27 May 2019

Only 8/9ths as inhumane

Having failed to convince the public that they should be allowed to squeeze 9 pints into a pint pot the developers withdrew their application, in order to not have a refusal on file, made a few piffling amendments, and are trying again, this time for 8 pints. We need to convince the council that these inhumanely small studios are not homes which the residents of Barnet deserve to be cooped up within.

Mr Mustard is just about to submit his objection, as below. Feel free to reuse any of it and make your own objection. Barnet Planning can be found here

Objection to planning permission being granted to 2 Bruce Road


I expect that councillors and Regional Enterprise Ltd will have seen this article from the Guardian


'Are these the worst new flats in Britain?'

and the answer is no, the ones proposed for 2 Bruce Road are.

Whilst it is the case that flats this small can, in certain circumstances, be built without planning permission, the fact of actually applying means that the dispensation does not apply.

The rules under which this application should be judged are the government's 'national described space standard' which for a 1 person, 1 bed flat is 35 sq. m. and thus this application should be rejected and the Applicant encouraged to come back with a scheme with decent sized accommodation or stick with retail usage. This is exactly what the council's Residential Design Guidance from it's own local plan says, 37 sq. m, at para 15.13.

I will comment upon the proposal using the numbering of the Applicant's Planning and design and access statement.

4 Given that the site is within the retail triangle, its use for retail should continue.

I disagree that the site is not a primary or secondary frontage. It is completely surrounded by retail uses and is a secondary frontage.

5 It is no justification to tear up minimum size standards to provide sub-standard units such as these & allow a HMO on an unsuitable site just because there is a shortage of HMO.

I don't believe that there are 85 people under the age of 35 seeking a home within High Barnet alone looking for such tiny accommodation. That may be the number in the entire borough & consequently misleading.

7.1.7 Given the shapes of the rooms the usable space isn't as high as stated. To be useful rooms really need to be pretty much rectangular in shape. None of the rooms will readily accommodate furniture.

7.1.8 Of course parking is needed. This will badly affect the resident permit parking bays, especially in Chipping Close. It is a nonsense to suggest that the tenants are unlikely to own cars. This is what TFL's figures show

It is ludicrous to think that tenants will pay to park in council car parks. Stapylton Road Car park, about 100m away, is £4 a day which times 6 times 52 = £1,248 p.a. No-one will pay that.

7.1.9 Open land available to the public at large is no substitute for personal green space. Gardens are a great aid to mental health as this charity tells us https://www.thrive.org.uk/gardening-can-help-you-feel-better.aspx

Outward opening doors: These are placed right next to the hotel entrance and will be dangerous to the numerous pedestrian users of the hotel.

Only one kitchen: If all 8 residents decide to cook Sunday lunch at the same time, and the poor need to eat as much as residents who can afford a decent sized home, there simply won't be room for them to get into the kitchen at the same time. They will even struggle to all manage to make tea and toast in the confined internal space. There doesn't appear to be an air extraction system within the kitchen.

Bin store: The bin store does not appear to, and should not be, accessible from the entry hall, and given that is the case it would not be possible via the outward opening doors to reach over the first 1100ltr bin to put items in the second one. Having food waste caddies at high level in the entrance hall is ridiculously unhygienic. No planning officer would keep the 23ltr council food waste caddy (once reintroduced) on a shelf above their head in their lovely home.

This application for planning permission is simply based upon greed, how many 'homes' can be squeezed in. No thought has been given to the mental health of the occupants who are to be treated sub optimally.

The reason for this application is purely to maximise profit. Some occupiers will doubtless suffer mental health difficulties, at great cost to the council and the community, if this proposal is approved, from staring at the (very close) four walls.

It is instructive to note that the proposal for a hotel on the adjacent site, intended for purely short term accomodation, not for permanent living, has guest rooms which are twice the size of the ones in the HMO.

Approving this HMO will lead to a high degree of transience in the population and the area will also suffer from antisocial behaviour and high levels of crime.

It is an inhumane proposal and should be rejected in order to save prospective tenants from being crammed into tiny spaces, so that they can keep their sanity and prevent over-development of this lovely old corner of Barnet.

