Report of the Planning Committee – 2017-8

Membership of the Planning Committee has been stable in the past year. Peter Pickering continues as Chairman and Avra Archer as Secretary, and every other month Pat Dunnill makes us welcome in her home which is centrally placed for our meetings. We have developed close relations with the Friern Barnet and Whetstone Residents Association, and David Thompson from them is contributing to our work. We have had responses to our appeals for more members, and Brenda Barrett has already joined us.

Objective: Our objective is to preserve the local, heritage, and conservation character of Finchley and Friern Barnet, and to support local people in efforts to resist inappropriate development. We are still vigilant to prevent the loss of family houses to flats in the quintessentially suburban areas of Finchley. But the pressure for development in our area has continued unremittingly during the year as the population of London continues growing; the new London Plan which is in the process of approval will almost certainly require there to be more homes in our borough than were hitherto planned.

Procedure: We have monitors for each ward – Mary Hogben for East Finchley, Avra Archer for Church End, Sheila Shannon for West Finchley and Jacques Astruc for Woodhouse, while Peter Pickering looks at that part of Totteridge ward that is within the old borough of Finchley. Other members of the Society keep us informed. We are represented on the Conservation Area Advisory Committee for the four conservation areas in Finchley. We receive by email from the Planning Department of Barnet Council a list of planning and tree works applications each week, and the monitors study them. Comments are submitted on behalf of the Society by email, letter or direct comment on the Barnet website, and may be followed up with a speaking appearance before the Council committee and by representations to an Inspector if there is an appeal.

Enforcement: We press for enforcement when planning rules have been broken – developers may, without planning permission, demolish or convert existing properties and applicant may, instead of doing that for which they have permission, ignore it and build something different. The Council’s Enforcement Team are not very robust in getting these breaches rectified – presumably because of the time and cost involved, and the opportunity the developer has of succeeding in an appeal. In the scheme of things the planning department believes the breaches which we have drawn attention to be relatively small. However, in our view such breaches affect the integrity of the area and send out the wrong message to residents and potential developers.

Front Gardens: Barnet Council say in their local plan “Gardens make a significant contribution to local character. They provide the natural element of residential character contributing towards biodiversity, tranquillity, sense of space and enhancement of the setting of buildings.” We do so agree, and wish only that the Council would prevent the apparently inexorable loss of front gardens to hardstandings, with the consequent dropped kerbs, which lose some 20 feet of the road, and exacerbate on-street parking by depriving other residents from using that section of the road. A recent case in Brent Way has shown how toothless planning is.

Cases: During 2017-18 , the Committee has had reported to it well over a hundred cases. After two refusals and one dismissed appeal a reasonable proposal for Brookdene on Holden Road has been approved; work has not yet started. Permissions have now been given for the congregation of St Barnabas Church to move to the High Road and the present building is to be converted into flats. Two proposals for the redevelopment of the site of Finchley Police station have now been turned down; it is to be hoped that something acceptable will take their place.

East Finchley: The consideration of the application for development of the GLH site opposite the tube station carried on into its second year culminating in a third appearance before the Planning Committee, who despite the continued and fierce objection, granted approval with a long list of Conditions. We shall now need to check all the applications related to the conditions to ensure the developer keeps to the ‘approved documents’. The former Alexandra Pub, now Oasis Restaurant and Shisha Bar, was denied a retrospective application and also at appeal. The restaurant continues to trade, highlighting the lack of Enforcement in the Borough.

North Finchley Supplementary Planning Guidance: This took up much time in the autumn of 2017. The Council produced a draft which was in some respects visionary, but which included several objectionable ideas (including the loss of ‘St Kilda’s’) and the consultation undertaken was inadequate. We and the Friern Barnet and Whetstone Residents’ Association arranged a well-attended public meeting and made very detailed comments. The Council took notice of what we and others said, and a distinctly improved version was approved in February. There is still much to be done, including sorting out the traffic – the idea of making the High Road at Tally Ho Corner two-way may not be practicable.

Barnet Local Plan: The Council is beginning the process of preparing a replacement for the current 2012 Local plan. It will have to be in conformity with the London Plan. We expect to be involved in its preparation in 2018/9.

Peter Pickering