TFL Plans

COMMENTS ON THE EXHIBITION BY TFL AT ST. JOHN’S CHURCH FOR THE REDEVELOMENT OF THE TFL NORTHWOOD ESTATE.

JUNE 27, 29, JULY 1ST.

1. Consultation

We would draw your attention to the understand of the Tfl brief by Make:Good when they tendered for the contract from Tfl for Northwood. They were one of four.
In the Transaction Recommendation Report dated 2 June 2014 page 1 of the report states:
Make:Good.  Understanding of the Brief.
“Good identification of the risk of no development  and early mitigation of this.
Make:Good were scored 1.6 out of 2.
This is a significant statement in that from the very outset the thrust of the consultation was designed to ensure that Northwood residents would accept that development was inevitable and that Tfl had a legal obligation to do this when this was not the case.
It is important to remember that Make:Good are acting as agents of Tfl and have been paid a considerable sum of public money for their services to Tfl.
Many of the negative points do not appear in any of the feedbacks.  It is mentioned that only a very small majority wanted no change .  This comment is slanted.  Many residents were prepared to accept change but were never presented with a scheme involving the development of a new Station with step free access coupled with development on the Green Lane bridge down to Waitrose and on the original Blockbuster Site.  Development on the car park could have incorporated underground parking on two levels just as proposed now on the North of the site.  There could have been a mix of residential and retail. Tfl’s Green Lane/Station Approach estate, with an imaginative design, could have been renovated and beautified but the new exhibition plans again only involves total demolition. Exactly the same as the previous Bride Hall scheme of Tfl.
No attempt has been made to incorporate any of the present buildings in the scheme such as the corner Coral’s building built to such a high standing.  It is sheer vandalism on the part of Tfl to attempt to demolish that building.
From the very outset Tfl’s objective has been to squeeze every ounce of profit they could out of the Estate with no regard for anything else such as retaining the existing buildings.
Northwood’s Voice has wondered why Tfl should have gone to so much time and expense over this small site. The reason comes to light in documents obtained under the F of I Act. where Northwood is being used as a template for other contentious Tfl properties.
We consider a prime example of this is South Kensington (gateway to the museums) one of the the jewels of their estate they have tried to re-develop.
We refer you to the following from a Tfl meeting with residents of South Kensington in January 2015..
“Tfl explained that lessons were being learnt at the current development at Northwood”.

2. Traffic

At the exhibition the roundabout and the need for two sets of junction traffic lights was not shown on the plans.  The 331 bus was not depicted on the traffic plate leaving Central Way turning left to Uxbridge.
It was noticed  remodelling of Rowland Place had taken place the traffic to reduce traffic congestion with the parking in Rowland Place reduced by 50%.  Tfl later maintained this was a mistake?
It was stated the traffic is still being modelled but the residents of Northwood are supposed to understand what is being proposed for what is already a congested traffic road.
Synchronisation of the two sets of junction” traffic lights will not  smooth  the traffic flow east/west and west/east along Green Lane.  The traffic congestion along Green Lane will become very serious at all hours especially at peak hours, rush-hour, school drop-off and pick-up times. The residents of Northwood already have serious worries and this development, if it succeeds, will make the situation intolerable.  At the exhibition it was difficult to obtain answers on the traffic situation. Tfl tried to push this into the background.  No diagram was show of the vehicles to the planned 22 town houses.
It was stated the traffic plate was designed to be diagrammatic and accessible to all rather than technical.  Since Dec. 14 is this best Tfl could come up with or was it carefully obfuscated?