Thank you

Derek Dishman, 21 Carnarvon Rd, Barnet EN5 4LX

This building is the one which contains the much-loved Dory's cafe. It will remain in busienss as it has for decades, the over-development proposal is nothing to do with them. We all know how small the Cafe is, apparently big enough for two people to live in half each. What utter nonsense.

No Silence Please! It's Barnet's Library Review (June 11)

Dear Library Lover

Please join us on Tuesday 11 June 2019 at 6:30pm at Hendon Town Hall. We are holding a short protest prior to speaking at the Communities Leadership and Libraries (CLL) Committee meeting at 7pm. Please invite your friends and neighbours to come along too - children are welcome!

As you may have heard, the Minister for Culture recently refused our complaint about the Barnet Library Service. Unfortunately, his decision shows a blatant determination to ignore the evidence of Barnet residents and let the Council off the hook.  You can read our response here.

In spite of this, the Council wasn’t able to get away completely unscathed: one important outcome of the complaint process is the Council’s long-awaited “Library Review”. In this, the Council must explore the impact of the library cuts on groups protected by the Equalities Acts – including children, older people, and those with disabilities. Not suprisingly, these are the groups most affected by unstaffed libraries, reduced facilities and locked toilets.

The process for the review is due to be announced at the CLL meeting. We need your support to put pressure on the committee to carry out a meaningful review that listens to residents' views and really looks at the impact of the cuts. Please help us to get all our voices heard.

The review is timely: you may have read about the recent report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty which finds "unheard-of levels of loneliness and isolation" and links this to austerity policies, including shrinking library services.

We will be organising speakers for the meeting – reply to this email by Monday 3 June if you want to participate. We are also collecting your stories about the library service - email us or share them via our facebook page or website.

Hope to see you there!

Best wishes

Emily Burnham
On behalf of Save Barnet Libraries

9 May 2019

Capita - 'not minded' to provide assurance

At the Barnet Council Audit Committee on 1 May the external auditor from BDO made some very worrying and serious statements about the controls systems in place. This follows a £2 million fraud last year, and pervasive problems with the pensions and payroll administration.

“You don’t have a particularly strong control environment”, the auditor reported, and then stated that Capita were “not minded” to provide assurance over systems running processes on Barnet Council’s behalf.

This is an astonishing response from Capita.

Responsibility for assurance of these systems, run from Capita’s offices around the United Kingdom, falls to Barnet Council’s Internal Audit Team.

As the External Auditor made clear, the Internal Audit team is doing good work “but it doesn’t give you that level of assurance that you would expect with so much of the service outsourced”.

Given that Capita provide so many of Barnet’s back office systems this is a very serious situation, especially as the external auditor raised this problem two years ago, before the £2 million fraud was discovered.

As bloggers who have closely followed and reported the story of Barnet’s partnership with Capita, we are deeply concerned about this situation and alarmed that neither the auditor nor committee members were aware that assurance of Capita’s systems is a contractual requirement, and not something that could be provided at their discretion.

We ask the following questions of the Council:

·             Why were the audit committee not made aware of the auditor’s concerns when they were raised two years ago?
·             Why are Capita “not minded” to provide assurance over their systems when the contract appears to indicate that they must provide that assurance?
·             Why did Grant Thornton not pick this matter up when they were the Council’s External Auditors or as part of their contract review following the fraud?
·             Why have the Council’s contract monitoring officers not identified this problem before now?
·             If BDO are saying the Council does not have a strong control environment, what are the risks of another fraud or systems failure happening?

And finally,
·             How can Capita continue to retain the confidence of the Council without such assurances?

We ask that the Council arranges for a forensic review/audit of both Capita contracts to address the contractual failures raised by the External Auditor as a matter of the utmost urgency, to be paid for by Capita, before any further decisions are made on what services Capita will continue to provide. Failure to do so can only have the most serious consequences for the financial security of this borough, and the well being of all residents.


Derek Dishman
John Dix
Theresa Musgrove
Roger Tichborne