Thursday, 29 January 2015

The last word shall not be with the destroyer: West Hendon: then and now


It was early evening, Thursday, February 13th, 1941. 

No air raid warning had been sounded; few people had gone to their shelters. 

Light gunfire was heard, and the sound of a plane.

Suddenly, a fearful rushing, roaring noise, like the sound of an express train passing high up in the air. 

Lower it came.

People were blown off their feet as The Thing passed overhead. 

Then a terrific crash and roar, and three roads in West Hendon were laid waste. 

Over 70 people were killed, there were 150 casualty cases, eight people missing, many more suffered minor injuries, and upwards of 1,500 people were rendered homeless.

This is from the beginning of an account in a pamphlet published by the Hendon and Finchley Times, in 1945, describing a terrible event that happened only four years earlier in the recent war, an incident almost forgotten now, just before the seventy fifth anniversary, next year. 

Almost forgotten, because the memory lives on in among the people who live there now, in the council estate in West Hendon, their homes, their community, about to be obliterated as surely as those streets of houses destroyed by enemy bombing in 1941.

The memory lives on, preserved as oral history, tales told by older residents, and those who grew up in the area, and because of a certain place, an open space, endowed with special meaning by the local community, the park by the waterside of the Welsh Harp which they believe to be dedicated as a memorial to the many lives lost that night. 

I knew about the story of the West Hendon bombing, as my own father had served in the Auxiliary Fire Service, as a volunteer fireman, during the early part of the war, in the Edgware and Hendon areas, and then in central London during the worst of the Blitz. He witnessed the aftermath of direct hits on civilian targets, and would talk about the West Hendon incident, and the mysterious, massive bomb that took so many lives. 

In fact we know now, from official records, exactly what the mystery bomb was: 'an SC2500 kg maximum heavy explosive bomb, the equivalent of two V2 rockets' - as described in 'Hendon and Golders Green Past', by Hugh Petrie, the Barnet Borough archivist. The bomb was dropped by a Heinkel He 111: aiming possibly for the many factories in the area, or, as Hugh suggests, perhaps the Welsh Harp itself, in a sort of 'Dambusters' style assault to try to cause widespread flooding. It is believed a seaplane was kept on the reservoir throughout the war, in case of the need urgently to evacuate Churchill - or possibly the Royal Family: perhaps that was a factor too. 

Whatever the reason, the impact of the explosion was truly devastating, and widespread: forty houses destroyed outright; 160 in need of pulling down, 170 too badly damaged to be repaired until after the war; 400 more suffering various degrees of damage - and in one moment, 1,500 people had been made homeless.

The human cost in lives lost was extreme: seventy one dead, eight missing; as Barrett Newbery, the editor of the Hendon & Finchley Times, commented - it seemed that in some cases, whole families had been wiped out. He tells us the stories of some of those people: men, women and children, whose names he patiently lists.

In the borough's Archives, there are still the yellowing pages of the mortuary records of the residents of West Hendon who lost their lives that night. They make for deeply poignant reading.

The first three records, for example:  first of all the details of Edith Brine, who lived in Ravenstone Road, right at the epicentre of the explosion, identified by her stepdaughter, from a photograph, recognised by the lace on her vest, through which the ribbon ran, and which she had crocheted herself.  



Next was another middle aged woman, Agnes Bond, also from Ravenstone Road: then there is four month old Elizabeth Aldiss, identified by her grandmother. 

Newbery asks if anyone remembers 'little Charlie Watkins, who stood each night at the corner of Station-road, West Hendon, selling the evening papers? Courteous to everyone, was Charlie - and he always 'knew the winners'. His name you will find in the list above.'

In another instance, a baby's cradle was found, blown high up on top of a pile of debris. By some miracle, the baby was alive, although orphaned by the explosion. In another house, three sisters were fatally injured.

A Mrs Halliday was killed 'when a wall of her house was blown in upon her, but her husband pushed their two children under the kitchen table when the bomb was heard, and this saved the children's lives'.

One little girl, four years old,  was found in the wreckage of her home, her mother lying dead: rescuers tunnelled in to reach her. 'I can't come out', she said, I have no clothes on' - Her clothing had all been blown off.

In another house, a mother refused to go to hospital, until her trapped children had been freed ... the children's lives had been saved by a heavy dresser which fell on top of them and took the weight of the falling house.

