Unacceptable Barnet

Barnet is a large suburban borough on the northern edge of London with a diverse population and the council has a small Conservative majority and became notorious for its ‘easyCouncil’ policies which cut services to cut costs and outsourced most of them to Capita. And a part of that has been limiting social housing for the poorest through regeneration schemes that have little provision for low income local residents.

I’d gone to Barnet because the second phase of a public inquiry into the second phase of the demolition of the West Hendon estate was opening at the RAF Museum in Colindale, but only looked in there very briefly. It was a fine day and I didn’t want to sit inside in what was bound to be a rather tedious meeting.

Opposite the site on what was the old Hendon Aerodrome is the Grahame Park Estate. Hendon was one of London’s early airports, and its development for housing in the 1970s by the Greater London Council and Barnet Council is exactly what should also have happened to Heathrow, where an even larger development could have taken place.

The main part of the estate built in the early 1970s is largely in low-rise brick, with long terraces and separating pedestrians from traffic. It was first ‘regenerated’ in the 1980s when some connecting walkways between blocks were removed and some buildings were given pitched roofs. A more dramatic regeneration began after 2003 with the phased demolition of some areas and new properties being built on the estate, and considerable building work is now taking place in some areas.

The continuing regeneration by Genesis Housing Association and Countryside Properties has come in for much criticism for replacing homes at social rents by private properties at high market prices, along with varieties of ‘affordable’ properties largely beyond the reach of those on average or lower salaries. The latest planning application for part of the estate includes only 39 homes for social rent out of 1,083, a loss of 518 social homes compared to the existing 557 on the site, which London Mayor Sadiq Khan described as “totally unacceptable“. It is very much in line with Barnet’s policies here and in other estate regenerations.

Often, as at Grahame Park, councils claim support of residents for regeneration schemes. Most of us would welcome new and better homes, and existing tenants are always promised rehousing, but such promises are never kept. 518 of the 557 families – around 93% – are in line for social cleansing, being forced to move away from homes and usually into far poorer, less secure but considerably more expensive private rented accommodation, often far from jobs, schools and friends.

After walking around Grahame Park and taking some pictures, I went to look at some of the related new developments around Colindale station, also a part of the Colindale Area Action Plan’, before taking tube and bus to the West Hendon Estate, on the only part of Barnet west of the A5 Edgware Road (West Hendon Broadway).

The attraction of ‘Hendon Waterside’ to developers, as the replacement for the West Hendon Estate is obvious, and few if any of the former residents will be able to afford to live there. Originally there were 680 social rented homes on the site, but there seem unlikely to be more than a token handful in the new development, though exact figures do not seem to be available.

More about West Hendon and Grahame Park on My London Diary:

West Hendon Estate
Colindale



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