For more than a year, I've been involved in fighting a development at the back of my house. And it looks like we've achieved a mini victory.
Our gardens back onto a narrow, leafy lane in an otherwise urban area (as I type, I hear police sirens). On the other side stands a care home, built in the 1950s around a Victorian vicarage. For some time, a few years ago, I was on its board.
Two years ago, the home was given to a developer, Central & Cecil – whose existence most people knew nothing about until they submitted an horrific proposal to treble the scale of the buildings on the site at Church Walk House. And by the time we found out about this it was too late to persuade Central & Cecil to scale down the proposal: they'd lodged their application, and were determined to fight for planning permission.
But they never got planning permission.
The first time Central & Cecil's scheme came before Barnet Council's planning department, our (by now) large and organised group of neighbours were able to demonstrate that the application was fundamentally flawed, and it was withdrawn.
The second time, the council decided not to make a decision because there remained big legal questions to answer.
A few weeks ago, Central & Cecil asked for a meeting with a few members of our neighbourhood group. They said we'd made things very difficult for them, then asked what changes we might want to see. But when we suggested ideas – save parts of the historic building, reduce the scale – they said it would be impossible.
(What was the point of the meeting? Was Central & Cecil using it so they could tell Barnet they had carried out a fuller consultation with neighbours?)
Now Central & Cecil has put a notice on its website announcing that it may get rid of Church Walk House.
We just hope the new owner will do a better job of consulting neighbours before submitting a new application for something much smaller – and perhaps planning permission will be granted.
Photo: Ham & High / Polly Hancock