Apart from fatalities, there were of course many, many casualties, including those seriously cut by glass, and in order to deal with these, before removal to hospital, an emergency casualty station was provided at the Deerfield Club: the community centre which has been acquired now by Capita, for demolition, and due to be built on.

There were twenty two rescue parties working to save people, as well as firemen dealing with the fires that broke out in the wreckage. The ARP, the Home Guard, local doctors and the local clergy, the Womens Voluntary Service and the Salvation Army all worked so hard that night to do what they could for the people of West Hendon: but perhaps most touching of all are the stories of those residents who put their own lives at risk to try to rescue others: family, friends, neighbours, tunnelling under the wreckage to help them, regardless of the danger, or performing great feats of endurance: 

Twenty year old Peggy Stanley, visiting friends when the bomb fell:

'The house was wrecked, but Peggy held up heavy debris and prevented it burying other people, including a Mrs Horner, and daughter, a 15 year old girl friend, and Peggy's 15 year old sister.'

Mr A Cannon, whose own mother had been badly injured, but thought of their invalid neighbour, 83 year old Mrs Payne, whose house was destroyed, and had lain under the debris for several hours.

Mr Arthur Dade, a warden whose own wife and children were reported missing, but, we learn: 

'stuck to his post all through the night and worked on for several days after the tragedy, until he was literally  ordered off duty. Then he had no home to go to. His was a fine example of devotion to duty, and I am glad to say he had his reward in that his wife and children were found not seriously hurt. He later received a commendation among the ARP honours'.  

In fact it seems, unsurprisingly, others were awarded medals for their courage that night, and rightly so. As the editor of the Hendon and Finchley Times put it, slightly patronisingly, the story of that night was one in which:

 'the Little People of London's suburbs showed the true spirit of the Home Front, while the men and women of Civil Defence and the kindred services demonstrated that calm efficiency and unfailing courage which gave cause for pride throughout London's hardest trials by fire and high explosive.'

After the war, apart from a few temporary prefabs eventually put in place to provide short term housing, the area destroyed by the bombing was left alone, in respect for those who died. 

Some of the land was added to York Park: and then, about forty five years ago, in an era when it seemed social progress meant the creation of low cost housing for local people, a small council estate was built, with houses and flats overlooking the beautiful Welsh Harp reservoir. 

In the late nineteen nineties, the estate was beginning to look a bit tired, and in need of some renovation. By 2002, when a Labour administration was briefly in charge of Barnet Council, it was suggested that the Decent Homes programme might be a way to improve the quality of lives of the residents of the estate, by a process of regeneration.

We all know what happened next, don't we? The Tories took control of the council again: they made all sorts of promises and pledges to the residents of the estate, tenants and leaseholders - and broke them, one by one, in the course of changing a genuine programme of regeneration into a deal with private developers, Barratts, and Metropolitan Housing Trust.

This details of this agreement have been kept secret, all requests to put the financial viability study in the public domain refused, in complete contradiction of the need for transparency, even at the stage of the current government Inquiry into the Compulsory Purchase Orders now hanging over the heads of the leaseholders of this estate. 

Because yes: despite the pretence of regeneration, this scheme has become not a replacement of housing for the people who live there, but an excuse for a massively profitable private luxury development, which will see the homes of West Hendon residents taken from them, and demolished, their community destroyed.

Within the past week, it has been confirmed that, as residents believed, Barratts were given the public land on which their private development is being built, while the residents' homes are being taken from them, and demolished. 

Or, as the response to a question from the Inspector Zoe Hill puts it: 'There is no monetary consideration for the land transfer'. 

We are also told only certain of the council's costs will be met by the developer. In my view, and the view I am sure of most residents and taxpayers of this borough, this 'transfer', and the consequent impact on the residents promised regeneration, and new homes, is simply scandalous.

Barnet Council and their development partners made it effectively impossible for any of the current leaseholders or tenants to move on to the new development.

Over the years, the council, through Barnet Homes, has had a policy of placing an increasing number of non secure tenants on the estate, many of whom are vulnerable in some way. Even though some of them have lived there for as long as a decade, the council would not give them secure tenancies, with the effect that they have few rights over the future allocation of any alternative accommodation, once their homes are knocked down, and they are evicted.

