Green light for Muswell Hill housing linked to multiple investigations

Cranwood

Image of the redeveloped Cranwood care home in Muswell Hill to be made into 41 new homes - Credit: Haringey Council

The redevelopment of a former Muswell Hill care home at the centre of multiple investigations has been given the go-ahead.

Plans to knock down Cranwood House in Woodside Avenue and build 41 homes, including 32 for council rent, were approved by Haringey Council’s planning subcommittee during a meeting on Monday (June 6).

The decision came despite more than 200 objections from residents, including concerns over the scale and design of the proposed buildings and a lack of parking provision.

The former Cranwood Nursing Home, in Muswell Hill. Picture: Polly Hancock

The former Cranwood Nursing Home, in Muswell Hill. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Polly Hancock

The development will see the existing two and three-storey building replaced by three blocks between three and six storeys high.

The council’s handling of an earlier version of the Cranwood scheme was criticised in a report by the Local Government Ombudsman.

The Metropolitan Police has launched a separate investigation into allegations of fraud linked to an aspect of the scheme, and the care home is one of several developments at the centre of the council’s own probe into past property deals.

David Staples, speaking on behalf of Woodside Square, a development opposite Cranwood House, told the meeting the new blocks would be “too high and too big” compared to the existing three and four-storey buildings in the neighbourhood.

He added that the tallest block was not set back sufficiently from the road and would be “overpowering”.

Mark Simons, another opponent, criticised the failure to provide basement car parking. The plans include four parking bays for blue badge holders and 77 spaces for cyclists. He said the application should not be approved until the council had carried out a consultation with neighbours on a controlled parking zone (CPZ) to ease parking problems.

Labour councillor for Muswell Hill Cathy Brennan and Lib Dem councillor for Highgate Scott Emery also objected, both suggesting the plans had not been changed sufficiently to address residents’ concerns.

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Speaking in favour of the proposals, Ruth Gordon, cabinet member for council housebuilding, placemaking and development, said there were 11,000 people “desperately waiting” for a council home, and the Cranwood House site was an opportunity to build council housing in the west of the borough.

Jo McCafferty, director at Levitt Bernstein Architects, said the scheme would create “very high-quality and highly sustainable new homes in a key location for the borough”.

Under questioning from councillors, she insisted changes had been made in response to residents’ feedback, including “refinements” to balcony design and changes to the colour of building materials.

Transport consultant Simon Keating said the site could support a “car-free development”, as it is 1.2km from Highgate Underground Station, with frequent bus services and nearby shops and schools.

Council planning officers had recommended the scheme for approval. Under questioning from the committee, urban design officer Richard Truscott said he considered the height to be “compatible with some of the context”, adding that the design “reinterprets the existing features of the neighbourhood”.

Stephane Pietrzak, principal transport planning officer, said there had been consultations for a new CPZ adjacent to the site but he couldn’t say whether the site would fall within a CPZ in future. He admitted the council could not control parking without a CPZ.

Luke Cawley-Harrison, the sole Liberal Democrat committee member, moved to defer the application. He said he did not feel it was appropriate to make a decision on the plans due to the live police and council investigations linked to the site. 

Cllr Cawley-Harrison also cited former council leader Joseph Ejiofor’s decision to take legal action against the ombudsman for naming him in its report into a complaint brought by a resident against the council’s handling of the site’s redevelopment.

Legal officer Justin Farley said the ombudsman had closed its investigation, so it was not relevant to the matter under consideration. He added that he was not aware of any court action regarding the site.

Cllr Cawley-Harrison’s motion was not seconded. He abstained on the vote, while eight Labour committee members voted to approve the scheme.