Residents slam Barnet House plans for 16 sq mt studio flats as ‘soulless high rise, high occupancy ghettos’

Meadowhill Residential wants to turn the 11 storey office block into studio flats as small as 16 sq

Meadowhill Residential wants to turn the 11 storey office block into studio flats as small as 16 sq ft - Credit: Google Street View

Plans have been submitted to convert council offices currently being used to manage housing allocation into 234 flats, some as small as 16 sq ft – a size that makes them almost impossible to mortgage.

Residents have spoken out against plans to turn council offices at Barnet House into super small residential studios.

Meadow Residential has applied for change of use to convert the 11 storey office block in Whetstone into 234 flats.

Mrs Theresa Kingswood of Totteridge commented: “The number of dwellings in this single building is not in keeping with the area. People want one, two and three bedroom apartments for singles, couples and families of all ages, not soulless high rise, high occupancy ghettos.”

The planned studio flats range in size from 16 sq mt to 31 sq mt, with a single 47 sq mt one bedroom flat on each floor.

Plans drawn up by HKR Architects and submitted to Barnet Council show studio flats arranged on either side of a narrow corridor, with up to 37 flats per floor.

Miss Sharon Mena of Barnet commented: “Although we need more housing, we need more two/three beds for families. This proposal is pure greed. 254 flats in that space is ridiculous. In the current climate we need good quality housing which allows each household to have a recognised minimum space, not a cage.”

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Many of the comments on the planning application highlight resident’s concerns that the local infrastructure cannot support more high density housing.

A much smaller number of residents have spoken out in support of the application.

Mr Simon Neatham of Barnet said: “Barnet and Whetstone needs housing for young and single people and this makes excellent use of an existing building that is in an ideal location for London workers travelling by tube.”

Barnet House is not owned by Barnet Council, which currently rents the office space for its housing allocation management service Barnet Homes.

Barnel Council is relocating the offices to Colindale in 2018, in a bid to save £1 million a year in running costs.

As of October 2016, Barnet Council’s planning standards stipulate the minimum gross internal floor area for a one person dwelling must be 37 sq mt.

The submitted plans are exempt due to a loophole introduced by the government, which has relaxed permitted development rights on commercial-to-residential conversions.

Permitted development rights mean that planning permission is granted by Parliament and not the local authority.

Designed to help tackle the housing crisis by expediting the process of turning underused commercial space into homes, the system means the council cannot object to the change of use because the proposed homes are seen to be too small.

Leader of Barnet Council, Cllr Richard Cornelius, said: “It is always difficult for a local authority when something is happening in its area over which it has no control.

“The sizes of some of the flats would not be what we think are appropriate living spaces for our residents and we do not support the scheme in its current form.”

It is not clear if Meadowhill Residential plans to sell or rent the flats out if permission is granted and the conversion goes ahead, or if any will be available under Section 106 affordable housing.

If the studio flats are given the green light, it is unlikely that buyers would be able to get a mortgage on any of the properties under 35 sq mt.

Colin Payne, associate director or independent mortgage advisor Chapelgate said:

“At 16 sq mt you’ve got no chance [of being granted a mortgage].

“Not everyone will lend on a studio firstly, and then those that do the vast majority have a minimum of 30 sq mt. There are lenders that will consider studios below 30 sq mt, but they are very few and far between.”

Even if would-be buyers did find a lender prepared to mortgage on a sub 30 sq mt studio, exposure limits mean that they would likely only lend on 10 to 20 per cent of the properties in the building.

Meadow Residential declined our request for comment.