There are few secure tenants, but those few that there are, and their children, will be housed in a block outside the area of the new private development, on a former traffic island, with no views of the Welsh Harp, but looking over a section of the Edgware Road, now in a state of extreme decline - and next to two garages pumping out toxic fumes.

Leaseholders have had their properties - belatedly - valued by Capita, to be bought by Capita, at what the owners have stated are clearly way below market value. Capita's valuer, Mr Paul Watling, has admitted that his assessment of value is ultimately a subjective one, based on his opinion. 

In theory, there are a small number of properties on the new estate which leaseholders were eventually told they could apply for, in a shared equity deal. They must, however, provide 50% of the value of the new property, a level higher than in other similar schemes in the borough: and they simply cannot afford to do so, based on the low valuations by Capita.

It is clear, therefore, that every pledge made in the original agreement regarding the 'regeneration' has been broken: including one that to the people of West Hendon represents the final insult: the worst betrayal - the promise not to build on York Memorial Park. The council refuses in all its submissions even to refer to it as such, insisting on  calling what remains of it, after the developers have got their hands on it, as merely 'York Park'. There was no memorial status, they say, and dismiss all memories of a stone memorial on what is, ironically, now the location of the carefully placed, off-site block of housing for the lucky few secure tenants for whom the council must provide accommodation.

The promise regarding York Memorial Park, and its breach, has a significance that reaches beyond the bare outline of facts, that is to say an encroachment on land supposedly protected from development. 

To residents, it is symbolic of their humiliation, and an act of contempt from the developers, and the council. 

For the council, and Barratts, it might be considered to be a trophy of war: an act of triumph - a statement of victory. 

They don't give a damn about the history of West Hendon, just as they don't give a damn about the future of the community that lives there.

There is no such thing as community, in their eyes - and history? 

That only began in 2005, when Barratts moved into the picture, and the fantasy that is 'Hendon Waterside' was born.

Throughout the course of the Inquiry, one thing has become absolutely clear: the issue of York Memorial Park has become central to the argument not just for the residents, whose history and identity it represents, but for their opponents, the development partners, as represented by Neil King, QC. 

The subject is a constant matter of reference, for both sides. It was the insistence on constant rebuttal of residents' assertions about the Park, in fact, which first made me suspicious that the Acquiring Authority's case was not substantiated by that thing so dear to Mr King: Fact. He was of course relying on certainty of the information supplied to him by Barnet Council, and the developers.

It appeared to be almost a matter of subconscious betrayal of something, the emphasis on the Park, and the statement, repeated by counsel, that the order lands, as defined within the limits of the Phase 3 properties lined up for compulsory purchase, were NOT within the area bombed during the war. The Park itself, we were constantly told, despite everything the residents claimed, had NO association with any sort of memorial. Fact.

What happened next is explained in the statement I submitted to the Inquiry, and read out on Tuesday morning. I should add I did so under the threat, later dismissed, of putting myself at risk of a claim for costs, apparently for daring to tell the truth, discovered in the course of the Inquiry: that Barnet's planning officers, and Barratts as developers, are seemingly unable to interpret the evidence of their own maps, or verify their claims regarding the history of York Memorial Park though a search of the documentation held in the authority's own archives.


My name is Theresa Musgrove, and I am a resident of Barnet, and I write a local blog, ‘Broken Barnet’, in the course of which I have written several articles about the West Hendon ‘regeneration’.


I should point out that I do not live in West Hendon, and do not belong to any local campaign group, , but have attended some sessions of the Inquiry as an observer, and to report the proceedings. I did not imagine that I would be obliged to take part in the proceedings myself.


I believe the new evidence demonstrates to the Inspector that she has been given information by representatives of Barnet Council and Barratt London which is both inaccurate and misleading.


It is of course up to the Inspector to judge whether that is correct, and if so to speculate why that might be.


In the course of listening to evidence presented to the Inquiry I became increasingly concerned about the lack of documentation supporting the Council and developer’s assertions regarding York Memorial Park, for example, as Mr Thomas Wyld claims in his submission, at point 5.4

"A number of objectors have referred to York Park as a 'Memorial Park' left to the community during the Second World War. In fact, York Park existed prior to 1939 and is shown on Ordnance Survey Maps dating back to 1914. There is no evidence to support the argument that the park was created as a memorial to the Second World War".
  
