Wednesday, 26 September 2018 18:26

Town centre “rabbit hutch” rooms plan withdrawn

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Withdrawal of plan to convert Barnet Antique and Vintage Centre into a house in multiple occupation offering nine self-contained rooms with two communal kitchens Withdrawal of plan to convert Barnet Antique and Vintage Centre into a house in multiple occupation offering nine self-contained rooms with two communal kitchens
A highly-controversial plan to convert empty retail premises just off Barnet High Street into a house in multiple occupation with nine self-contained rooms has been withdrawn – at least for the moment.

Among the objections from nearby residents to the planning application were complaints that the proposed rooms – each ranging in size from 10.4 to 11.8 square metres – were no bigger than a “rabbit hutch” and comparable to a “prison cell.”  

Barnet Council’s website now states “withdrawn” against the planning application submitted in August to convert the former Barnet Antique and Vintage Centre, in Bruce Road – at the junction of High Street and St Albans Road – into a house in multiple occupation containing nine self-contained rooms, with two communal kitchens.

The application by Mornworth Ltd said that the nine rooms all “comfortably exceed” the government’s 2017 standard for multiple occupation rooms of 10 square metres plus space for toilet and shower.

Stuart Cunliffe, agent for the owner of the property, Mr Kurt Fritzsch, told the Barnet Society that the application had been withdrawn on the advice of Barnet Council so that further consultations could be conducted with the planning department.

Mr Cunliffe said he had read all the objections listed on the council website and these would be considered. He was not prepared to comment further on whether this was a temporary withdrawal of the application, and whether it might be re-submitted after consultations with the council.

Objections to the plan on the council website expressed total opposition by residents in nearby streets:

  •  “terrible idea...no parking...likelihood of anti-social behaviour”
  • “these flats will be barely no bigger than a prison cell...plan should be roundly thrown out”
  •  “to be compared with a rabbit hutch is an understatement, as I have a rabbit and it lives in a bigger area”
  •  “ludicrous...to treat tenants in an inhumane way”
  • “a return to slum living conditions of the Victorian days”
  • “will create extreme feelings of claustrophobia and depression for anyone living there”

In support of its request to change the use of the building, the applicants said Barnet Homes, operated by Barnet Council, has a waiting list of 85 people aged under the age of 35 who are seeking accommodation of the kind supplied by houses in multiple occupation.

Because of the demand for low-rent accommodation, especially across London and the south east, the government introduced the 10-square metre standard for rooms in houses in multiple occupation and eased the rules for the conversion of empty office and retail buildings.

Self-contained accommodation in homes in multiple occupation is expected to contribute nearly 2,000 homes and the government says they will be an important source of “low cost, private sector housing for students, those on low incomes and those seeking temporary accommodation.”

Barnet Antique and Vintage Centre was originally a corn store and warehouse, built between 1877 and 1896, and the planned conversion into a house in multiple occupation extended across the whole of the first floor, but on the ground-floor did not include Dory’s café on the corner of Bruce Road and St Albans Road which is a separate freehold.

In its application, Mornworth said that the seven rooms on the first floor would share two communal kitchens, each of 6.5 square metres.

On the ground floor, in addition to another two self-contained rooms, there would be space for two shops and the aim would have been to create a harmonious shop frontage that matched the “attractive period shop front” of Dory’s café and made a “positive contribution to the Monken Hadley conservation area.”

One of the objections was submitted by estate agents Andrew Ward which said the development next door of a house in multiple occupation would have “a detrimental effect” on Dory’s café and encourage anti-social behaviour. The agents said they had no applicants on their books for “pigeon hole” accommodation of the type being proposed.

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