A public inquiry will be held into plans to build more than 1,000 homes in Cricklewood – following a ministerial intervention.
The decision means developer Montreaux’s plans for residential blocks up to 18 storeys high at the B&Q site in Broadway Retail Park, Cricklewood Lane, will be examined by a planning inspector before a government minister decides whether they should go ahead.
Councillors approved the controversial 1,049-home scheme in September last year. But in April, then-housing secretary Michael Gove told Barnet Council to put the plans on hold as he was considering a ‘call-in’ of the application, which would see him take over the decision-making process.
At the end of August, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) told the council the call-in would go ahead.
Responding to the announcement via Twitter on 31st August, Cricklewood councillor Anne Clarke said: “As local residents and councillors, Cllr Alan Schneiderman and I continue to believe this is an ideal site for a mixed use residential development. However, high density on a small site in an area prone to flooding, with no tube and unreliable Thameslink makes the current plan unsupportable.
“Whatever happens at this key site will define our town centre for decades to come. We hope to see this plan rejected and a new plan for [the] homes and amenities we need come forward.”
The proposed scheme sparked more than 2,000 objections from members of the public warning it would be too high, out of character with its surroundings, put a strain on infrastructure and harm the nearby Railway Terraces Conservation Area.
Concerns raised during the planning committee meeting included regular flooding in the area and a warning by Thames Water over “an inability of the existing water network infrastructure to accommodate the needs of this development proposal”.
Matt Walton, development director at Montreaux, claimed the development would provide “significant benefits” for Cricklewood and the borough as a whole, including affordable housing, reduced traffic and £15million for local infrastructure.
The decision to approve the scheme came after then-ward councillor Peter Zinkin told the planning committee that Mayor of London Sadiq Khan could overturn a decision to refuse and add more homes to the scheme.
His comments were criticised as “spurious” by Labour councillors, who argued the plans should be judged on their own merits. Labour and the Liberal Democrats voted against the scheme, while all but one of the Conservative committee members voted in favour.
According to government guidance, the secretary of state will normally only call in a planning application if it “conflicts with national policy in important ways, or is nationally significant”.
A letter to the council from the DLUHC says the secretary of state – now Simon Clarke – is particularly interested in the extent to which the scheme accords with the council’s local development plan, as well as its design, scale and massing.
The council, the applicant and other interested parties will be invited to present evidence to the public inquiry. After hearing the evidence, the inspector will write a report setting out their conclusions and making a recommendation on whether planning permission should be granted or refused. The secretary of state will then make a final decision on the plans.