Monday, February 11, 2013

Catch 22 - The Oakfield Question

Last Thursday evening a throng of invited community representatives gathered in Fullwell Cross library for a workshop on the consultation of the Redbridge Core Strategy – Preferred Options report. They were a diverse bunch, some from down Ilford Lane way plus Seven Kings and Newbury Park and of course ourselves, B21.

The presentation by Matthew Maple was excellent and the attendees knew their stuff making some very pertinent comments and providing some important feedback. It wasn’t all moans as you might have expected.

The main purpose of the Report is to have a plan as to where development may take place over the next 10-15 years. This is not just housing, although that is the largest part of it, but also necessary infrastructure like additional schools and health clinics, but not swimming pools. The line has been taken that communities grow around transport links and so most, but not all, of the proposed development sites are located along the Crossrail corridor, the M11 corridor, the A406/Woodford Avenue and the Central Line. Click for the map. The idea being that locating housing and amenities near transport hubs and town centres like Gants Hill and Barkingside reduces the need for car use. The parking lobby please note.

As may be expected the large sites are mostly in the north of the borough, the Goodmayes Hospital site and Redbridge College in Barley Lane being the exception. There is a large area off Woodford Avenue incorporating the Beal School playing fields and the recreation fields the other side of Woodford Bridge Road. Here in Barkingside there is the Oakfield site and the playing fields between the Central Line and Heybridge Drive. I have pulled out the detail for Oakfield and uploaded it as a small PDF here.

options 1 and 2 for Oakfield - click image to enlarge
We all know that the population in Redbridge has increased and housing provision has not kept pace, plus the council are really struggling to provide enough school places for the growing numbers of local children who will one day need a home of their own.

As John Abrams said. Whatever we do has consequences. If we do not build more housing then house prices will rise. That’s fine if you already own a house, but it doesn’t do your children or grandchildren any good when they grow up and want to get onto the housing ladder themselves. If we do build houses then we have to accept that they will take up open, but not necessarily green, spaces. And if we use school playing fields to build more schools then ….

Where do the children play? Here’s Yusaf Islam, formerly Cat Stevens

In the news elsewhere:

The Property Owning Democracy goes Sour

Rogue Landlords make a Killing


  1. Where are the roads for all these new people on the Oakfielf site? These can't just be the two green stripes. The road to the Sports Centre is already too narrow for access for visitors. It's one lane only. Stick a high-rise block at the end of it and at least one house will need to be demolished to make room for two-way traffic. And what about all the car owners who will occupy these proposed high-rise blocks? Fencepiece Road will need to be turned into a motorway to take all the new traffic! And where will it end? Fullwell Cross Roundabout! The roundabout already comes to a standstill frequently, as do the roads leading to it: Barkingside High Street, Fullwell Avenue, Fencepiece Road, Forest Road and Craven Gardens. This bottlenecck cannot take a higher volume of traffic. The proposal for high-rise blocks (plural) equals slums plus gridlock. Some plan! Some future!

    1. I did not think the proposals were for high rise development. I equally hope that the area will not be flooded with loads of cramped "Legoland" houses.

      I am formulating my own objections to the council's plan and will publish it here after submitting it.

    2. If you click on Fig. 5.2, a full-screen plan loads. This clearly shows labels on housing blocks as MR and HR. I assume this means Medium Rise and High Rise. What else?

    3. Sorry if I failed to see that. You've failed both to see and to answer a question on another topic.

  2. please could b-side 21 ask councillors.nick hayes and paul canal to comment,it would be very interesting to see what they have to say.

    1. I think it would be prejudicial for them to comment now while it is out for public consultation.
      They will, I presume, have the opportunity to debate it, and public feedback, at Scrutiny or even Full Council.
      I am not sure whether the decision to adopt it, as is or amended, is one for Cabinet or Full Council.

    2. 6 Feb 2013 on "How NOT to oppose a planning application II".

