A final attempt to suspend a controversial regeneration program has failed after a single Tory adviser opposed the plans.
Labor advisers have called for a decision on the full business case for the Hendon Hub program to be delayed at a plenary council meeting on Tuesday, July 27, warning of a “bet with residents’ money.” .
Their call came as activists staged a protest outside Hendon Town Hall chanting “stop the Hendon land grab” and “save our community”.
But Hendon’s Tory adviser Cllr Nizza Fluss was the only member of her party to vote against the business case, meaning the project can take the next step.
The original plans for the Hendon Hub – designed to provide student accommodation and facilities at Middlesex University at Barnet Council-owned sites in The Burroughs, Hendon – drew criticism for its impact on residents, heritage and culture. Some 88 percent of those who answered a consultation question opposed the program.
Speaking at the plenary council meeting, council chief Cllr Dan Thomas said the proposals were a “major opportunity to improve The Burroughs” and listed the changes that had been made to the program in response to consultation.
He said there had been a 26% reduction in student accommodation and pointed out that plans now included affordable housing and a health and wellness center. The library – which is to be moved from its grade 2 listed building to make way for a business school – will be moved to its new home without being housed in a temporary structure, he added.
But Labor leader Cllr Barry Rawlings described the development as a “speculative bet” and called for a delay so that the council can work with residents to find a “viable and sustainable alternative”.
He warned that there was uncertainty over future student numbers, construction costs, staff shortages and the effects of any delays.
“We are being asked to vote in favor of a project where there are still a lot of unknowns and no clear picture of what the financial structure will really be,” said Cllr Rawlings.
“We are the stewards of the public purse and should not take such a bet with residents’ money.”
Cllr Fluss also cautioned against “rushing” into the project, saying she feared the actual costs of the Hendon Hub “far exceed” estimates made by outsourcing company Capita.
She told the meeting that residents wanted the purpose-built library to remain and “continue to be Barnet’s main library.”
“We are at a major turning point in education, and the future of learning looks very hybrid – online and in person,” said Cllr Fluss. “Residents fear the project will benefit Middlesex University, not them.”
But another conservative Hendon adviser, Cllr Mark Shooter, spoke out in favor of the project, saying the financial benefits would be “substantial” and help the council “maintain and reduce the housing tax in the future”.
He claimed Hendon was “calling for a redevelopment” and said the council should help Middlesex University “take it to the next level”.
“Alternative plans could be, for example, more social domains – and we currently have enough social domains in Hendon,” added Cllr Shooter. “This will take a lot of pressure off the HMOs (multiple occupancy houses).”
Cllr Fluss joined Labor and Liberal Democrat advisers in voting against the business case, while other Tory advisers in attendance voted in favor. Proposals will still need to obtain a building permit before construction can begin.
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This notice was published: 2021-07-28 16:24:58