Sunday, 7 April 2019

Colindale - Are local residents getting a fair deal in meeting Barnet's growth targets?

The population of Colindale is forecast to hit 43,050 by 2030 and will be the most densely populated area in Barnet. I use that as a starting point to allow people to understand a bit more about why some residents feel concerned about the level of development and whether all the pressure for growth is falling on just a couple of wards.

Back in 2001 the population in Colindale was 13,860 with a mix of different property types. It has been highlighted as a growth area by Barnet Council and over time there has been massive redevelopment including on the former Hendon Aerodrome, Hendon Police College (the Peel Centre), the British Newspaper Library and Colindale Hospital. I have been through Colindale a number of times recently and what struck me is how cold and clinical an area it has become with so many blocks of flats. Some are social housing but a great deal are private flats.
Many roads are now private land, with Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras to watch your movements and there seems to be nowhere to park unless you pay.

There are various different sets of figures but according to those published by Barnet in their Ward Atlas data set, by 2018, the population of  Colindale has risen to 26,500. However, there is a lot more development on the cards, including a major development at local underground station. This will cause significant disruption to some of the long term residents.
What you have at this location is a some traditional low rise properties overshadowed by towering blocks. The proposed development would include a series of tower blocks. In the original scheme one of the towers was identified as being no more than 16 storeys high but after a review of the scheme the maximum height has been extended to 28 storeys. These houses in the picture look like they will be consumed in the new development and this is set out in the Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) where it states:
"Potential replacement of properties at Nos. 167 to 173 Colindale Avenue and Agar House, Colindale Avenue, with new mixed-use development with commercial at ground floor and residential above, set back from the current boundary-line to allow for pavement widening".
You can read about the proposals here. The new scheme  will comprise the following:

• Site A – Replacement of existing tube station with commercial use at ground floor and residential above. The building could be between 20 and 28 storeys in height.
• Site B – New station to be positioned over the rail-tracks with integrated station plaza with potential for over-station development.
• Site C – New widened public realm set-back to allow for commercial properties at ground floor with residential above. The new structure could be between 16 and 20 storeys in height.
• Site D – New widened public realm set-back to allow for commercial properties at ground floor with residential above. The new structure to be no more than 8 storeys in height.

The rationale for these high towers is so they can provide "wayfinding" to the tube station.
As it says in the SPD:
"Figure 6 presents an option of maximum height which also incorporates smaller footprints and breaks between structures to incorporate open space. This option clearly marks the station site as the heart of Colindale and could provide wayfinding guidance to pedestrians and commuters. It is evident in Figure 7 that the Townscape is expressed in height through the pinnacle of the station site. The slender tall elements are working better in providing legibility in long views, marking the station and providing a true epicentre for Colindale expressed through height".

The visualisation of these towers shows the bulk of all the properties being built immediately around the tube station but also how much these towers will overshadow other properties. No mention of how this will affect the lives of local people; no mention of the disruption. Perhaps if the people writing this waffle lived in the local area they might have a different perspective.

At some point someone has to say, "Is this fair to local residents?" and I think that point has been reached.

It is important to understand a bit more about the local area.
There is a large source of data about Colindale which highlights some interesting factors as follows:
  • In 2015 only 2.2% of the properties were in the F,G or H Council tax bands compared to 27% as the average for the borough of Barnet;
  • 60% of properties at the 2011 Census were flats. That is likely to have increased significantly as most of the new development is flats. This compares to 42.9% as the average for Barnet;
  • Median Household Income (2012/13) was £30,170 compared to £54,530 as the average for Barnet;
  • Second highest ward for dependent children in out of work households (2014) at 18.9% compared to 10.6% for the borough as a whole with only Burnt Oak having a slightly higher level at 19.1%;
  • It has the lowest level of owner occupied properties at 36.3% (2011) compared to 57.6% for the borough.
Indeed, Barnet's own analysis of Colindale's population suggests it is over represented by young people renting in high density social housing. You can read the ward profile here.
The big risk is that many of these new developments will be sold to buy to let landlords creating a transitory community with no long term commitment to the area. At the 2018 election Colindale had the lowest turnout of any ward in Barnet at only 31.4%. Compare that with the turnout in High Barnet Ward at 55% and 48.1% in Hampstead Garden Suburb and there is a real concern that a lack of electoral engagement means Colindale is an easy target for these large developments.

I wonder if residents of Totteridge or Mill Hill or High Barnet would settle for this type of development on their doorstep, including pulling down their homes "to allow pavement widening". 
So the big challenge facing Colindale now is the additional housing growth and how it impacts on the existing residents.  I am not saying that we don't need more properties in the borough, especially affordable property, but the issue is do we put them all in a couple of wards, namely Colindale and  Golders Green, which incorporates the new Brent Cross development. I looked at the the forecast housing densities across the borough and what becomes apparent is that wards like Colindale will have much more pressure placed on them while wards like Totteridge, Mill Hill and High Barnet will be preserved at the current low densities. Set out below is an analysis of the change in housing densities by ward between 2001 and 2028. (Source: Barnet Ward Atlas)

Ultimately this is about whether the residents of Colindale are getting a fair deal from Barnet Council. I am sure we need a wider conversation about where new homes are built to ensure that Colindale does not become the default option when yet more new flats are proposed.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Disappearing Evidence - Refuse Collection Reorganisation Update

Update 11.29 am 5 April.

I have just had a response from Barnet that the information is now available again.  You can see it here. Having checked the data, the overspend on waste collection service remains the same at £2.029 million.

On 14 March  I asked a series of questions relating to the round reorganisation of Barnet's waste collection service. I expressed serious concern that not only had the rounds reorganisation not saved any money but in fact it had actually cost a great deal more. The reason for me making this assertion was based on information issued at the Financial Performance  & Contracts Committee a few days earlier on 11 March. At that meeting it was disclosed that the waste collection service was significantly over budget and that the year end forecast showed the service would be £1.75 million over spent and that this overspend had jumped £1.189 million since the previous month. I raised this at the Environment Meeting but received no clear response as to when we would get a clear understanding of what the reorganisation has actually cost.

On 1 April Barnet published the Period 11 financial figures which also set out how the latest forecast on the waste collection service had worsened. Luckily I took a snapshot of this report. On the 2 April I tweeted about the significant increase in costs but as of 12 noon today the information has been removed from the website - it looks like it was removed on 2 April, possibly as a result of my tweet.

The figures show that between the figures published on 11 March and those published on 1 April the revised year end forecast had increased by another £283,000. That is a huge increase in short a short period of time. Much worse is that they were forecasting for the last three months of the year in the period 9 figures. To have to make such a large adjustment in period 11 suggests that cost have rocketed at a time when I was told repeatedly at the Environment Committee that the problems with waste collection were reducing. It is now apparent that the reason the problem are reducing is because so much more money is being thrown at them. I have set out below a comparison between the two sets of figures including the one that has now been removed from the Council's (not very) Open Data website.

I have asked Barnet why they have removed these figures and I will update this post once I have a response. What is clear to me is that the round reorganisation of the waste service has been a financial disaster and the risk is that other cuts to services will now be made to offset this massive overspend.