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[Reposted from Sep 2010] Brent Cross Coalition Raises Questions on Planning Application Viability

Has the Planning and Environment Committee been misled, regarding delivery of the full BXC scheme?

Our interpretation of the planning documents for this scheme leads us to believe that the committee may have been misled.

In the planning meeting of 29 July to discuss the Brent Cross Cricklewood development (BXC) one councillor asked an incisive question:
“I am experienced in large regenerations. How is this protected against developers coming back to renegotiate?”
The unequivocal answer from the Council's legal consultant Mr. Winter, at the meeting was: “There will be no changes to the conditions of phasing and works, unless there is consistent agreement." Barnet Head of Planning Mr. Cowie said: “It is a most comprehensive agreement”.

From reading the Barnet documents, we believe that the committee may have been misinformed, and that the developers can pull out of this scheme at any time, if it is not sufficiently profitable:
“... nothing in these covenants will require either the Brent Cross Partners or Cricklewood Regeneration Limited to Commence any Phase or Sub-Phase which is Unviable” (para 2.2.1 c]. )
So if the property market isn’t 'favourable', there will be a shopping centre (as in the refused 1999 plan) and an incinerator, but few new homes, and no schools, offices or railway station.

There is a ‘get-out clause’ even for the infrastructure elements:
“... the Brent Cross Partners may suspend the carrying out of any of the Critical Infrastructure which forms part of such other Phase or Sub-Phase”. (para 2.2.4)
Nothing is promised beyond the profitable first phase or 'PDP' (which now provides, net, fewer than 800 new dwellings, because of the destruction of existing homes). So the housing, schools, new station and more attractive features may be no more than pie in the sky.

We urge the Committee to read these sections of the S106 documents for itself. If the committee passes this application, it should be with the full and correct facts in front of it. We believe that the committee has been lulled into believing that BXC will deliver all of the promised elements, but the agreement currently on the table is so flexible, that it allows the developers to stop at any time after the PDP, with no penalties.

If and when the developers abandon the project after the profitable first elements, the people of Barnet will be asking why the developers were allowed so much flexibility, and room for manoeuvre. The key question in voters’ minds is: “Why is LB Barnet not securing the best deal for residents, rather than a deal which suits the developers?”

Please also ask your officers if the authority is acting unlawfully in disposing of public land without open tender, under EU rules, and as upheld by the European Court of Justice.

We hope that the Committee will reject the current document, and ask the officers to renegotiate the contract, requiring more stringent terms, including penalties if traffic projections prove to be underestimated.

Please also ask your officers to clarify if Hammerson is now using one or more shell companies, rather than the original, core company.

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