runs Barnet Homes, said: “The Barnet Group is working tirelessly to reduce homelessness and provide affordable homes for over 2,000 Barnet households who are currently living in temporary accommodation.
“We are building homes on over 40 sites across the borough. These have been meticulously studied and planned to achieve the best value for money for the local authority, and provide much-needed accommodation. The homes will be good quality and affordable, as set out by the Mayor of London.
“At The Grange, we will provide 23 new affordable homes and landscaped green space for existing and new residents. We have engaged with residents throughout with online and in-person events and adapted our plans to incorporate their feedback. As a result, we have reduced the number of homes which will be built, and will enhance the green space around the area. Consultation will continue throughout the formal planning process.
“While we cannot comment on individual cases, we can confirm that we will be providing alternative like-for-like accommodation for the two households who are Barnet Homes tenants. These will be treated respectfully and sensitively to ensure that their needs are met.”