Listening to the verbal evidence given by officers to the Inquiry hearing, however, led me to suspect that an objective assessment of the park’s history has not been made, as we believed.


After Thursday’s session I therefore visited the borough Archives, in the library next door to the Town Hall, and asked the archivist, Hugh Petrie, if it was true that there was no evidence to suggest the park had significance as a place of memorial. He immediately replied this was not correct.


Mr Petrie has a particular interest in the history of West Hendon, and in his own book, ‘Hendon and Golders Green Past’, published 2005, refers to the terrible events of 13th February 1941, in which a massive SC2500 kg bomb, the equivalent of two V2 rockets, was dropped on the area by a Heinkel He 111, destroying 40 houses, damaging hundreds of others, and making 1,500 homeless. The centre of the impact, the book suggests, was at 50 and 52 Ravenstone Road: See Appendix 1. The range of destruction wrought by the explosion, however, was far wider.


We spent two hours reviewing relevant material which included maps, some of which, curiously, are included in the core documents but appear to have been misinterpreted, but other resources, such as the mortuary records of the civilian fatalities, example at Appendix 5.


The most important of these I attach as Appendix 2 – a pamphlet published by the editor of the Hendon and Finchley Times, circa 1945: title ‘Hendon and Her Neighbours’.

This document includes a detailed and moving description of the widespread loss of life, and the courage of local residents who risked their own lives in order to save others: see Appendices 2a, 2b, 2c; It also has two photographs associated with the event.


These two photographs, reproduced in Appendix 3, show a memorial service held on the site of the bombing, attended by 3,000 people, with a cross made from a damaged tree. 



This cross, as stated in Appendix 2c stood in the open space where the worst of the destruction occurred, as noted in 1945.


Below the second photograph it is stated that a memorial service ‘has been held on the site each year since’. Although this post-war pamphlet is undated, a brief inspection of the local newspaper archives produced a story from 1950 – see Appendix 4 – which proves that at least nine years after the event, these memorial services were continuing in York Park.


The wooden cross made from a damaged tree was clearly of symbolic status to the people of West Hendon, and memories of a more permanent memorial would make sense, as would the belief that the trees in York Park were planted to commemorate the lost civilian lives.


Another important discovery is that although York Park did exist pre-war, the park appears to have been expanded post-war, in the area south west of what is now Marriotts Close. This would appear from maps and the photograph of the bombsite, Core Document York Park Appendix 1, to be due to the loss of houses destroyed in the 1941bombing, and this land eventually being co-opted into the open space.


Ravenstone Road, pre-war, followed a straight course down to the water’s edge: compare the information from the York Park Core Document Maps etc. It lies partly beneath Marriotts Close.


It would therefore seem likely that the buildings in Marriotts Close that are within the redline zone of the land the developers wish to acquire by compulsory purchase are, as well as part of York Park, and in contradiction to the assertions made by officers and the developers’ representatives, part of the area in which many residents lost their lives in the 1941 incident.


Bearing in mind the nature of the explosion, and references to missing residents, it is sadly possible that this is a place of interment, as well as memorial.


This new material is of immense significance to the Inquiry, as it supports the strength of feeling amongst the local community in reaction to the broken pledge not to build on this ground, and why they see the handing over of this ground to private developers as not only a betrayal of a promise, but as the desecration of a site of memorial.


It seems clear that the council has broken its pledge to residents to protect such a sensitive site, in allowing developers who we now know from a letter from the Secretary of State, in the Core Documents, to have acquired the land for ‘less than best consideration’, to exploit the commercial value of a place of such importance to our local history:  the heart of what is effectively, to the people of West Hendon, their Ground Zero.


According to the ‘Hendon Air Raids’ pamphlet in the aftermath of the bombing, the local Mayor said:


 ‘Bruised and battered they may be, and their little homes in ruins: but there’s no whimpering or grousing. There is the determination that the Nazi barbarians shall not get us down. Here we have people reflecting the real British spirit: they are of the breed that a dozen Hitlers will never smash.’


It seems that British spirit continues in the resilience and courage of the West Hendon residents fighting this development. But the enemy they are fighting now is not waging war from the air, but by a subversion of the democratic process which the wartime generation sacrificed so much to defend.


