Controversial plans to build hundreds of student homes and university facilities in Hendon have been approved despite fears they will have a “severe impact” on the area.
Tory councillors waved through the seven schemes which together form the Hendon Hub project – a major redevelopment of council-owned sites surrounding Middlesex University and The Burroughs.
The Hendon Hub proposals include a plan to turn the Grade 2-listed Hendon Public Library – opened in 1929 and renovated in 2004 at a cost of more than £1million – into a business school for the university.
Barnet Council claims the project will “transform rundown buildings” and attract investment into the area but faced significant opposition from residents, with 88 per cent of people who responded to a consultation question saying they were against the plans.
The council is also facing legal challenges to the scheme, including a claim that a document setting out planning guidance for the area is “unlawful” and has not been given enough scrutiny.
During the meeting of the strategic planning committee on Monday (January 10), residents lined up to condemn the proposals, which together sparked more than 1,000 written objections from the public.
But despite the ongoing controversy, Conservative members of the committee voted in favour of all seven applications to redevelop the sites.
The approved schemes include plans to knock down the two-storey Ravensfield House and Fenella Building in The Burroughs and build 384 student flats in blocks up to seven stories high. The library service is set to be moved to the ground floor of one of the buildings.
Speaking during the meeting, resident John Doherty said the proposals would have a “severe impact” on the area and claimed the council was not listening to concerns over the “absurd scale” of the buildings, “serious” transport and parking issues, and the threatened compulsory purchase of homes to make way for the scheme.
Nizza Fluss, a Conservative councillor for Hendon, told the committee that the use of compulsory purchase orders to buy up residents’ homes did not meet the public interest test set out in the council’s Local Plan.
A further scheme approved by the committee involves demolishing the Meritage Centre – a community meeting centre in Church End and Church Terrace – and building 181 student flats, 33 shared-living units, and a health and wellbeing centre on the site.
Describing the proposed new buildings as a “monstrosity”, Hendon resident Alexander Fischbaum, a chartered surveyor and accountant, said: “You are destroying the neighbourhood, you are ripping out community assets, and you are supporting a transient student population with all of the problems that brings.”
Later on in the meeting, residents and councillors slammed the plan to turn the existing Hendon Public Library building into a business school. An online petition to save the library has so far gained more than 2,000 signatures.
Labour councillors Anne Clarke and Sara Conway, along with Cllr Fluss, also spoke against the plans and urged the council to reconsider.
Throughout the meeting, a representative of Middlesex University, along with the council’s planning agent, defended the schemes.
James Kennedy, deputy chief executive of the university, said the new student accommodation would provide “significant benefits” and “add character to the local area” while cutting students’ commuting time.
Responding to concerns over the library building, GL Hearn planning director Christopher Tennant said the library would be “sensitively renovated to enhance the heritage value of the building”, added public access would be maintained.
The committee also approved plans to build a two-storey building at a car park in Fuller Street to house the veterinary charity People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), which will be moved from the Meritage Centre. Partly to compensate for the loss of parking space, a proposal to create 76 new spaces at Prince Of Wales Estate was also given the green light.
A plan to renovate the former Quinta Club in Mays Lane so it can house the Schools Libraries Resource Service was unanimously approved.
Labour and Liberal Democrat committee members voted against the plans for the student accommodation and changes to the library. They abstained on the plans for the Fuller Street car park and the Prince of Wales Estate.