A joint commitment to work to protect the Green Belt was delivered by Chipping Barnet's two leading parliamentary candidates -- Conservative MP Theresa Villiers and Labour challenger Dan Tomlinson -- at a general election hustings at the parish church.


They both agreed that the priority should be to build more family homes rather than one-bedroom flats.

New housing locally should be provided on vacant brownfield sites such as former industrial or commercial spaces. Both said any new developments should respect the suburban nature of High Barnet.

While there were rare examples of agreement between the two main challengers, their rival positions on most policy options provoked some heated responses.

Conservative and Labour supporters cheered on their candidate with pronounced applause, some jeers and even a few boos from a lively audience packed into the church.

Four candidates took part in the hustings which was chaired by the Reverend Dominic Grant, Minister at Barnet United Reformed Church and St Andrew’s Chesterfield Road United Reformed Church.   

From left to right above: David Farbey, Green Party; Dan Tomlinson, Labour Party; Rev Dominic Grant; Hamish Haddow, Reform UK; and Theresa Villiers, Conservative Party.

Statements were read out from the three other candidates standing in the election: Mark Durrant, Liberal Democrats; Richard Hewison, Rejoin EU; and Kay Lauer, Independent.

An opening question from Frances Wilson, chair of the Barnet Society, asking how the candidates would tackle the chronic housing shortage, kicked off the debate.

Dan Tomlinson said that in the 18 months since being selected as Labour’s candidate for Chipping Barnet and having toured the constituency he had met so many people in the fifties and sixties whose sons and daughters were living with them because they could not afford their own homes.

“Our beautiful Green Belt is not the place to build lots of new homes.”

Labour would build on brownfield sites or pieces of land in the Green Belt which were not significant. These were the sites that should be released.

“I live in a home with a garden (in Whetstone). The identity of our suburbs should be protected.

Theresa Villiers said she agreed with Dan Tomlinson that Chipping Barnet needed family homes and not endless one-bedroom flats.

“We need homes in the right place, on brown field sites, and not the Green Belt and not on green fields like Whalebones. It is scandalous that a Labour-controlled Barnet Council approved Whalebones.”

She said the locality needed a strong say over future development. It should always fit in with the suburban character of Chipping Barnet and have the infrastructure to support it.

If there was a proposal for a tower block of the kind proposed for Edgware town centre – and she had stood shoulder to shoulder with residents opposing blocks of flats at The Spires shopping centre – it would be unacceptable, and she would fight against it if re-elected.

In his response, David Farbey said the Greens were the only party that would guarantee protection for the Green Belt; ban no fault eviction of tenants; and make rentals more affordable.

He agreed with Theresa Villiers that plans for housing on the former North London business park were an overdevelopment and did not have the infrastructure. A development the size of a country town could not be imposed on Brunswick Park.

Hamish Haddow for Reform UK said nothing should be built until the right infrastructure was in place with police, fire service and doctors’ surgeries. High Barnet did not need to be turned into high density housing.

The hustings began with opening statements from the four who appeared in person.

David Farbey (above) said he had lived in the locality for the last 24 years, having grown up in New Southgate.

To secure more social housing, the Green Party believed that part of the country’s housing stock should be brought back into public ownership. After 30 years of privatisation the water and rail companies also needed to be back in public hands.

Dan Tomlinson (above) said his ambition was that more children growing up in Barnet should have the opportunities which previous Labour governments had given him.

His family had little money, he had received free school meals, and they were even homeless for a time. He went to a comprehensive school and studied economics at Oxford University.

Since then, he had worked in the Treasury and for anti-poverty charities. He cared about the community here in Barnet which was where he and his wife were raising their baby boy.

He praised local church leaders and volunteers for all the work they did sustaining community efforts such as toddler baby groups and food banks.

Hamish Haddow (above) described himself a just an average guy who was angry. He was standing for Reform UK because he was sick and tired of the way the government had run the country with no opportunity for today’s children.

“I want to preserve a strong British culture and values, and laws and rights, which are being eroded.”

At this election the Conservatives were not in the running, the Greens had nothing to offer, so it was a two-horse race between Labour and Conservative and it was only Reform which stood up for the future.

Theresa Villiers (above) acknowledged that some of her fellow Conservative MPs were retiring, but she was not.

She lived in the constituency and cared about the issues that mattered. She would continue to be a strong voice, ready to stand up to the Labour Mayor of London Sadiq Khan “when he tries to impose more tower blocks on us.”

The Conservative government’s plan was delivering falling inflation, rising wages and four million workers in employment.

“If you hand Labour a super majority you will give them a blank cheque. Please give me your support so that I can make sure your views are heard.”

In response to a question from John Dix of New Barnet Residents Association about the failure to ensure infrastructure was in place before new housing was  approved, Theresa Villiers congratulated him for his 20 years of campaigning over the recently approved Victoria Quarter development on the gas works site. 