  3. does this mean that is is only a "suggestion" and they would not want people to think that it it fully in the surley they do not think that the public are that easy to manipulate.has it been put forward to a "vote for" situation?

    1. As Planning Law stands councils cannot prevent development taking place nor can they ensure that it does take place. That is a function of the market and finance.

      However, they are legally obliged to have a plan or framework as to where it can take place, if it takes place, so that we have balanced development incorporating residential, business, retail, amenities and transport. The council can then plan for the provision of those services and amenties it is legally obliged to provide, like schools. And other Agencies like the NHS, Police and Fire can do likewise.

      This is not a blueprint of what will happen, it is plan for what might happen and how the council will deal with it, if it does.

    2. "This is not a blueprint......".

      Yes, B21...and I believe in Father Christmas too.

    3. Am looking forward to reading your objections to the plan ...

  4. thanks for that mr b-side 21.

  5. Seems wasteful (land wise) not to build on piers over the Central line and perhaps a skyscraper over the stations too.

    1. Somebody did suggest two-tier roads like they have in the USA ...

    2. well, that would solve the problem of the bridge at Fairlop station

  6. Generally, the attendees at the Feb. 7th. Workshop were more concerned with Schools, Community Centres, Youth Centres, Polyclinics (possibly - but don't close KGH when the population is planned to expand!)

    It was pointed out by attendees that, whereas the "Garden Suburb" is a way of improving the overall quality and 'sustainability' of local housing, with the Barnardo's Development and Repton Park, we have probably done our bit with regard to Garden Suburbs.

    In discussing the projected growth in population in the Borough and the pressure on Housing and School Places, there are never enough houses or school places as the demand is infinite. If we build a homes for a million people in London (as Boris has proposed) then TWO million people will turn up wanting to live in them. The existing Year 1s will before you know it be Year 7s needing additional SECONDARY School places.

    Barkingside is not directly on the main through routes in the Borough (A12, A406, M11) but is a 'migration hub' for through traffic, paralleling the A12 between Brentwood/Harold Hill/Collier Row and Wanstead to join the motorway to the City (Lea Crossing) and the Thames Tunnels. It is also a local traffic junction with six schools in the locality and this all causes long queues in all roads leading to Fullwell Cross in the mornings, late afternoons and early evenings. Barkingside High Street is also a major bus interchange, particularly for schoolchildren. There is also the Central Line.

    There was discussion of "amenity" space and protecting sports grounds but proposals were made to build over these! A few comments were made about lack of "joined-up thinking". The right community facilities in the wrong place could lead to people 'voting with their feet' and creating an imbalance in usage. People can transport themselves within the Borough and to and from the Borough.

    It was felt by business owners present that there was in fact no Strategy for Business and so the proposals won't work anyway. There was a plea not to turn Barkingside High Street into another Ilford Lane .... and that was from two Asian Businessmen who had migrated their Businesses from Ilford Lane to Barkingside!!

  7. Green Belt Declassification in Redbridge with specific reference to Oakfield

    I will remind Officers of the following:
    “The Council’s Core Strategy was adopted in March 2008. It seeks to deliver a minimum of 9,050 new homes in the ten years from 2007/2008 to 2016/2017. This figure is a requirement of the London Plan. Strategic Policy 7 (Housing) aims to focus delivery on the town centres as follows:
    Ilford Metropolitan Centre: 35%-50%
    District and Local Centres: 15%-25%
    Remainder of borough: 25%-35%

    This approach was taken to remove the need to build on Green Belt land and open spaces, or to unreasonably increase densities in the established residential areas. Consequently, the Core Strategy and Borough Wide Primary Policy Development Plan Documents (DPDs) give strong policy protection to the Green Belt and open spaces and provide for the highest housing densities in Ilford Town Centre and the lowest densities in residential areas”

    The requirement for the quantity of houses from the Mayor of London has actually been reduced from 900+ to 700+, in the last 9 years Redbridge has failed in 7 years to meet this target, with no action taken by the Mayor of London to correct this. With this reduction, Officers have already identified enough brownfield and other sites to satisfy the housing requirement, without the necessity to use Green Belt land.