3.  CONSERVATION AREA.

The Northwood town centre, Green Lane conservation area comprise the commercial core of the Northwood area and is located on the junction of Green Lane, Maxwell Rd and Station Approach.  Green Lane was a quiet country road until the opening of the station in 1887.  Today, Green Lane and its environs is an important commercial centre and transport interchange.  Most of the buildings within the conservation area are of a high quality design and include a variety of different architectural styles, such as the Arts & Crafts, Neo-Classical and 1920-1930’s Art Deco, all with very good decorative features.  The street scene is of a very high standard made more interesting by the topography of the area. The topography of Green Lane/Station Approach will be completely wiped out by the proposed plans with this area standing proud appearing as if on an island.
The piazza would be on the level running down to the footbridge accessed at a street level directly from the piazza.  In other words the whole areas interesting topography will be lost with the blocks rising level with Green Lane.   The exhibition did not show a plate how this will look in the conservation area.  NV understand this will only be available at the end of September 2015.
The conservation area is carefully glossed over and statements made that the buildings are not worth saving. In whose opinion are they not worth saving?  Tfl’s expert or Hillingdon Council who made the buildings a conservation area?  Especially, as the consultant is paid by TFL.
We refer you to the statement in direct contradiction of this by a specialist expert on conservation.
TFL are fully aware that consent will not be granted for the demolition of buildings that make a positive contribution to the character or appearance of a conservation area.  Yet none are retained not even the iconic particularly fine former bank building built as one of a pair with the other standing at the corner of Hallowell Rd. formally the Midland Bank.  The answer given by TFL was they could not as it interfered with the financial return.  In fact, the architect conceded he wanted to incorporate it into the design but was prevented.  The council’s planning policies seek to preserve and enhance the architectural character and appearance of conservation areas as we point out on the website.  The modernistic scheme as shown does not enhance the conservation area though desperate attempts are made with photographs of existing features in Northwood as if to indicate this is what the buildings will incorporate.
It is also maintained that Make-Good /TFL showed a set of information incorporating the present buildings in Nov/Dec 14 preserving the buildings but did not pursue it in drawings as no resident wished to retain the buildings. When Tfl representatives were pressed why it was stated it was not within one of the visions in January 2015?  Every question in this respect at the exhibition was answered with a carefully rehearsed negative.
When Tfl were asked for further  information/details/drawing etc. referred to as shown to residents in Nov/Dec 14 showing a public space with the present buildings retained none is available?
It was then enlarged upon that to create an public space retaining the building would potentially result in having a multi storey car park on the present commuter car park and this is something that  residents of Hallowell Road, have been very vocal about not wanting to see as this would be very visible from their gardens.  We challenge this  It could easily be underground as now proposed on two levels by Tfl under the station to the North. Cost is stated to be a preventative.  We wonder what is the difference between excavations under the present station with its topograph and on the level of the tube car park?
It was stated the consultant team have experience of doing development within a conservation area and know that the key is to be sensitive to the qualities of the conservation area and character of the local area.  How does removing every single building mean being sensitive and contribute to the area with a building design with a flat roof on Green Lane without the architectural features of the present 2-storey buildings?
Policy BE4 does allow changes within a conservation area but only where the new development preserves the present buildings or enhances the qualities that contributed to the area’s designation.
Conservation Areas will be meaningless if Tfl are allowed to completely eliminate their present buildings lying in the Northwood Town centre conservation area in the name of profit.
The thrust to the residents of Northwood was directed into the sphere that if they wanted a public space, carefully nurture that this could only be obtained by starting afresh with a blank canvas.
All the publicity of reaching out to new people who have heard of the project has been that it is a fait accompli and here are the visions you can have.  It is then stated that people who felt very strongly about this stated a preference for neither vision and their feedback was recorded as such but if given a design as discussed above would have had a view.  In fact  NV know residents who opted for Option 2 only did so because there was no other incorporating the present buildings.

