Council pledges to 'take account' of local views on North Finchley regenerationReassurances offered to quell fears over community engagement on council's plans
Barnet Council has sought to reassure residents that it will listen to their views on an “ambitious” town centre regeneration scheme.
The town hall pledged to ensure the views of those living and working in North Finchley are taken into account after a residents’ group raised concerns over the proposed developments on council-owned land.
During a full council meeting last month, members of the Conservative administration agreed to proceed with plans to sell North Finchley Library, Arts Depot and Lodge Lane and Woodhouse Road car parks to developer Regal as part of a scheme to provide new homes and community infrastructure.
Lodge Lane N12 Residents Association subsequently raised concerns that it may not have a voice in the regeneration – even though one of the development sites is located in the group’s street.
Daniela Boyce, who chairs the association, said: “The community needs to be at the centre of the regeneration programme and not feel sidelined.”
The residents’ association raised concerns that the first meeting of North Finchley Partnership Board, designed to involve communities in the regeneration, had apparently been pushed back to September 2022 – after the Lodge Lane Car Park planning application was due to be submitted. But the council has now stated that the first meeting of the board will take place this month.
Members of the group fear the council could repeat the “mistakes” of the past, claiming that Arts Depot, which opened in 2004 on a site previously occupied by Gaumont Theatre, had a “negative effect” on North Finchley. They want “collaboration between residents and the developers” to “create future conservation areas which we will be proud to be a part of”.
The residents’ group believes more open spaces are needed in town centres following the Covid-19 pandemic, and planners “need to be careful about the densification of a small town centre”. North Finchley, which is home to locally-listed buildings and small retail businesses, “does not need many high-rise corridors”, it said.
Responding to the group’s concerns, a council spokesperson said: “The proposed regeneration of North Finchley is an ambitious and complex project that has taken a number of years to get off the ground. We are excited that we are now in a position to work with the community and development partners to realise our shared ambitions for this important town centre.
“As we have done to date, the council will go above and beyond its statutory responsibilities to ensure that the views of residents, businesses and others are taken into account as plans for the area take shape. We agree with the assertion that the only way to build successful communities is to put them at the heart of the schemes, and this has been the council’s approach to date in bringing forward housing and town centre proposals.
“As an example, North Finchley Partnership Board has been convened via an open and transparent recruitment process, and the inaugural meeting is being held in November 2021. The group includes local residents, businesses, religious organisations, the Arts Depot and others.
“The council has sought to ensure that, as much as possible, the board represents the diversity of North Finchley. Importantly, the partnership board is not the only way that local people can have their say and we will be working with board members, developers and others to support a range of engagement activities.
“This activity is all in addition to the standard planning consultation process. The deadline for submission of a planning application is 31st December 2022 (as agreed at the full council meeting of 19 October 2021).
“Decisions regarding design (e.g. height, character, impact on wind, open/green spaces, etc.) will be made on the basis of professional advice and will also form part of the community engagement and consultation activities.
“All interested parties will therefore have a chance to voice their support and their concerns on such matters well in advance of submission.”