It is true to say that housing occupies some of the original site of the West Hendon bombing, but that was council housing, and meant to provide decent and truly affordable housing for the local community. The Barratts development has taken that land, and is using it for private profit, whilst dispossessing the local community.


The issue of York Memorial Park is significant in a number of ways: residents refer constantly to it in their objections to the development, not as a technical argument but as something of immense pride and more: a symbol of the loss of tenure they hold over their own history, and their own future. 
 

This development is not the regeneration of their estate promised so long ago, but a private development of luxury housing, on public land, from which they are excluded, has caused years of distress and now leaves them facing the destruction of their community, and the loss of their homes.


The other significance is that the way in which Barnet Council and Barratts have sought to minimise the arguments put by residents who do not have access to the expensive legal support their opponents are able to obtain. These residents, many of whom are financially disadvantaged or vulnerable in other ways, were not able properly to challenge the planning process, nor the case put before the Inquiry, and I believe there has been a serious inequality in the course of the development process.


The inaccurate information put before this Inquiry regarding York Memorial Park should perhaps act as reason to doubt the accuracy and veracity of other claims made by the council and developers, and remind us of the potential conflict of interest arising from Capita’s involvement in both running the ‘regeneration’ scheme and overseeing the planning process.


I believe the Secretary of State may well have been misled at the earlier stage of approving the handover of land to the developers as to the real significance of the area, and the real likelihood of residents being accommodated in the new scheme.

I believe that the new evidence suggests there is a real argument for not confirming the Compulsory Purchase Order of the properties in Phase 3 of this development. It is true to say this will inconvenience the developers, who claim this would affect their return of profit, but that is another unsubstantiated assertion which demonstrates why the viability study that has been withheld from public scrutiny should be presented to the Inquiry.

 Appendices:

1. Hendon and Golders Green Past, Hugh Petrie 2005 
2. Hendon and Her Neighbours, Barrett Newberry, circa 1945 
2a – A Mystery Bomb 1 
2b – A Mystery Bomb 2 
2c – A Mystery Bomb 3 
3. Photographs of the Memorial Service in York Park, from same 
4. Article from the Hendon & Finchley Times, 17th February 1950 
5. Mortuary Record, Edith Brine, Ravenstone Road 
 
While giving my evidence, the counsel for the Acquiring Authority busied himself very loudly with shuffling papers about, and whispering urgently, and rather distractingly, to his colleague. At the end, he declined to ask any questions, which was not surprising, although slightly disappointing. 

According to his biography, Mr Neil King, QC,  is famous for being 'unflappable', and Mrs Angry at least would have rather enjoyed seeing if she could make him flap. 

And to express the view that it was quite extraordinary that she, with her grade three o level in geography, would appear to be more skilled at map reading than the planning officers of the London Borough of Broken Barnet, upon whose Facts he had relied throughout the course of the Inquiry.

But he merely smiled politely, and said: thank you, that was  ... very helpful. Hard to tell, but possibly this was not entirely true.

Certain parties amongst the Barnet, Capita, Barratts contingent sitting at the Inquiry gazed across the room, with interesting looks on their faces: as much as you can tell, from the curiously emotionless expressions they have assumed throughout the Inquiry, with one or two individuals smirking at the evidence given by residents, or even, in the case of one senior officer, falling asleep.

A sixty minute programme from the BBC has been commissioned to tell the story of what has happened here, in West Hendon, and the proceedings of the Inquiry filmed throughout the week. This appears not to concern the attending parties whose development is at the heart of the matter, but it promises to be compelling viewing, in the tradition of that very British theme: the refusal of the underdog to accept defeat, and submit to the enemy.  

As the film maker commented to me: no need to wait to make a film like Pride, or Made in Dagenham, or look back at Passport to Pimlico: here is a story happening right now, in front of our eyes. 

And in my view, it is one that we need to understand, right now, before the next election, and before we launch into another period of government by those who put profit before people, and see communities as expendable, an irrelevance to be removed, and their history eradicated, as if it had never existed.

The wooden  cross that once stood in the wreckage of the West Hendon bombing marked a place of memorial, and commemoration: it was a symbol of defiance, and survival. As the then Dean of Hendon said:

The last word shall not be with the destroyer. That is the meaning of our service, and of the simple Cross under which we stand ... Such scenes of desolation as this form a terrible monument to the wickedness of those who pursue brute force without reference to the God of Righteousness, and Justice and Love, before Whom they must one day render account for their deeds.

