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Inappropriate plan is a real threat to Central Square

PUBLISHED: 11:20 22 September 2008 | UPDATED: 15:24 07 September 2010

Central Square is the last major and arguably the most important site in Hampstead Garden Suburb which is capable of development. It is located next to one of Barnet s only two Grade I listed buildings and one of its few Grade II* listed buildings and su

Central Square is the last major and arguably the most important site in Hampstead Garden Suburb which is capable of development.

It is located next to one of Barnet's only two Grade I listed buildings and one of its few Grade II* listed buildings and surrounded by mainly Grade II listed properties. It is an architectural site of international renown, specifically visited by groups from all over the world.

On September 22 a detailed planning application will be considered by Barnet to construct two buildings fronting on to Central Square. This is more than likely to be passed almost by default. I think the conduct of the consultation process with residents has been intellectually dishonest and is a public outrage.

The residents as a whole and the largest representative organisation of residents in the Suburb have not been properly consulted, or at all, in a meaningful way. This is totally wrong and those in charge should recognise this and ensure the matter is fairly aired. Democracy is not always a comfortable thing for developers.

In context, the Residents Association Council has spent many meetings talking and arguing about lamp posts and street signs; many sometimes ferocious meetings talking and reviewing a building (the new Institute building) that is not even in the Suburb but which affects the rear view of some gardens; and has had presentations and seen exhibitions on the re-landscaping of Central Square (which is about soft landscaping, not new brick buildings).

It has had neither a discussion nor presentation on new buildings which for generations to come will be at the heart of the Suburb.

Can you imagine this happening in Hampstead without a major uproar and public outcry in the national and local press?

For whatever reason this, the most important of planning applications affecting the Suburb, was submitted in August when most people were away! It is well known that developers and councils try this when they want to sneak something through with only lip service to the public view.

The explanation that people can visit Barnet's website and look at the plans online for such a large development is not proper consultation - if 90 per cent of people have trouble understanding plans for small extensions, etc, what hope for something like this on a computer screen?

The buildings offer nothing to this historic site and offer nothing of distinction visually for those of us who live here and those who come from all over the world to see the Suburb. It is true and of course welcomed, that the temporary buildings will at last go. However they can go - new brick and concrete tends to stay!

The proposed buildings are neither here nor there - they are neither exciting modern architecture, nor complementary, nor of high quality to match the fine Lutyens design - they are more like a more modern version of Bigwood House and lacking in distinction - a huge missed opportunity for us now and the future if this goes through.

The buildings are too small in the context of the main building on site and have modern picture windows with no glazing bars and a design that is totally unacceptable anywhere else in the Suburb, never mind in the most important location in the area

The front elevations look not dissimilar to a 1970s/1980s office building design and the external walkways are reminiscent of 1960s council housing.

Think what they will be like in 15 or 20 years on with poor or low maintenance.

There are colonnades and columns devoid of architectural merit and which have little relation to the architecture of the main Lutyens columns. Lutyens used roofspace. The proposed roofs are very large and unused

All the detailing - brickwork, stonework, railings, windows, materials etc - are to be left to the planning officers and are not subject to public comment or planning approval through a planning application. So we will have no say on such important matters on such an important site

How on earth could the Trust and the Residents Association allow matters to have got to this stage without insisting that the Suburb as a whole be given a public presentation and exhibition? Surely this is vitally more important to the community than the landscaping of Central Square Are we just going to let this go by default ? Does anyone else care?

Douglas Blausten

Meadway, NW11


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