Tuesday, 19 April 2016 15:42

Threat to our green landscape

Written by
King George V Playing Field – the Council believe, a 'low quality, low value' link in the Dollis Brook green chain King George V Playing Field – the Council believe, a 'low quality, low value' link in the Dollis Brook green chain
A lot of new housing is coming to Barnet over the next few years. In the Council’s Housing Strategy 2015-25, it expected to be able to build 20,000 homes. But the latest forecast is that some 30,000 will be needed, so more sites must be found.

The Barnet Society will do what it can to ensure they’re well designed and landscaped, but it’s unlikely we’ll be able to avoid some loss of open space.

At present, Government, our Council and leading London Mayoral candidates have all pledged to protect the Green Belt.

But that hasn’t prevented Old Stationers Field (near Dollis Brook) being turned into a floodlit and fenced-off artificial pitch – and more may be needed when the proposed Ark Academy opens in 2018.

Moreover, much of Chipping Barnet’s green space, for example the Whalebones estate, is not actually designated Green Belt.

The impression of continuous greenery we enjoy is due to the happy accident of various fields, parks and trees combining to produce an effect greater than the sum of their parts.

For this reason, we welcomed the recent consultation on a Borough-wide strategy for the maintenance and enhancement of Barnet’s parks and open spaces over the next ten years.

The Council is commendably frank about needing to save £1.7m from its parks and open spaces budget between 2015 & 2020. But the report’s methodology was flawed and its suggested solutions cause us considerable concern.

Central to the Strategy is the ranking of every park and open space according to its high or low quality and value.

It’s a logical approach, but produces some bizarre results. In our immediate area, spaces deemed ‘low quality, low value’ include:

  • Monken Hadley Common & Wood
  • Hadley Cricket outfield
  • Hadley Highstone
  • Byng Playing Fields
  • Ravenscroft Gardens
  • Rowley Green Nature Reserve
  • King George V Playing Fields
  • The Tudor Golf Course
  • Potters Lane Open Space
  • Highlands Gardens

It can’t be right – to take one example – to classify Hadley Wood as low in both quality and value. It’s a remarkable enclave of ancient and mainly indigenous woodland (the former Enfield Chase) miraculously preserved within London, and unique in Barnet.

The action proposed for spaces categorised as ‘low quality, low value’ is, ‘Enhance quality and value or consider delivering outcomes through an alternative use’ (my italics).

Since funds are unlikely to be found for the former, the alternative use is most likely to be housing.

We don’t know which open spaces will be targeted, because Area Action Plans are still being prepared for Council approval in May – but no public consultation is currently proposed on the Plans, despite those proposals being what will matter to residents.

Development of most of these sites would be totally unacceptable. For any such idea, the Society would require a convincing demonstration of the housing, educational or other need, and a thorough appraisal of alternative options, costs and benefits.

Resulting architectural and landscape schemes would have to be to the highest design and environmental standards, with adequate compensatory planting, amenity space and provision for wildlife.

In our view, successful new development will only be achieved if the community is involved from the start, and shares both the vision and the shaping of projects.

Barnet Council’s record in this respect gives us no grounds for optimism, whether on a small scale such as Brookdene Nature Reserve in Finchley – fortunately no longer to be sold to a developer – or large scale such as West Hendon, where the impact of the new towers on residents and landscape will be massive.


  • Comment Link Tuesday, 19 April 2016 17:16 posted by Steve Plumb

    Add to this schedule the Victoria Recreation Ground in New Barnet. It's all looking a bit grim

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 19 April 2016 18:56 posted by Liz

    I have just moved in to the area and can walk into king George's fields, through and up into monken hadley common and woods. I absolutely love the fact that I can do this, and think the existence of this space is what makes this area. It is of incredible high value! Green space has a really important effect on us physiologically and psychologically, which can only help the building of community. To destroy that is to destroy what Barnet is valued FOR.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 20 April 2016 12:51 posted by Andrew

    A reason to vote for Brexit. Control immigration and therefore no need for as many houses. Lessens the threat to our green spaces.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 21 April 2016 00:26 posted by David Howard

    We anticipate some good news imminently for the Rec in New Barnet. The site was identified in the open spaces plan for investment and was going to become one of the "no maintenance allow it to revert to natural meadow" areas. There were two options for investment - a swimming pool leisure centre or housing( the latter unstated but the meaning was clear). The community fought for the swimming pool and won (subject to planning). We understand the plansi for upgrading the rest of the Rec and maintaining it will be available soon.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 23 April 2016 19:57 posted by Robin Bishop

    Andrew, it isn't that simple. The Barnet Society was founded to defend the Green Belt after Home Counties countryside had been degraded by suburban sprawl by developers between the wars. Latest government policy is strongly pro-developer and anti-planner, and Brexit will do nothing to protect us from more of that. Anyway, not many East Europeans, Asian investors or Syrian refugees will be looking to buy around here.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 24 April 2016 14:07 posted by Simon S

    People from the EU and Eastern Europe have made a fantastic contribution to Barnet, through their hard work and many skills.

    On the other hand, this very small country cannot continue to experience population growth of more than a million people every 3 years, that will grow even more if or rather when, other countries join the EU.
    There will therefore be tremendous pressure for yet more housing, loss of green space, more roads, hospitals and schools required, so just wondering if the in campaigners can make a positive case for the UK reaching a projected population of 100 million.
    Finally, we must fight to preserve all our wonderful green spaces and parks.
    Barnet really is very special.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 24 April 2016 21:31 posted by Andrew

    Robin, ask yourself why the government has been forced down the pro developer - anti planner route.
    It's because they are under massive pressure to build homes for the huge increase in population that London has experienced and will experience while we are unable to control immigration. I say we must ontrol immigration not stop all immigration.
    Syrian refugees and east Europeans will certainly be hoping to be housed in the SOCIAL housing that will need to be built on our green spaces in Barnet.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 25 May 2016 20:18 posted by Rob

    The green space is what is makes Barnet Barnet. Do we want Barnet to be boxed in like somewhere like Hackney.

    Who makes these arbitrary decisions?

    Who can we demand that we keep our green space, demand a public consultation?


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