    There has been no public debate, either in Cabinet or Full Council about whether we should use Green Belt land for housing, and for Officers to go into such detail concerning the dismissal of Green Belt land, including the expenditure of £40,000 on a flawed Consultancy Report, goes far beyond their level of authority, without reference to elected representatives.

    In the brief to Colin Buchanan, by their remarks Officers directed the course of the report to pieces of land that they had already decided were to be developed, and the reason why they should be declassified as Green Belt land. As they had already identified this, one has to ask why a Consultants Report was necessary at this stage, except for Officers to lay the blame at their door?

    “The Investment Area takes in the Oakfields site to the immediate north of the town centre.It has been recommended for release from the Green Belt by independent consultants,on the basis that its eastern part is heavily built up and is severed from the wider Green Belt by the London Underground Central Line embankment and accordingly,it does not meet the purposes of Green Belt land under national planning policy.Oakfields has potential for a new school and other community facilities along with reeprovided and enhanced open space and sporting provision.It also has some capacity for family sized housing and would be a an ideal candidate for development as a Garden Suburb as advocated by the NPPF.More precise land uses will be determined by detailed masterplanning carried out in conjuction with the next stage of this plan”

    Councillors and residents can consider the following:

    "There are a number of examples where the boundaries of the Green Belt do not necessarily reflect “recognisable features” e.g. the Central Line embankment in the vicinity of Fairlop and Barkingside tube stations." Project brief appendix a p6

    This obviously refers to Oakfield.
    The arguments for dismissing Oakfield to “create a defensible boundary at the Central Line Embankment” and tightly drawn boundaries to housing on three sides of the Green Belt land, Officers failed to inform the Consultants that Oakfield was created Green Belt specifically in the same state as it now, it is both irrational and illogical to now use the same arguments to declassify as were used to classify it.

  8. Defensible Barrier- There can be no greater defensible barrier than Fencepiece Road,Forest Road and Fulwell Cross Roundabout.
    Tightly Drawn Boundary- This has always been so, and even the Consultants admit that this area stops urban sprawl.
    Contiguous Green Belt- Oakfield is part of the contiguous Green Belt stretching through Barkingside and Hainault all the way through to Hainault Forest and the Country Park,and is on both sides of Forest Road.

    To Declassify Oakfield, then opens up the same side of Forest Road beyond Fairlop Station, the factory estates offer the opportunity of using the “Brownfield Site” argument to allow further development.

    Options not put forward
    The Consultants failed to explore the full range of options such as:
    Do Nothing
    Develop only a school
    Develop only a school and a Polyclinic
    The Range of housing:has suggested a “Garden City approach
    With either 700 or 850 dwellings
    They have failed to mention that at the allowed town centre housing density 80-120 dwellings per hectare this could mean BETWEEN 2000 to 3000 DWELLINGS ON THIS SITE. Once the site has been declassified Green Belt, residents will be at the mercy of developers as to how many houses will be built, this represents a range from 700 to 3000 dwellings, approximately a revenue of between £250 MILLION and £600 Million to Developers and a possible revenue to the Council of possibly between £30 million and £50 million.

    In case residents think “Good, lots of affordable housing” for local people, let me disabuse them, the Council is about to adopt the following:

    “The Council is not proposing to adopt an explicit taget for affordable housing.It will seek the maximum reasonable amount of affordable housing on a site-by-site basis. All housing sites capable of accommodating ten or more dwellings or being 0.5 ha or more in area(regardless of the number of dwellings) will be expected to make a contribution”

    Or the more likely effect in the light of Redbridge’s record below, is that even fewer affordable homes will be built

    Redbridge over the last 9 YEARS has built A TOTAL OF LESS THAN 1300 AFFORDABLE HOMES (140 per year). Even if Developers could be persuaded to build affordable homes, it is highly unlikely that finance would be available for them.

