A second attempt to get approval for an enlarged development of blocks of flats on the former gas works site at New Barnet has been refused -- and for now Barnet's largest brownfield site will continue to remain unused.


Developers Fairview and One Housing met an almost impenetrable wall of opposition as they argued the case for building 539 flats.

Their proposal was for a total of 13 separate blocks of flats of four to seven storeys in height – a scheme described as an “insult” to New Barnet and entirely out of character with a neighbourhood of two and three storey Victorian and Edwardian houses.

The latest 539-flat scheme was a reduction from the 651 flats proposed – and rejected -- in 2020 but was still way more than the plan for 371 flats that was originally agreed in 2015, a plan which the developers were urged to go back to and accept.

Over 800 residents in the area had objected to the revised scheme in support of the Save New Barnet campaign and all but one of the councillors on Barnet Council’s strategic planning committee voted against the plan.

Earlier at its meeting in Hendon (22.2.2022) the committee voted unanimously to reject a scheme to add two extra floors to the former Whetstone office block -- Barnet House -- so that it could be converted into flats.

In this case – despite the committee’s decision -- the developers have already exercised a right of appeal and a nine-day planning inquiry is to be held at a date yet to be confirmed.

Developers have plans to convert what was originally Ever Ready House in High Road, Whetstone, into complex that will include a new six-storey rear extension to provide a total of 260 flats.

Barnet’s planning officers had recommended approval of the revised plan for the former gas works site which lies between the main railway line at New Barnet and Victoria Recreation Ground, and which would be known as the Victoria Quarter.

The new plan proposed a reduction in both the height of the blocks and their density, and with a 20-metre gap between the blocks, there would now be adequate daylight between the buildings, which had been one of the reasons for refusal in 2020.

Any thought of the council agreeing to the scheme was immediately shot down by John Dix, representing the New Barnet Community Association, who said he spoke on behalf of many of the 800 objectors.

The local community had worked with the developers who devised the 2015 scheme for 371 flats but Fairview and One Housing were trying to increase the development way beyond what was acceptable with far more studio and one-bedroom flats while reducing those with three or four bedrooms – when it was three-and-four-bedroom homes that New Barnet wanted most of all.

Nick Hufton, a New Barnet resident, and a residential design architect, said that in their attempt to squeeze so many homes on the site, 50 per cent of the flats would face west, facing the railway line, which would require non-opening windows because of the noise and necessitate cooling systems to reduce overheating from the sun in summer.

“This scheme flies in the face of the wishes of local residents…these blocks are entirely out of character with what is predominantly a Victorian suburb of two and three storey houses.”

The strength of opposition within the planning committee was evident from the first councillor to speak. "This development is an insult to local residents. It would blight New Barnet for the next century."

Other councillors added their condemnation to what they said was the “shameful” way the developers were proposing to put the affordable homes next to the railway line which would require the installation of cooling units and mean extra cost for the tenants.

Reference was made to the decision earlier this month by Enfield Council to approve the construction of blocks of flats at Cockfosters Station despite opposition from thousands of residents. Barnet’s councillors were urged to stand by the people of New Barnet and reject the scheme.

Theresa Villiers, MP for Chipping Barnet, acknowledged that the height of the blocks had been reduced from ten storeys to seven, but it was still an overdevelopment of the site, and the bulk and mass of the new buildings would be detrimental to the area.

The proposed blocks were monolithic and regimental in appearance and “completely out of place” in a low-rise Victorian suburb, next to the open green space of Victoria Recreation Ground.

She urged Fairview and One Housing to adopt the plans for which consent was given in 2015, which had followed ten years of engagement with the local community.

“This scheme could set a bad precedent that we should accept high rise in the outer suburbs and would be the first step to the significant suburbanising of the area.”

Mark Jackson, Fairview’s director of planning, tried to convince the planning committee that the developers had changed the plans from the 2020 scheme by reducing the massing, density, and height of the blocks, and they had also widened the space between the blocks which would increase daylight in the flats.

“We know there are still a lot of objections, but it is a good, reasonable scheme, which has the support of the council’s planning officers and which would finally lead to the unlocking of this site after a decade of stagnation.

“We have done hundreds of schemes like this across London and the south-east, and the landscaping will make it a very attractive, high-quality development.”

In response to questions, he said the 2015 scheme for 371 flats was “not deliverable” as far as Fairview were concerned – a point made in 2020 on the grounds that the cost of decontaminating the site had exceeded expectations and necessitated a higher density.

Earlier the committee had voted unanimously to reject the redevelopment of Barnet House by adding another two storeys to the block and by constructing a six-storey high extension to provide a total of 260 homes.

One of the strongest objections was over the impact the redevelopment would have on the adjacent Baxendale Court care home. The proposed extension would have a dominating effect on the home and its 45 residents.

Council members lined up to denounce the scheme. Councillor Tom Smith said adding two floors to what was an already hideous building was disproportionate and it would tower over Whetstone.

Councillor Richard Cornelius said planning permission should never have been given in the first place for Barnet House and adding to its height and turning the building over to flats would create a “blot on the landscape” of Whetstone and Totteridge.

Other nearby residential development, including that of the B&Q site, had increased the pressure on local schools, which were already fully subscribed, and would only add to waiting times for a doctor’s appointment.

Theresa Villiers agreed that Barnet House was already an eyesore that could be seen across her Chipping Barnet constituency.  “Making it even taller – from 12 storeys to 14 – is excessive and an overdevelopment.”

A similar scheme to turn Barnet House into flats had been refused in 2018. She said this fresh application, which would increase the number of flats from 216 to 260 while reducing the number of affordable homes, should also be rejected.

“Barnet House is already ugly and oppressive and making it even bigger would be a bizarre thing to do.”