The 'Little People' of London's suburbs, whom they sought to smash, live on bearing the unquenchable torch of Freedom, and the rough wooden Cross at West Hendon remains as a symbol of the spirit that prevailed against the greatest peril of oppression humanity has ever had to face.

The wooden cross has gone, and so has the stone memorial: the park remains - and so does the spirit which prevailed, in 1941, amongst the people of West Hendon. 


These are not 'little people': they are magnificent, courageous, intelligent and resourceful citizens, being dealt a terrible injustice, but determined, in the absence of any access to legal support, to defend themselves and their community from the prospect of another form of destruction, from a different enemy.

The next post will report their testimony, given to the Inquiry over the last two days.

In the meanwhile, here, for the record, are the names of the people of West Hendon, who lost their lives in 1941. 

I would suggest to the developers that, as well as giving the residents of the estate justice, and abiding by the promises made to them so long ago, they make penance for their failure to respect the status of York Memorial Park, and pay for a new memorial, with all these names inscribed, in time for the seventy fifth anniversary, next year.

Violet Kathleen Adams
Alice Susannah Adams
Jacqueline Alldis
Peggy Joan Eva Beasley
Agnes Louise Bond
Edwin Bowen
Charlotte Bowen
Thomas Newman Brine
Edith Mary Brine
Lucy Cannon
Ivy Chambers
Julia Ann Cowland
Walter Cowland
Alice Collip
Walter Collip
Edna Adele Crabtree
Sarah Jessie Doherty
Walter J Dodge
William Evans
Daisy Florence Evans
Gertrude Emma Ellner
Florence Alice Fairbrass
Walter George Fairbrass
Patricia Mattie Fox
Sidney Martin Fox
Helen Brice Francis
Walter Good
Jean Cynthia Good
Gladys May Halliday
Dorothy Jeanette Hockett
Elizabeth Mary Holland
Eliabeth Holland
Jean Mary King
Edith King
Martha Kennedy
Sarah Loxton
Frederick Mardle
William Moffatt
John Moffatt
Minnie Moffatt
Blanche Lilian Hilda Moffatt
Stanley Mowlem
Ellen Alice Nicholson
Kenneth Frederick Preston
Ethel Preston
William Parker
Norman Pearman
Violet May Ponder
Brian Edgar Peacock
Gerald Preston
Bertie William Radley
Kitty Margaret Radley
Kitty Maud Radley
Pamela Blanche Radley
George Sloss
Elizabeth Spurr
Ethel Blodwin Sutcliffe
Arthur Timms
Mary Watkins
Charles Watkins
James Wilkinson
Richard Albert Waters
Ellen Minnie Walton
Edithe Mary Walker
Arthur Baker Warman
Nellie Warman
Isabella Warrington
Walter Thomas Willson
Roy George Woodbridge






Tuesday, 27 January 2015

A confusion in tenses, and: the difference between value, and worth - the West Hendon Inquiry continues

West Hendon resident Leigh, who has lived there since the estate was built, more than forty years ago, but will lose her home to the new development.

Thursday at the West Hendon Housing Inquiry began with evidence from Andrew Dismore, the London Assembly member for Hendon, and former MP.

He explained how he had seen the West Hendon scheme evolve over a period of many years, from a genuine desire to regenerate a badly neglected estate to what he described as something very different indeed: that is to say the private development by Barratts.

Then Tory leader Brian Salinger said the council 'guaranteed' every tenant and owner occupier would be offered a new home in West Hendon ...' Residents were balloted early on in the process, on the basis of wonderful pledges, which have of course not been met. No re-balloting has been carried out, despite the fundamental change in the nature of the proposals.

In November 2007, Andrew Dismore carried out his own consultation with residents, with absolutely conclusive support for a new ballot, and expressing concern over the new plans, which he described as 'not a regeneration, a redevelopment'. 

Over the years, the effect of 'blight' caused by the proposals has seriously affected  leaseholders trying to sell their properties, and now of 19 examples who qualify for shared equity deals, only a couple can afford them.

Barnet Council had 'cottoned on' to the idea of putting more and more non secure tenants on to the Estate: they were, he said, 'treated like pawns on a chessboard, the first to be moved, easily sacrificed ...' Only recently have they been able to stand up for themselves. There is no provision for them on the new scheme, even though many of them have lived on the estate for years, some ten years or more, their families putting down roots, their children going to local schools. 

