This year has seen a noticeable change of gear. The latest Government planning proposals would undo many safeguards we have taken for granted since the post-war Town & Country Planning Acts. This would drive building to a level not seen for decades.
The wave of residential development started last summer with two applications, Elmbank nurses’ home (114 units) and Whitings Road (36 units), both recently approved.
Since then applications have been made for Tapster Street (12 units), numerous smaller schemes on and behind the High Street, and for 40 units on the Brake Shear House (164 High Street) site.
All these the Barnet Society has welcomed in principle, though often criticising the insufficiency of affordable housing and aspects of their design.
The flow of large home extensions continues. Farm buildings in Mays Lane are also being converted into dwellings. Most are now permitted development, so we have no opportunity to comment on them.
We did, however, complain about a ‘commercial’ extension in Montague Close (off the High Street), recently built and promptly converted into a dwelling. It was a disgracefully cynical manoeuvre, and the developer has since been forced to make a planning application.
This contrasts with two modest proposals nearby in Bridle Mews, where the full weight of planning policies have been applied because they are within the Wood Street Conservation Area (though invisible from the street). One was approved after re-submission, the other is design in progress.
Conservation Area status is now one of last remaining planning protections we can rely on. That’s why we have opposed two applications in Sunset View, at No.7 for a large and unsympathetic back extension, and at No.14 for a much bigger replacement house including basement pool.
Sunset View has unique architectural value locally. The road was laid out in the early C20 by William Charles Waymouth, architect of Pennefather Hall and Ewen Hall.
He designed most of the houses and lived in one of them. They are attractive variations on Arts & Crafts themes, and together comprise an unusually complete and high-quality development for its period. If Conservation Area status means anything, the planners must reject both applications.
However, even CA status hasn’t saved the main façade of 1 Church Passage. A planning appeal has ruled that the wooden cladding can stay, though Guns & Smoke’s fascia must go.
On the commercial side, the loss of business premises has been accelerating in and around the High Street, and especially near New Barnet Station.
Architecturally significant cases have been the former Lloyds Bank in the High Street and Barnet’s old Town Hall in Union Street, both of which we objected to.
Better news has been the Council’s proposal to rebuild Checkalow’s premises in Moxon Street, though we would have liked a more sensitive design.
At The Spires, the good example of Carluccio’s is being followed by the proposed retail and restaurant units, though some of us regret the loss of the present courtyard landscaping.
The best news could be the Brake Shear House redevelopment. Although we were greatly concerned initially about the potential loss of employment, we won a battle with the Council for the provision of affordable workspace, and Wrenbridge (the developer) and Morrow + Lorraine (their architects) have gone out of their way to listen to us.
In addition to replacement workspace and 40 new homes, the scheme is sensitively landscaped and will open up a new view of greenery from the High Street.
In our view it’s a good design. But you can register your own comments on the planning application (ref. no. 16/2466/FUL) up till 31 May at https://publicaccess.barnet.gov.uk/online-applications/