Shock and 'scandal' as Barnet Council approves East Finchley development
PUBLISHED: 17:06 28 July 2017 | UPDATED: 11:49 01 August 2017
A deal to build 21 new homes has been slammed after it emerged the same company owns the developer's agent and firm contracted to handle Barnet Council's planning applications.
Regional Enterprise (RE) – the firm contracted to manage planning applications for Barnet Council – is part-owned by Capita Plc, which also owns the consultant GL Hearn acting on behalf of the developer of the East Finchley High Road site, Safeland plc.
Critic of the development, Michael McGrath, said: “There is no way the council can demonstrate the planning process was honest and transparent.”
Besides a potential clash of interest, people living near the site have voiced concerns about the impact of the development’s 21 new homes on road safety, parking, fire safety and the building’s “insensitive” design. They also say there is no commitment to make 40 per cent of the site’s homes “affordable”.
In spite of this, in a planning meeting on Wednesday the development was approved by six votes to five with angry residents now considering legal action.
Mr McGrath said: “Given the objections and their seriousness the planning officer’s advice to the committee was shocking.
“It was just a thin veneer of badly written mistruths and distortions, giving the six Conservative members just enough justification to ignore residents’ views,” he added.
In response a council spokesman said: “The application for this scheme was considered in February but was referred back so that a number of residents’ concerns could be clarified. All applications are considered on their merits and a report addressing the various clarifications was considered by the planning committee before the decision.
“Planning officers have noted the applicant’s consultant is GL Hearn and recorded this on RE’s conflict of interest register.
“GL Hearn is not connected in any way with the statutory decision making process.”
Safeland managing director Larry Lipman said: “The redevelopment brings high quality residential, investment in the area and the removal of the blight of a mini-cab office.”
On the vote, Mr Lipman added: “We’re pleased because it gives us a chance to bring improvements to the neighbourhood.”