    “A cleaner, greener place to live” was one of the top three priorities for 64% of people. Parks and open spaces were the fifth most important thing to residents in making Redbridge a good place to live. This demonstrates that protecting and enhancing open space is a key Council priority.”

    The Air Testing Station at Fulwell Cross already shows unacceptable levels of air pollution, any development on Oakfield (with 3 Major schools within throwing distance) will only exacerbate this problem, The Mayor feels this is already a problem as he has instituted the Low Emmission Zone. Already around the country we see an increase in both abnormal chest ailments and foetal development although yet with no causal connection,I will remind Officers and Councillors that no such connection was accepted with smoking until fairly recent history, some of the pollutants are the same as smoking.

    Both Forest Road and Fencepiece Road are at full stretch, any further increase in traffic will adversely affect traffic, residents and Barkingside High Street to an unacceptable level.

    Existing Housing
    Redbridge has 2000 Empty Houses, this represents 2.5 Oakfields, instead of trying to orchestrate the removal of Green Belt sites, priority should be given to Officers bringing these 2000 empty houses back into use, this is a much cheaper and quicker alternative than building new homes, and there are various grants for this purpose as well.

    1. It's rather like their policy on raising revenue from parking charges. They've had a proposal for 250 more on-street pay & display spaces to raise £160,000 rather than take action to recover £2.7-millions unpaid parking fines.

      There has been an empty maisonette opposite where I live for many years. Constant questioning of the Housing Department has failed to seecure satisfactory replies despite "openness and transparency". Last year the owner was paid a grant (using funds filched from us) to bring it back into good order. The curtains remain largely closed, lights are rarely (if ever) on, and the place clearly remains unoccupied - with Christmas decorations still visible in the windows! Scandalous.

  9. thought i would mention the piece in todays daily telegraph 11/03/2013,about how councillors CAN charge up to £20,000 for advice to property developers on how to get planning permission,quite interesting reading.

    1. Here's the link Click!

      The article mentions Indigo Public Affairs for whom one of our own cllrs worked a while ago.. see the B21 comment thread here Click! Seven comments down and onward ...

    2. I read that too. It stinks to the high heavens. Councillors should be banned by law from acting as planning consultants until at least 4 years after they have ceased to be councillors. Any councillor, or former councillor, in breach of such a requirement should be banned for life from standing for election. Councillors are already paid enough - and some of them more than enough. At least one in Redbridge does little or nothing in return.

    3. I would be interested to know the difference between what is described in the Telegraph piece and the case of a former Redbridge councillor who was jailed. Click!

    4. My understanding is (and I choose my words with some care) that he was accused of requiring payment to secure consent. The "consultancy" arrangement undertakes to do no more (ostensibly) than profer the best advice in formulating an application that is likely to secure consent. And we all know the tune that the band played......

  10. i was more concerned over the fact that they can get away with charging £20,000 pounds for something that to me sounds like advice on how to get permission quickly and in some cases quietly,otherwise i do think that the whole thing is quite pointless as i also think that all property developers already know what to do and i am sure get to know the local area that they are proposing to build in, thus making sure that there is a market for what they are selling.£20k is life changing money to some and i wander if the councillor in the article gave his fee if he charged one to indigo.i have experience of this charity and it does very good work.

  11. No doubt they would like to charge constituents £20.000 for the priviledge of advising them how to get Planning Permission refused

  12. If you wish to Save Oakfield Site please read and, if you agree, sign the petition:

    Please email so we can keep you informed.

  13. If you look at Fencepiece Road, between New North Road and the Fullwell Cross junction, there are two spaces, between the houses. They have been there fora s long as I can remember and are at present, grassed over. They also have gates/ railings. Anyone who thinks this development isn't going to happen is seriously deluded. I lived in Hazelbrouck Gardens until 2011 and in about 2009 I saw a woman at the end of the cul-de-sac with a clipboard, looking into that field.