A major estate regeneration project has been rejected by councillors – despite having the backing of the majority of existing residents.
Members of Barnet Council’s strategic planning committee slammed plans to regenerate the Douglas Bader Park Estate in Colindale during a meeting on Tuesday, criticising the design of the scheme and the level of social housing.
Developers Home Group and Hill wanted to knock down 271 existing homes on the estate, which dates back to the 1970s, and build up to 753 new ones in blocks of up to nine storeys.
In a ballot of existing residents with a 90 per cent turnout, more than three quarters voted in favour of a comprehensive redevelopment of the estate.
But the committee turned down council planning officers’ recommendation to approve the scheme and is expected to refuse permission at a meeting later this month.
Speaking during Tuesday’s meeting, an opponent of the plans, who said he was speaking on behalf of the chairman of New Colindale Residents’ Association, claimed there had been “minimal consultation” on the scheme and warned there were not enough affordable, family-sized homes.
Cllr Gill Sargeant, a Labour councillor for Colindale, told the meeting there was a huge demand for social housing in the area and described the development as a “missed opportunity” to provide additional social homes.
But a supporter of the plans, who said he was chairman of the estate’s tenants’ association, claimed residents – including the elderly and disabled – were suffering from damp in their homes, and the regeneration would modernise the buildings.
Tim Sturgess, an agent speaking on behalf of the developer, said the scheme would “provide high-quality homes that meet customer needs”, claiming existing blocks were affected by long-term damp and low energy efficiency, while “structural concerns” had also been identified.
Under questioning from committee members, Mr Sturgess said a viability assessment had determined that 40 per cent affordable homes was the maximum the development could deliver.
Labour members of the committee criticised the level of social housing on the scheme. The plans proposed social rent homes for existing residents exercising their right to return, with the remaining affordable units set at higher-cost London Affordable Rent levels.
Cllr Tim Roberts (Labour, Underhill) said: “If we go forward, that every social housing is replaced by exactly the same, and we get no more social housing in Barnet, we will be in big trouble in the future.”
Conservative councillors slammed the design of the scheme. Cllr Stephen Sowerby (Conservative, Oakleigh) described the proposals as “insipid”, “uninspiring” and “one of the worst types of design I have seen in Colindale in the last ten years”.
After the debate, four committee members voted in favour of approving the development and seven were against.
If the plans are refused later this month, they will be referred to the mayor of London, who could overturn the committee’s decision.
In a statement issued after the meeting, Joe Cook, executive director of development at Home Group, said: “Last night’s decision was very disappointing indeed. A huge amount of consultation, planning, time, energy and not forgetting investment was put into this detailed plan. We have worked very closely with our residents and officers from Barnet Council throughout the process, and because of that we feel we presented an excellent solution for the Douglas Bader Park Estate.
“But moreover, we are extremely disappointed for our residents, the vast majority of whom were massively behind the regeneration of the estate. They voted overwhelmingly in favour of proposals to redevelop the estate following a ballot in 2019, which found over 75 per cent of residents were in favour of regeneration, on a turnout of 90 per cent. This will be a significant blow to them.
“Our priority now is to inform our residents of last night’s decision, then to take a period of time to review our options.”