Mill Hill Preservation Society
Editorial from MHPS News on Mill Hill East winter 2007
The trouble with the Mill Hill East consultation process is that it’s a bit like the film Catch 22. If MHPS excludes itself from the process and the result is not to our liking we will not be able to complain because we did not contribute – HOWEVER – if MHPS includes itself in the process and the result is not to our liking, we will not be able to complain because we contributed. Whether we contribute or not, the result will probably not be to our liking and we shall not be able to complain about it. A lot of not’s and NOT a good prospect.
Against this background we have just completed an 11 page statement as our contribution to the next stage of the consultation in response to the London Borough of Barnet ‘Preferred Options Report’. With such high densities proposed for the development it is likely that only relatively few houses will have gardens – and those that do will be quite small – say 5m x 4m – (16’x12’) or less. This means that the public open spaces will be very important to the design.
There seems to be a level of confusion in the Preferred Options Report as regards the planning for open spaces, and the report states that the brief could not be met if normal open space requirements were applied (note 1). In plain language the need for open spaces is going to be compromised in order to meet the requirements of the Mayor of London. In fact far from meeting the required targets the development will end up with less open space than there is now.
Previous consultation highlights a number of shared principles - including linking green spaces within the site and to adjacent green spaces outside the site (note 2).The preferred layout fails to do this and provides a fragmented arrangement of open spaces and a number of ‘new public squares’ often at busy road junctions. These will have limited value and practically no resonance with our existing suburban character – where else in Mill Hill are there ‘public squares?’ The big failure is not to connect the central space (so called Panoramic Park), with the Officers Mess open space and with Bittacy Park. This connection, in turn, could have given an extended route down to Copthall playing fields & Sports Centre.
The Preferred Options Report states that the preferred layout “… creates a series of park spaces which will be linked by tree lined streets to form an attractive leafy setting …” MHPS believe that much more work is required on the Master Plan to fully reflect this aim - and that’s putting it politely. We think this plan is deeply flawed. It may satisfy some centrally imposed targets, but as a green, suburban, modern, sustainable environment for the thousands of people that are going to live there, this plan will not provide sufficient open space.
Our concern is only increased when taking into account the poor character and quality of other recent ‘comprehensive’ developments near the site and adjacent to Waitrose. These bear no resemblance to the leafy schemes shown in the Preferred Options Report. We seek to secure a first rate development that we can all be proud of, rather than a cramped compromise between the real needs of people and the grandiose, yet ultimately damaging target setting culture of our political masters.
John Living 2007
note 1. Guidance by the National Playing Fields Association recommends around 2.43 ha of public space per 1,000 of population. This is also reflected by Policy H20 of the existing UDP. This would result in provision of an additional 10+ hectares of open space, which would limit deliverability of the density and employment targets proposed for the development at Mill Hill East.
note 2. The ‘Summary of the Consultation to Date Report’ (September 2007)