The Barnet Residents Association attended the meeting of the Borough’s Strategic Planning Committee on Wednesday 13th March to speak in favour of the Planning Application for the building development of the Whalebones Estate on Wood Street.  We have long been a supporter of this development, which according to the developer Hill Residential Limited will offer the following benefits to the local community:

Experience of a unique site all year round.

Delivery of 114 new homes, including 40.9% of these as affordable housing.

Approximately half the site to be delivered as publicly accessible open space including play spaces, healing hardens, ponds and meadows.

Long-term management of the site.

A new and improved artist and beekeepers’ studio including space for community use.

A sensitive solution appropriate to a conservation area.

A sustainable scheme, low in carbon, low in energy and low in impact and harm.

The creation of a woodland walk through the site.

The re-location of the historic agricultural holding associated with Wellhouse Cottage.

Enhanced vegetation and landscaping, working with existing ecological characteristics and habitats.

At the meeting, our spokesman Gordon Massey, Planning Adviser addressed the meeting as follows:

On behalf of Barnet Residents Association, I examine planning applications in the High Barnet area.  Over the past ten years, we have objected to more than 150 applications.  So, for us to be expressing support for a scheme is an unusual experience. So why support?
I will start with the design.  It’s not dense, it’s low rise, there is lots of greenery, it includes family houses which we especially like, there is affordable housing, the artists get a much-needed new building, and the design has features to be commended.  Indeed, we considered this as one of the best schemes we have seen, and so we have found no reason to oppose on design grounds.
We always look carefully at the impact on residential neighbours, often the reason we oppose a scheme,   here, only Collinson Ave and just part of Wood St are within sight of the housing development.  For all but one block, the window-to-window distance well exceeds the 21m guideline.  Further, there is substantial screening from trees and hedges between the properties.  So, we concluded we could not justify objecting on the basis of the impact on neighbouring properties.
We are left with the loss of green space.  This is the main focus of opposition and here we do acknowledge there is some negative impact.  However, in the Local Plan this site does not meet the definition of Open Space because of the lack of public access.  But in future the almost 50% of the site that will remain as green space will qualify.  Improvements will include revitalising the boundary trees and hedging, currently looking decidedly neglected, and many more trees planted.   So overall we see benefits from these changes that outweigh the loss. Hence we support the conclusion of officers, the GLA and Urban Design London that the impact on the green space amounts to less that significant harm.
The revised Local Plan is not yet adopted but as officers point out it can be taken into account.  The Plan identifies this site as appropriate for development with a mix of housing and green space.  The Planning Inspectorate has endorsed this.  So, if this scheme fails another would almost certainly come forward before too long, with the attendant risk that it could be decidedly less agreeable.
So whatever the reservations, we consider the scheme before us as most unlikely to be bettered.  It offers a very positive contribution to meeting Barnet’s housing needs whilst offering a valuable Open Space for public use in an area not so well supplied.'

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After also hearing from a representative of the Barnet Society, our Member of Parliament Theresa Villiers MP, and a representative of the developer, the Committee approved the planning application (23/4117/FUL) by a margin of 5 – 3 votes.