Friday, 22 January 2021 15:14

Anger over proposals for solar panels in Barnet parks and open spaces

Written by
Highlands Gardens downgraded to "low quality-low value" by Barnet Council Highlands Gardens downgraded to "low quality-low value" by Barnet Council
Barnet Council's environment committee is examining the feasibility of using small parks and green spaces across the Borough of Barnet as possible sites for installing solar panels and electricity storage units for renewable energy.

News of the plan – which could result in reduced public access -- has met with an angry response from residents and conservationists.
Many have been shocked to discover that much-loved local gardens and green spaces have been designated as being of “low quality-low value” and might be suitable for conversion to solar farms or battery storage sites.

Highlands Gardens, in Leicester Road, New Barnet, is one of the parks on a list of 45 deemed to be “low quality-low value”.


Other locations earmarked for potential development as sites for renewable energy development include the wooded grassland at the junction of Lyonsdown Road and Longmore Avenue and the green space opposite Cromer Road Primary School.

When the proposal was discussed by Barnet Council (19.1.2021), Labour Party councillors criticised the plan and forced a vote, but their challenge was amended, and the full council resolved that the authority was continuing to work to “protect all Barnet’s parks and green spaces”.
To keep up the pressure on the council, Barnet Labour Party has launched a petition calling for the scheme to be dropped.

The petition says that all parks and green spaces should be protected from any non-park related building or development and the environment committee’s feasibility study should be abandoned.
Barnet Labour Party has accused the controlling group of Barnet Conservative Councillors of inventing the idea of declaring a list of 45 “low quality-low value” green spaces to justify investing less money in the borough’s parks.

Labour’s environment spokesperson, Councillor Alan Schneiderman, said this scheme to “make money” from Barnet’s parks was another attack on the borough’s parkland and green spaces.
He believed there was other council owned land that would be more suitable for renewable energy projects.

There should be a ban on building anything on parks and green spaces other than play equipment or other facilities that enhanced and improved public access.


When asked by the Barnet Society for their reaction, nearby residents said they were shocked to hear that Highlands Gardens, close to Station Road, New Barnet, was on the list of 45 green spaces of low value.
Highlands Gardens, which was opened to the public in 1931, has its own support group, Friends of Highlands Gardens, and is regarded as a much-valued park, and a popular haven and retreat for residents and passers-by as it is only a few minutes’ walk from the Everyman cinema.


Nearby resident Hamid Gardiz, who been for a walk in the park with his dog Ash, was concerned to hear that it might be chosen as a site for solar panels and that public access might be restricted.
“The gardens are really pleasant and in summer there are always people sitting on the benches and children playing. Families have picnics there.
“Over the years less money has been spent on the gardens. Thirty years ago, there was much more to see but it would be terrible if they were redeveloped or closed off.”


The green space opposite Cromer Road Primary School, which is laid to grass and has mature trees, is a typical example of the small green spaces across the borough that are to be included in the feasibility study.
Other nearby green spaces in the list are at Oakleigh Park Avenue, Oakleigh Road North, and Oakleigh Road South.

The feasibility study will assess the initial investment that would be required to build renewable energy substations including solar farms and batteries. An assessment would also be made of the planning consultation that would be involved.
Once proposals are made for individual sites the committee will be presented with a range of options and the aim would be to ensure the sustainability of Barnet’s parks and to produce “a range of environmental benefits”.

The Barnet Society raised problems of this kind when the council consulted, five years ago, on its parks and open spaces strategy, as you can read in our web post on 19 April 2016

"Unfortunately the council ignored our concerns then; let us hope they have second thoughts now," said the society's chair, Robin Bishop.




  • Comment Link Saturday, 23 January 2021 14:46 posted by Krista Lonsdale

    Where do they get the idea that these spaces are underused? Have they had CCTV there for 12 months-no!! Now I don`t mind solar panels but our local families use it and local dog walkers- our piece of `uderused` land is rarely empty, except at night .And wouldn`t the panels get easily damaged? I meant they need to be up high to get the sun (& remain undamaged) surley-not much use under trees?