She said that the Conservative’ had published a long-term workforce plan for the NHS to increase doctors and hospital staff to cut waiting lists.

David Farbey pointed to the Greens’ guarantee to restore salary levels for doctors and nurses.

Brexit had stopped the UK getting more doctors and nurses from neighbouring European countries – “it was a shame no-one was discussing Brexit in the election campaign.”

Dan Tomlinson thanked Mr Dix for all he had done to hold the previous Conservative Barnet Council to account.

Labour’s long-term answer was to reform the planning system so that developers had to provide infra structure if they wanted approval for housing developments.

The question that prompted the most heated and politically charged exchanges was over the expansion of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone to outer London.

Theresa Villiers was adamant that it was “the wrong scheme at the wrong time”. She claimed the Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan had admitted ULEZ expansion would have only a negligible impact on air quality.

The result had been that Mayor Khan had had punished thousands of motorists in outer London, punishing people on low incomes.

She repeated the pledge that a new Conservative government would scrap the ULEZ extension --  a pledge that was ridiculed by David Farbey for the Greens. “Whatever Theresa Villiers says...I say the opposite”, a jibe that was greeted with laughter.

Expansion of ULEZ was a step towards getting cleaner air for everyone in London.

Dan Tomlinson defended the need to improve air quality.

“When I walk up and down the High Road in Whetstone with my three-month old baby boy, I feel bad air is going into my son’s lungs.

“Personally, I was disappointed the Conservative government provided no support for the expansion of ULEZ.  Instead, Conservatives in outer London are making the general election about Sadiq Khan, when he is not even standing in this election.

Another question that prompted jeering was about a drastic reduction in police officers in Chipping Barnet.

Dan Tomlinson blamed the Conservatives. There were now 80 local officers across the borough when back in 2010 there were 200 which explained why residents did not see officers on the streets anymore.

Since 2010 the Metropolitan Police budget had been cut by £1 billion which was why Boris Johnson was forced to announce the closure to the public of the High police station.

Labour was promising 3,000 more police officers in London and if was elected MP he would make sure Chipping Barnet received its fair share.

Mr Tomlinson had been shocked to discover that in almost every street he had visited there were reports of car thefts. If elected he would try to arrange a local summit on car theft bringing together the police, councillors and residents’ groups.

Reform UK’s candidate Hamish Haddow called for a restoration of police numbers and the re-opening of police stations across London. There should be a police presence in every big shopping centre to deal with shop lifters.

When she responded there was laughter when Theresa Villiers acknowledged there were “some reductions” in police numbers during the years of the coalition government, but she did not accept Dan Tomlinson’s numbers.

“We have increased police numbers in London since 2015.  The Metropolitan Police now have more officers than at any time.

“If we are not seeing them in High Barnet, the only person to blame is Sadiq Khan. The Labour Mayor had no excuse for closing down High Barnet police station,” a response greeted with boos by some in the audience.

If the station was sold off, Ms Villiers said local officers would have to spend even more time travelling and she would fight to keep it open.

In closing statements David Farbey argued it was only the Greens who were being honest about raising extra tax with a 1 per cent wealth tax on wealth above £10 million.

“It looks like a Labour government with a significant majority. We need a Green MP to hold Labour to account.”

Theresa Villiers said the three men beside her all wanted her to step aside but she reminded them, “I don’t give up easily”.

“You will need an MP who will stand up to Keir Starmer and Sadiq Khan.

“You might not agree with everything the Conservatives have done. If you hand Keir Starmer a super majority, he won’t need to listen to Chipping Barnet. Please give me your support. Don’t hand him a super majority.”

Dan Tomlinson said he hoped that after the hustings the prospect of a Labour government had become a bit more alive.

“Conservative MPs are the reason we are in this mess. It is time for a Chipping Barnet constituency MP who will not push for an ever-harder Brexit or vote for reductions in public spending.

“I live here and will stand up for our community.”

Statements prepared by the three other candidates were read out. Mark Durrant, who had been invited to appear as Liberal Democrat candidate, apologised for his absence because he was caring that evening for his son who has autism.

Mr Durrant highlighted key Liberal Democrat policies such as their commitment to build 380,000 new homes a year across the UK and 150,000 social housing units.

If elected MP he would ensure Chipping Barnet benefited from increased NHS spending and his party’s plan to employ 8,000 more general practitioners.

Richard Hewison (Rejoin EU) was disappointed he had not been invited to appear because the organisers had ruled that opinion polls indicated he would gain less than 1 per cent of the vote – one of the yardsticks for participation in such hustings.

Brexit had affected people across the constituency and the latest by-election result had shown 4 per cent support for Rejoin EU and 3 per cent in a Greater London wide election.

Kay Lauer (Independent) called for greater support over domestic abuse and extra resources for local authorities to reverse cuts to libraries