A development plan for the woods and fields around Whalebones in Wood Street, Barnet, proposes the construction of between 150 and 180 homes to be offset by the creation of two new green spaces and footpaths open to the public. Local residents were shown the plans at a consultation community workshop (7.6.2018) held by the developers, the Waltham Abbey housebuilders, Hill, and their architects Pollard Thomas Edwards.
Of the three fields that make up the Whalebones estate the largest – 7.6 acres – is opposite the Arkley public house in Wood Street. It is this land – extending south towards Barnet Hospital, in Wellhouse Lane – that would be redeveloped for housing with 55 per cent of the new homes in flats and the rest individual houses.
Two other fields, one currently being used as a smallholding, and a third, triangular-shaped field at the junction of Wood Street and Wellhouse Lane would become green spaces open to the public.
Two public footpaths would be created across Whalebones – one from the Arkley public house down to Barnet Hospital, and a second from Wood Street direct to the bus terminal at the hospital entrance.
Vehicular access to the new housing would be from Wood Street and the developers are proposing that a roundabout should be installed at the junction of Wood Street and Galley Lane together with a service road to the new estate.
As part of the redevelopment, there will be a new combined community building providing a new studio for the Barnet Guild of Artists and new premises for the Barnet Beekeepers’ Association, as well a safe area for their bee hives.
Theresa Villiers, MP for Chipping Barnet, who attended the workshop, told the Barnet Society that she had no intention of giving up her campaign to try to preserve all the woods and fields that make up the Whalebones estate.
“It is welcome news that the developers intend to create new open spaces and save the hedges and trees, but I would prefer the Whalebones woods and fields to stay as they, and I won’t be abandoning my struggle on behalf of local residents to protect the whole area.”
Whalebones is within the Wood Street conservation and the trees are already protected by tree preservation orders. Whalebones House, a grade II listed building, and its grounds, are privately owned and are not included in the development which is being undertaken by the trustees to the estate of the late Gwyneth Cowing.
Many of the residents’ questions at the workshop related to the scale of residential development on the large 7.6 acre (2.2 hectare) field designated for new housing. This land adjoins the 3.9-acre Elmbank development where work by Linden Homes is nearing completion on the construction of 114 new homes in flats and houses.
Alexis Butterfield, of architects Pollard Thomas Edwards, said the plan is to provide between 150 and 180 homes with a split of 55 per cent flats and 45 per cent individual houses.
Forty per cent would be affordable housing either through shared ownership or at rates pegged to market rents. Many of the Whalebones houses would be 2-3 bedrooms rather than the larger 4-5 bedrooms in houses on the Linden Homes estate.
Mr Butterfield said the developers were proposing to retain the established hedge along the Wood Street boundary, together with the trees covered by tree protection orders. The two areas to be designated as green open spaces were considered to have the best heritage because of the high quality of the trees, and it was the largest of the three fields, opposite the Arkley, which was the least sensitive part of the estate where the new homes would be built.
The two new footpaths would be of value to the community: one from Wood Street through the green space to the bus terminal, and the second providing access directly to the hospital from Wood Street. The new community building would be accessed from Wellhouse Lane and would include a foyer entrance, and separate areas for the artists and beekeepers, kitchen, and toilets. The foyer could be used as a permanent display space by the artists.
In response to questions about the future of the smallholding where Peter Mason keeps poultry, both the architects and builders were adamant that the plot was too small for successful agricultural or horticultural use.
“If a farmer was required to pay rent for this smallholding, the site would not raise sufficient income to sustain a business, whether it was pig, poultry or soft fruit. It just would not raise enough for a minimum income of £15,000 a year,” said Colin Campbell, head a strategic land for Hill.
Mr Campbell agreed that the late Gwyneth Cowing had left a letter saying the smallholding should continue “as long a reasonably practical”, but this stipulation was not in the will itself and it was no longer “reasonably practical”
To maintain the Whalebones estate exactly as it is at present, because there was not sufficient money to maintain it.
A similar workshop was held last year when Hill and their architects first asked for local input into their planning. A third workshop will be held later this year when Hill and their architects have made further progress with their plans.