London Member of the European Parliament, Jean Lambert, strengthened the campaign for a sustainable Brent Cross regeneration this week, when she announced her support for the Coalition for a Sustainable Brent Cross Cricklewood Plan just as Barnet Council appeared to be facing the prospect that the original scheme could collapse.
The London Green MEP said,
“This scheme clearly has regional repercussions, given its scale, and there are still questions around compliance with the London Plan, as well as issues around traffic pollution and transport infrastructure. There are also unanswered questions regarding the planned waste disposal process and its impact on health.
“I fully support the Coalition’s call for a full Public Inquiry so that an informed and robust debate can take place into this major and controversial development.”
Is the plan viable?
Meanwhile, a report  to the Barnet Cabinet meeting on 21st October addressed the issue of the viability of the Plan. The Council now expects the first rents from the shopping centre to be realised in 2018, six years later than originally envisaged, with work not starting until March 2015 at the earliest. Capital receipts from transfer of land to Cricklewood Regeneration Ltd would not be received until 2015. They expect the timeline to be extended by a year to 18 months if the planning application is called in, giving a probable start date of 2017 . Over-shadowing the whole scheme is the current economic situation, which Barnet Council say will mean negative returns for developers in the already drastically reduced first phase, and may lead to further renegotiation.
The report  notes that if by January 2016 the conditions of the Development Framework Agreement have not been ‘fully satisfied’ the Council will have to find alternative ways of achieving its objectives.
How much housing?
The amount of housing included in the Plan is much less than the 7,500 units often quoted by the developers. An appendix  reveals that a minimum of only 795 units is guaranteed in the first phase. Another 554 units are subject to ‘viability and cooperation with third parties’.
Public Inquiry needed
Alison Hopkins, a Dollis Hill resident, speaking for the Brent Cross Coalition, said, ‘It is clear reading between the lines, that the Council is now contemplating serious delays and even the failure of the development. Even as they seek planning permission, fundamental negotiations with development partners are continuing and crucial key elements are undefined and not agreed while the amount of guaranteed housing is sharply scaled down. None of the claimed social benefits in terms of jobs and new housing would be delivered until an unknown and uncommitted dated far into the future. It is no surprise that the cabinet considered what could be done to safeguard Barnet’s reputation in the event of failure. The case for a full Public Inquiry is now overwhelming and imperative before a commitment is made to a scheme that could be a financial, economic and environmental disaster.’