After being roundly refused planning permission last year and failing to get the support of the Mayor of London, developers are again inviting residents to offer ideas and opinions on fresh proposals for a massive housing scheme on the New Barnet gas works site.
Public consultations are planned over the next three months in a fresh attempt to get planning approval with the local community being urged to have its say.
Fairview New Homes Ltd and One Housing are indicating that they have taken on board objections to their previous application: “We are working to a set of principles to address the reasons for the refusal,”
New proposals for the site will be ready by July and the developers say they will reduce both the maximum height of the proposed tower blocks of flats and overall density of the redevelopment.
There is also an undertaking to provide more family housing and improve the quality of amenity space.
The previous application was unanimously rejected by Barnet Council’s planning committee last September.
Councillors said the scheme submitted by Fairview and One Housing would have been a “horrendous, high-rise monstrosity” of 652 flats in 14 blocks up to ten storeys high which they thought would be totally out of keeping with the village-like atmosphere of the locality.
There were over 1,000 objections to the scheme and in December, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, backed the council’s decision to respect the views of the local community.
He refused to intervene despite his own planning officials recommending that there were “sound planning reasons” in favour of the redevelopment because it would have a “significant impact” in delivering affordable housing.
A two-week consultation period opened on Monday 29 March (available at https://victoriaquarter.consultationonline.co.uk/) and will include an online webinar on Wednesday 7 April when the developers will outline their latest thinking.
Residents are being encouraged to view the online consultation and prepare questions for the webinar, not least because of grave doubts in New Barnet as to whether there will be any significant or meaningful changes.
Robin Bishop, chair of the Barnet Society, urged the local community to get involved in the consultation to remind the developers that the locality has not lost interest and so that the developers have "an incentive to design something more modest, human-scaled and diverse in housing types".
The former gas works site which lies between the mainline railway and Victoria Recreation Ground has had a chequered history, and after being left vacant for a decade was purchased in 2009 as a site for an Asda superstore.
When that fell through One Housing obtained permission in 2017 to build flats on the site to provide 371 new homes but because of the cost of decontaminating the site, that project was eventually considered unviable.
Fairview joined One Housing to make new proposals, nearly doubling the number of flats to be built. After a local consultation in January 2020, the developers scaled back their plans and finally applied to build 652 new flats (instead of 692) and it was this application that was rejected last September.
Under the rejected plan the line of tower blocks along the site would have been up to ten storeys high, though predominantly of one to seven storeys in height, with 209 affordable home and 392 car parking spaces.
In their statement, Fairview and One Housing say they acknowledge concerns raised by the “height, massing and density” of the redevelopment.
“We still need to formulate a deliverable scheme and face a viability challenge with this site but hope to address the reasons for refusal through constructive engagement with the community.”
The frontage of the buildings would have to remain similar to previous plans because the foundations of the site have already been constructed to accommodate the culvert for Pimms Brook and the 24/7 access road to National Grid gas installations.
However, feedback would be welcome on both the height and amount of new housing. The application approved in 2017 did allow for blocks up to eight storeys high. Another constraint was the need to provide 35 per cent affordable homes.
Fairview and One Housing have taken the opportunity to re-emphasise their previous commitments to improve the neighbourhood.
There would be a contribution of £283,000 towards improvements in the adjacent Victoria Recreation Ground and a new well-lit footpath under the main railway to connect to Cromer Road, New Barnet.
Commercial redevelopment on the site would include a coffee shop, an option that had proved popular during previous consultations.
Safety improvements to adjoining and nearby streets would include improved lighting under the railway bridge on East Barnet Road; junction improvements to Victoria Road and East Barnet Road; and a new zebra pedestrian crossing in Victoria Road.
In a separate development last year, National Grid submitted a planning application to demolish the redundant gasholder on the grounds that it was a safety risk; demolition would also free up more land for residential development.
Nearby residents are divided about its fate, some arguing that the gasometer, built in 1934, is a local landmark that should be incorporated into the Victoria Quarter redevelopment, while others consider it a rusty, ugly eyesore that should have been pulled down years ago.