4. Parking

Parking levels, particularly for residential properties is an issue raised by many residents and is steadily getting worse around and in Northwood.  This development will greatly exacerbate this.
As proposed, the number of parking spaces planned is totally inadequate. The developers have suggested that not every householder will drive with allocated parking will only be 1 space for the 22 town houses.
We are sure the council will follow appropriate planning guidelines that suggest how many car parking spaces are included per flat or house, but the developer will suggest that it is not necessary to comply with these minimum standards due to the proximity to the town centre and tube.  Therefore they will argue that the new residents will not need to drive. It has been stated they should hire a car when needed or car share. This is totally unrealistic.
Not only will there be perhaps 500+ residents, there will be their visitors, their deliveries, maintenance vehicles with increased noise levels. The suggested number of parking spaces is totally inadequate. The proposed parking allocation is less than that already in place in other developments where parking is a problem and cars spill out into neighbouring areas such as the Rickmansworth Road by the golf club that has parking on both sides for a considerable length making passing especially where wide vehicles are involved difficult.
Many residents in the area do not limit their ownership to just one car per household and the older developments have more allocated parking than is proposed in this development.
The residents of Northwood have a right to be worried that the already limited parking available will become harder to find!  That will not just impact on residents, but could put people off coming into Northwood and local businesses could suffer too along with the local economy.
The intention is to retain existing levels of commuter parking which is recorded at 187 but this appears on the plans as commuter and retail.  There are presently 192 spaces and with others outside the car park it is 217.  As the underground car parking is both commuter and retail there is instantly a 5-10% squeeze on the present commuter space.
In the Option 2 there was to be 151 flats and town houses in the north site with only 2 spaces for them.   Remarks were made by the Tfl planners that people in flats should not have cars.  Another they should have a car pool . This is an impossible situation and cars will be pushed to the existing streets.

5.  South Site

Previous 17 town houses were planned with 34 spaces (2 each). This has been increased to 22 with 1 space each (previously 2) with 11 for visitor parking with its difficulty in controlling parking.  It is a model for social arguments amongst the owners.

6.   Loss of Jobs

The loss of 23 skilled jobs at the car repair facility is to be deplored.  This is a loss of income to the local economy with the consequent loss to the exchequer as income tax is lost and benefits have to be paid.  When raised it was simply stated an unfortunate casualty.  The whole issue of the loss of approximately 150 jobs and income to the economy of Northwood was carefully avoided by Tfl and its advisors but is an important issue that will not go away.
No figure is available for the loss to the economy of Northwood and associated shops due to the loss of  20  businesses.  Tfl carefully skirt around this when asked for figures of the loss of gnp to Northwood.

7.   Density

Previously 151 flats and town houses on the north of the site and 17 town houses on the south of the site.  No figure was available at the exhibition except to state 1-4 bedroom flats and duplexes.  The London Plan advises that for an urban setting, an approximate density on this site should be 45-170unit/hectare and depending on typical unit size, between 200-450 habitable rooms/hectare.
In view of the fact nothing was now stated for density, no of flats, no of town houses to the north no figure was given for density except to say it would approach the 170 unit/hectare.  If it does approach the maximum how can this scheme it must be of a scale that harmonises with its surrounding of Northwood. We could have between 450-500 people crammed onto this small site.  The previous scheme of Tfl/Bride Hall had a density of 335 hb/ha and 127 u/ha
No person at the exhibition could or would not give a figure for the number of families they expected to be housed or the number of people. Only it was not known.  This is unacceptable.  How the people of Northwood to comment and judge?
The statement is made massing has been reduced without any explanation other than a pitched roof along Green Lane reduces massing-how?  The drawing still shows 4 storey Green Lane developments with a flat roof.
It was noted that on the south site stated that the number of town houses had been increased from 17 to 22 by reducing the width.  The density has been increased on the same area by 29%
The previous TFL scheme  submitted 5/12/11 had 335 hb/ha and 127u/ha.  Yet steadfastly TFL refuse to give any indication in this exhibition of density yet residents are asked to comment.
The density matrix agreed to by Hillingdon in the publication ”HOUSING SUPPLEMENTARY PLANNING GUIDANCE NOVEMBER 2012” from the Mayors Supplementary Guidance and in the table 3.2 it advises that for an urban setting, an appropriate density  on this site should be 45-170 units/hectare and between 200-450 habitable room per hectare.   However, it is important to ensure that the scheme is of a scale to harmonise with its surroundings.  In the urban environment of Northwood this scheme does not.   
As at this date we have no idea of the density TFL are going to put on this site.

