Events - Public Meeting 19th March 2009
Held at 7.30pm on Thursday 19th March 2009 at St James' Church, East Barnet Road, New Barnet.
Representatives of ASDA were invited to attend, to make a presentation about their planning application for the Gas Works site and answer questions from the public about their plans.
Letters were sent by New Barnet Community Association to ASDA, Barnet Planning Officers, Ward Councillors, and the local MP inviting them to attend.
NBCA invitation letter to ASDA [69K pdf] - 6 Mar 09
The meeting was attended by:
- Theresa Villiers, MP for Chipping Barnet
- Robert Rams & Joanna Tambourides*, East Barnet Ward Councillors
- Martin Cowie, Head of Planning and Development Management for Barnet Council
- Save New Barnet Campaign Team
- 170 members of the public
ASDA declined to attend. (see detailed section below)
ASDA also failed to attend the previous public meeting held at St James' Church to discuss superstore developments by Tesco & ASDA in New Barnet on 3rd April 2008.
* Note: Cllr Jonanna Tambourides is a substitute member of the planning committee and so was unable to speak at the meeting.
New Barnet Community Association are very grateful to the Church Wardens and Church Council of St James' Church for the use of the premises.
Public Meeting Flyer [106K pdf] - Mar 2009
Public Meeting Agenda [59K pdf] - 19 Mar 09
A series of thirteen 10 minute video clips of the meeting can be viewed online.
We are very grateful to Daniel James, an independent local film maker, for supplying us with the footage.
Alternative Master Plan for the Gas Works Site
Despite ASDA and Tesco's attempts to brand us as a bunch of "NIMBYs", the Save New Barnet Campaign is far from "anti-development". Indeed, we're keener than most to see redundant sites in our local area brought back into use. However, we are determined to oppose any development which is inappropriate in terms of scale, design and use. After all, it is us and our community that will have to live with the effects of these projects long after the developers have moved on.
The kind of large-scale, multi-storey development that ASDA and Tesco are proposing is grossly inappropriate in a largely residential suburb like New Barnet, which is characterised by two or three storey buildings on a Victorian and Edwardian road network, and within a few hundred metres of the Green Belt.
We also know that it’s not what local people want, because we’ve spent the last year asking their opinion for our community's "Vision For New Barnet". Amongst the hundreds of views, two things that came up again and again were "family houses" and "leisure facilities".
So, using the "Vision" as a guide, we commissioned some local architects to propose an alternative solution for the derelict gasworks site. The result is an inspiring plan that is grounded in commercial reality, but which makes the most of the site’s potential and meets the real needs of our local community.
Take a look at the alternative plans: (click pictures to enlarge)
- 83 three storey three- and four-bed houses
- 45 three storey one- and two-bed flats
- Pedestrian-friendly residential streets
- 33 metre swimming pool with training pool and outdoor paddling/wet play area
- Leisure centre with youth club facilities
- Site fully integrated with an upgraded Victoria Recreation Ground
- 'Unzipping' (opening up) the two brooks which flow through the site
- 800-1000 sq. m. retail space in mixed use area (the amount recommended in three separate studies commissioned by Barnet Council, ASDA and Tesco)
- Better links with East Barnet Road
Integrated Development and Park Master Plan [188K pdf] - Mar 2009
The slides used in the architects presentation to the public meeting are also available.
The public meeting was arranged at short notice when it became apparent that neither the council nor the developer had any intention of holding one. As soon as the venue and date was confirmed, New Barnet Community Association wrote to ASDA, inviting them to attend.
Sadly, despite their stated wish to engage the community, ASDA decided not to send any representatives to the public meeting on 19th March 2009, after making a number of demands in the two days preceding the event which were impossible to meet at that late stage.
ASDA then used this as justification for non-attendance; sending a lengthy statement to be read out in their absence. A shortened version of the document was read out at the start of the public meeting; the entire text can be downloaded below.
ASDA Statement [41K pdf] - 19 Mar 09
- 17th February - 'Chipping Barnet Residents Forum' is told by Martin Cowie that the ASDA planning application will be registered "in the next few days".
- 23rd February 4.50pm - Information receievd that the application has just been registered.
- 24th February - Confirmation that the ASDA application has been registered. On checking we discover it has been backdated to 16th February, reducing the available consultation time.
- Most of the 100 planning application documents are on Barnet Council's planning website, but not traffic. We had been told we could have a CDROM of the documents and they were being prepared.
- 26th February - Letter from Barnet Council dated 27th Feb hand delivered to 2500 addresses in New Barnet informing residents of the ASDA planning application. This letter contains the WRONG reference number, preventing people from finding the documents on the council website. A number of addresses listed as to receive a letter fail to have one delivered.
- 26th February - Public Notice dated 24th Feb printed in the Barnet Press. Identical notices attached to lamp posts in the area. They invite the public to make comments but fail to supply either a postal or email address.
- 2nd March CDROM arrived. It appears to have been produced by ASDA not Barnet, so why the delay? Problems experienced using CD, which we overcame by Friday 6th March.
- Deadline for public comments is 1st April. We ask for an extension but this is refused.
- For the last 6 months we have been asking Barnet Council to hold a public meeting when ASDA's plans are registered. We feel it is essential that the public has an opportunity to have these major plans explained, and to ask questions. Barnet Council initially said they would consider it, but more recently have simply said no.
- New Barnet Community Association volunteers work to arrange a public meeting. St James' Church is the largest venue in the area and we are very grateful to the Church Wardens and Church Council for agreeing to make the Church available. 19th March is the latest date available, as they have builders in the following week.
- 6th March - Letter sent to ASDA inviting them to attend a public meeting on 19th March.
- 8th March - Councillors emailed inviting them to attend a public meeting on 19th March.
- 17th March 9.00 pm - Phone call from ASDA representative saying they are unlikely to come due to short notice. They could not put a presentation together in 8 days. They also made a series of demands over the organisation of the meeting.
- 18th March 10.30 am - Phone message from ASDA saying that unless David Howard is removed from chairing the meeting and replaced by a third party they would not attend.
- 19th March 7.30 pm - Public Meeting goes ahead. Nobody from ASDA turned up.
Despite being unable to attend the public meeting to explain their plans for New Barnet and answer questions, ASDA did have time to put out a press release and send letters to local residents criticising the meeting. The letter was mailed out before the meeting took place. ASDA say they will be holding 'focus groups' in the area, and that by selecting random members of the public it will "allow for more democratic and open debate".
We would suggest that small, highly controlled 'focus groups' are a way of getting the answer you want, using the public to provide a veneer of authenticity.
Theresa Villiers MP
MP for Chipping Barnet, Theresa Villiers, attended and spoke at the public meeting. She issued a press release a few days later.
"I pay tribute to the brilliant work of the Save New Barnet Campaign and the New Barnet Community Association in organising a hugely informative meeting to analyse and discuss the planning application Asda has submitted for a new superstore."
"I will continue to oppose this planning application and support the excellent campaign being run by local residents on this important issue."