Local fears over development of Green Belt site in Mill HillDeveloper plans to build 175 homes for older people on Kingdom Hall site
Neighbours are battling plans for a new development on Green Belt land in Mill Hill which they fear will “change the character of the area”.
Marstead Living wants to build 175 units of “specialist older persons' housing” on a site in The Ridgeway that is currently home to Watchtower House and Kingdom Hall, which were formerly used by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Barnet Council received almost 200 letters of objection during a consultation on the plans, which have yet to be considered by a planning committee. There were 27 letters in support.
The proposed scheme, which lies within Mill Hill Conservation Area and the Green Belt, would see the existing buildings demolished to make way for ten blocks ranging between three and five storeys, plus a basement level.
Elizabeth Silver, who lives locally, said residents were “fed up with overdevelopment causing the piecemeal loss of Green Belt and a total change in the character of the area”.
According to the developer’s proposals, the building footprint will rise by 18.4% and the volume will almost double compared to existing structures if the scheme goes ahead.
Elizabeth said mature trees would be felled and that saplings planted elsewhere on the site would take “at least 20 years to provide cover”. She also raised concerns that plans to open up the field next to the buildings to the public could see it used for “farmers’ markets, concerts and film screenings”, which she said would lead to “more noise and parking issues, and loss of wildlife habitat”.
The developer has pointed out that the total “built-up” area would fall by almost 15%, with areas of hardstanding set to be removed under the scheme.
However, in its initial response to the plans, Greater London Authority said the application “represents inappropriate development on the Green Belt and is currently unacceptable”. It added that a “full public benefits package is required to determine whether very special circumstances exist” that would justify Green Belt development.
Further concerns raised by residents include the potential for more traffic and parking problems in The Ridgeway, plus a lack of GP provision. Elizabeth urged councillors to heed residents' concerns over the scheme and be “mindful of local sentiment if they wish to be re-elected on 5th May”.
Mark Alper, chief executive of Marstead Living, said the developer was “incredibly proud” of the scheme and what he called its “extremely respectful and considered design”.
He added: “These proposals actually reduce the proportion of the site that is currently built up by nearly 15%. By reducing urban sprawl and giving more of the site back to nature, this new specialist housing development will actually have a positive effect on biodiversity in the area, with an 11% increase in habitat and 145% increase in hedgerows, helping a great variety of plants, animals and insects flourish.
“All the buildings we are proposing fall below the treeline, which will include an extra 175 trees, and so won’t be seen from the surrounding streets.
“Because the homes are exclusively for over-65s there will be fewer cars moving around compared to the previous use of the site, and we are creating a basement car park so that there will be no need for residents, staff and visitors to ever park on neighbouring streets.
“The next-door field will become protected as a new three-hectare common in perpetuity. This could be a new public amenity for dog-walking and enjoying nature. We will also set up a group of residents who can themselves decide what else this field could be used for – if anything.
“We have taken great care to listen to the community and be a good neighbour as we very much want to be a part of the future of Mill Hill, creating homes that people can enjoy through their later years without having to leave this wonderful area.”