  • Comment Link Saturday, 23 January 2021 21:44 posted by Catherine Little

    It will be totally unacceptable for LBB to give up ANY green space for development.
    Public amenities must be protected.
    Please keep us informed of all developments so we can protest and lobby vigorously

  • Comment Link Sunday, 24 January 2021 07:16 posted by Mark Finzel

    What A dilemma. I do hope it can be resolved amicably and in the best interests of all parties.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 24 January 2021 09:58 posted by Leanda walters

    Sorry additional thought
    In addition plant some fruit trees that any one can help them selves to apples pears plums and that will soften the blow
    So i think its a great idea but what gets built should be attractive not municipal and the pay off is in each area beautiful fruit trees

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 27 January 2021 16:23 posted by Local Resident

    Why don't local councils, even central government, insist that large corporations and multi nationals who build big supermarkets, out-of-town shopping centres and delivery warehouses insist that they include solar panels for renewable energy for the community they serve?

    A radical idea that would no doubt be dismissed as 'anti-business' by many.

    The problem local authorities have (in particular Barnet Plc) is that they have sold most of their assets off to private companies. Parks and green spaces are about all they've got these days.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 31 January 2021 15:57 posted by David Massam

    If Barnet are serious about solar, then they should mandate new builds (eg the gasworks site) to be built with suitable alignment and design to maximise insolation (the ability to collect solar power) and design solar panelling into the buildings from the outset.

    Cutting up the remaining greenspaces in Barnet (which would presumably also require tree-felling in sites such as Highland Gardens and Lyonsdown) is a "quick buck" solution in comparison, which would cost developers less, but significantly impact the appearance and amenity of the borough, i.e. the residents would pay the costs.

  • Comment Link Monday, 01 February 2021 14:37 posted by Amanda

    How about people do their homework? Alan Schneiderman sits on this committee and having read ALL of the reports myself followed by comments and minutes, he has remained silent... not one comment uttered!

    It’s also a feasibility study not a planning application, surely it’s good practise for a council to look at what land it has, what is and isn’t used and then look at the options available before the Mayor of London comes in to want houses on everything or the LiB Dems wants a cycle path across it!

  • Comment Link Monday, 01 February 2021 14:49 posted by Penny Marlton

    "Low value" in terms of what? Money, amenity value....? And who makes the decision. Yes solar panels on roofs, along railway embankments etc, but no in any green spaces.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 16 March 2021 15:42 posted by Shirley Lowman

    These small green spaces are vital for people’s mental health. Being close to trees and natural surroundings are beneficial.
    They may be of low value to our council but they are not to those who live close by them.
    Of course we need to provide good clean energy but this should not be to the detriment of small local communities.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 25 April 2021 23:50 posted by Jan

    Sad to hear ny childhood playground will get replaced by solar panels. Lovely gardens then, and thanks to Friends of Highlands Gardens helped keep up the gardens in recent times. My grandfather bought the Highlands house back in 1931. It’s a beautiful green place to go with family and to walk the dog, Sadly corporations taking over our lovely green areas, to just quick buck companies !!

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 11 May 2021 18:42 posted by Aaron

    It’s fantastic to hear that Barnet is thinking about upping its renewable energy game. Local authorities across the country have declared climate emergencies, and 78% of them have a strategy to deal with the crisis. Barnet is one of the few that hasn’t. It’s a relief to hear they’re looking into doing what they can to bring the borough into the 21st century.
    There’s an enormous amount that can be done with parks to contribute to achieving net zero and minimising climate risk. Much of it does not make any difference to the park itself. Hackney has installed GSHP infrastructure BENEATH parks in order to provide low carbon, low cost heating to fuel poor households. I understand some people value a pretty lawn more than they value a sustainable environment, and justify it behind the pretence of ‘conservationism’ while that planet burns, or value preserving the playground they grew up with over helping the poorest in society afford to heat their homes. The council needs to listen to those people too, but I have faith in them to make the right decision even if it is not the popular one.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published
All comments are moderated so there is a delay before you see them on the site
The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Barnet Society