8.  Height of Blocks

When the site is flattened, excavated and the blocks built on the raised platforms the whole development area will be raised by up to 3 metres.. When asked to the architects if we were in the rear garden of a house in Maxwell Road what storey would we be looking at?  The answer was the second to third storey. The residents living in roads adjacent to the development will be looking at a mass of buildings raised to a considerable level on the skyline. These blocks will be built up from their platforms that start at the level of Green Lane and be an unacceptable high mass in the town centre.
It was very difficult for a resident visiting the exhibition to be able to visualise from the plans this massing in height, coupled with the high density of building.
 The height of the blocks rising from a flattened and raised level could be a minimum of 18m.

9. Retail Space

In option 2 it was shown as 3 retail units of 50sqm. on the blockbuster site and on the main site 9 further units.  This has now disappeared on the new drawings. Only indications of size some as large as 400 sq.m in the 1460 sq. me of retail space planned.
It was mentioned to some residents these were aimed at large chains.  None of the present shops have been offered a site as this is illegal as Tfl is a public body and they will have to bid for a place at the rent advertised by Tfl at London market prices prevailing at the time along with the prevailing business rates.  How many of the present shops will be able to move into the new units even if their bid is accepted.  What will happen to their customer base after being out of business for several years whilst the development takes place?
The residents of Northwood think that the shops will be looked after . Nothing is farther from the truth.
It is evident, as stated by Tfl, they are hoping to generate a mass of restaurant space. Whether takeaway or not Northwood is faced with the prospect of its small town atmosphere being completely destroyed with this mass of people, buildings and traffic.  It has already lost some of its urban environment with unremitting development over many years.  This development by Tfl, if allowed, will destroy much of the remainder in the conservation area.

10.  Design

The unjustified new high-level buildings will change forever the character of Northwood. It would indeed, as shown in the exhibition photographs simply make Northwood a clone of all of those characterless precinct type developments seen in many parts of the country. It is too far-reaching and unnecessary.  With imagination and good architects designs could have been achieved complementing what is already there and adding to the conservation area instead of removing a large part of it completely. Tfl have ensured this was not presented to the residents in their pursuit of a profit.

11.  Piazza

This will be overlooked on three sides by 4 storey blocks especially at the south end by a block running at right angles.  It will be shaded as it is only open to the north and wll be bereft of sunlight.  The only trees that can flourish will be badly affected by loss of sunlight yet trees are made a feature.
It will be narrow at only 15m wide at the south end (three quarters the width of a cricket pitch) whilst at the north entrance –18m .  In winter this could be a dank uninviting place especially with the block overhangs. The photographic reproduction is plainly done to give the impression of a wide width that is not the case. It is being advertised as a feature of a continental sunlit piazza that is far from the case in the UK and especially one that is heavily overlooked by 4-storey buildings.

12. Conclusion

It is feared the small type of business such as that of the small local sandwich bar will be driven out of business.  Where is the place of the small business entrepreneur in this scheme?  It is these we will lose in the Tfl quest for maximisation of profit.  The small business must remain in our high streets.  In this era of the internet it is this personal service which will survive.  Tfl propose to destroy this variety of business with its effects on the economy of Northwood.
If left alone to flourish with a renovated Green Lane and Station Approach with development as we have described Northwood will grow and prosper with its local businesses.  Prior to Waitrose Northwood had a thriving variety of shops but they steadily closed unable to compete.
Does anyone really believe that once  Tfl obtain planning permission will they care about the present small local businesses or will we do the same and mourn the loss of our shops and regret we did nothing about it.   TFL will look to attract larger chains to fill the large retail space.
With effort ingenuity and organisaton we can persuade our town planners to reject the scheme if presented to LBH provided  we come together to prevent the destruction of our town.

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