High-rise Cricklewood plan gets go-ahead despite local anger
A “monster” development up to 18 storeys high in an area of low-rise homes in Cricklewood has been approved in principle following a row over Barnet Council’s power to reject the scheme.
Developer Montreaux won outline permission to build 1,049 homes at the B&Q site in Broadway Retail Park, Cricklewood Lane, during a meeting of the strategic planning committee on Thursday, 9th September.
The plan sparked more than 2,000 letters of objection. It was strongly condemned by a string of opponents who spoke at the committee, warning it would be too high, out of character with its surroundings, put a strain on infrastructure, and harm the nearby Railway Terraces Conservation Area.
But the development was narrowly approved after some Conservative councillors claimed Mayor of London Sadiq Khan could call for yet more homes to be added to the scheme. Large applications of 150 homes or more are referred to the mayor, who has the power to overturn a committee’s decision and demand changes to the development.
Montreaux’s initial plan for the site, submitted in 2020, was for 1,100 homes in blocks up to 25 storeys. Since then, the maximum height has been reduced, and the affordable housing - 35% of the total - has been changed to include lower-cost London Affordable Rent units.
Speaking during the planning meeting, Christopher Miller, who lives in Railway Terraces, urged councillors “not go down in North London history as the planning committee that allowed this monster to blight this part of London”.
Describing the development as “like a big alien intrusion dumped in the middle of Cricklewood”, Christopher claimed it would be “massively too high” and “massively too dense”, pointing out there is nothing “remotely close” to 18 storeys in the neighbourhood.
“That is why all three boroughs have massive objections,” he said. “That’s why the community are up in arms. The whole community are against this.”
Five more speakers called on the committee to reject the plans, including Labour councillors Barry Rawlings, Alan Schneiderman and Anne Clarke, plus Lia Colacicco, the mayor of neighbouring borough Brent who is also a councillor for Mapesbury ward in west Cricklewood.
Concerns included Thames Water’s warning over “an inability of the existing water network infrastructure to accommodate the needs of this development proposal”. Cllr Clarke said councillors needed to know “what the impact will be on sewers’ ability to cope”, warning a nearby area was already affected by regular flooding.
Officers told the committee the purpose of outline permission was to set the parameters of the scheme, as well as access arrangements. Further details will be considered at a future meeting of the committee.
Matt Walton, development director at Montreaux, claimed the development would provide “significant benefits” for Cricklewood and the borough as a whole.
He said the scheme would reduce HGV and car movements in Cricklewood Lane, pointing out it now included London Affordable Rent units and would contribute £15million towards local infrastructure.
Matt said the water and drainage issues would need to be addressed and “appropriately tested and approved” by Thames Water before the finer details of the plan were considered by the committee.
Peter Zinkin, a Conservative councillor for Childs Hill, told the committee it faced an “extremely difficult problem”.
He said: “I fully endorse the comments from locals. But unfortunately, the committee is not in a position to turn it [the application] down. What the committee is proposing to do is decide what is going to go to the mayor [of London].”
Cllr Zinkin warned the mayor had overturned previous planning refusals and called for additional homes to be added to the developments. Conservative committee member John Marshall echoed his concerns.
But Labour members criticised the remarks. Laurie Williams said the claims about the mayor were “extremely spurious” and argued that the developer could come back and apply to increase the density even if the scheme was approved. “We should judge whether it is a good development or reject it,” he said.
After the debate, four Labour councillors, the Lib Dems’ Jess Brayne and one Conservative voted against the scheme. With the remaining six Tory members voting in favour of granting outline permission, committee chair Eva Greenspan used her casting vote to confirm approval.
The decision will now be referred to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who may use his powers to 'call in' the planning application.