Better options for Highgate Newtown Community Centre

19 December 2016

Councillor Sian Berry has lodged an objection to the council's plans to redevelop this community centre in Highgate, knocking it down with no new social housing.

Her objection was submitted today and says:

"By proposing no affordable housing, the applicants have potentially deprived the local area of 15 new affordable homes, and have guaranteed the certain loss of one social and two relatively affordable family homes.

"The decision makers on this application have to ask whether the replacement (more or less like for like) of a community facility is sufficient to make up for this real and potential loss in terms of affordable housing, particularly when there are potentially viable alternatives to redevelopment.

"Overall I think this current scheme is not the right one for Highgate and that refurbishment over time or a return to less disruptive options would be preferable and more acceptable to the local community."

Highgate residents have been discussing the future of the community centre site for many years.

The old building needs work to make it properly accessible and reduce its running costs, and now the Council has put in its planning application to demolish the building and replace it with 31 private homes and a new modern centre.

Councillor Berry commends the process of consultation that took place up to last year in her report, but says she doesn't believe the final option that has been decided upon is the right choice for Highgate.

The plans will take more than two years to be built, involve digging a huge basement for the sports hall, and the gains for the community are not clear. In particular, the new centre will hardly be any bigger than the current one, calling into question whether this is worth the trade-offs in other areas of planning policy.

None of the new homes planned will be affordable, while three formerly affordable homes will be lost, and Councillor Berry warns that making an exception to planning policy for this project from the council could set a dangerous precedent for other proposals in the area.

In design terms, the new buildings will be bigger and more imposing than what is on the site now. Inside the flats, layouts, windows, and room sizes have all been compromised in recent changes and it appears that some flats are not compliant with space and light standards. In addition, the works will involve the loss of garden space in other local homes.

Sian says:

"There are big risks involved in the current plans and we’ll have no local community centre while they are carried out. A very important question that must be considered here is whether a ‘fit for purpose’ community centre is able to be provided by other means than large scale redevelopment.

"Far from being the only option available to the Council, if the current plans are refused, there is a good chance the current centre will be able to be refurbished over time, by raising funds through grants and possibly selling off the boarded-up caretaker’s house to help pay."

Read Sian Berry's objection document

More about the proposal and the history of the plans

Read about the local Friend of Highgate Newtown group (who also object to the plans) here

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