Private tenants had been completely overlooked, and had no rights in the 'regeneration'.

The density of the scheme, suggested Dismore, was far too great, and greatly exceeds the GLA level, with buildings of up to 31 storeys, so close to the Welsh Harp, a Site of Special Scientific Interest. 

He then referred to the loss of York Memorial Park, not only as part of the problem of density, but as a memorial to the civilians lost in the World War 2 air raid: it would be, as the developers put it 'completely refigured'. Originally it had been promised it would be retained: it was now going to be lost. 

He referred to the inadequacy of parking provision, and traffic management, the lack of infrastructure, the impact on wildlife.

Neil King QC, for Barnet and Barratts, remarked that there was no statutory requirement for a re-ballot. Andrew Dismore suggested that it was still 'morally right' to undertake such a process. 

Oh dear, thought Mrs Angry. All these years in politics, Andrew, and you still worry about morality: have you learned nothing? 

It is a fact, isn't it, asked Mr King, that there had been no legal challenge to the planning consent? 

Awfully keen on Facts, is Mr King. (Which is good, as Mrs Angry now has some new Facts for Mr King to consider, if she is allowed to present them today).

Dismore tried to explain why that was: but how do you explain to a well paid barrister how impossible it is for disadvantaged residents on a council estate to formulate a legal challenge to anything?

Back to the question of tenants: Barnet Council, claimed Andrew Dismore, had manipulated the system by using non secure tenants for their own pusposes. Letters sent at the beginning of the scheme making promises had referred to every council tenant, and had not differentiated between different types of tenure.

He thought leaseholders should be properly compensated for the losses incurred in the value of their properties, including the impact of 'blight' from the long drawn out 'regeneration' process: offers were way below an acceptable standard.

Regarding his allegations about density, Mr King suggested that issue had been addressed at the planning stage. Depends what you mean by 'addressed', said Dismore. It appeared to be becoming a question of linguistics.

As for matters of biodiversity, Mr King offered the opinion that the matter had been resolved as objections from certain national bodies had been withdrawn. Not the full picure, said Andrew. Local wildlife groups who were better informed were still concerned. 

They continued to disagree, hardly surprisingly since Dismore is also a lawyer, and tenacious in argument. At one point Mr King became rather annoyed because he thought the witness had asked him  a question. He was not here, he was reminded, to ask questions. It was rhetorical, said Andrew.

Back to the issue of York Park. Mr King referred to the statement made by planning officer Mr Wyld. What evidence do you have for saying York Park is preserved as a memorial?

From residents, he was told, who used to live here at the time. But the park was there on the 1935 map? It became a memorial to the dead, said Dismore. King disagreed, and demanded evidence. 

He was told again, it was remembered by people who lived here at the time.

Mr King wanted Facts, of course, and now Mrs Angry has provided those Facts, so we must wait and see if they are allowed as evidence tomorrow. 

There is no real alternative, suggested the QC, to the current scheme. The reply was that we needed access to the viability study, and a reminder that when the new Labour leader took over in Hammersmith & Fulham, he was able to extract an extra £26 million from current agreements with developers for affordable housing. 

Councillor Devra Kay, and long term West Hendon resident and leaseholder Kalim

After a break, it was time for Dan Knowles to ask questions on behalf of residents: he is retained by some leaseholders, and acting as an advocate for tenants, which is just as well, as other wise they would have no one acting for them with any idea of procedure. Mr Knowles is a truly admirable man, in fact, impeccably fair, and yet firmly protective of the rights of those in West Hendon who would otherwise have no informed representation at this Inquiry, in contrast to the services of Barnet and Barratt's QC.

Dan referred to Perryfields, where it is believed there once stood a memorial to the many civilian victims of the 1941 bombing raid. Residents say the memorial disappeared, and a car park was put there. 

The car park itself has now been used to put the building no one wants, developers or residents: an afterthought - a holding place for secure tenants, the ones who are lucky enough to have some rights, and cannot be 'decanted' elsewhere against their will, by the council, unlike the non secure tenants kept on 'temporary' arrangements for up to ten years or so. 

This building is outside the footprint of the luxury housing, of course: the deserving poor must be kept away from those who buy their new properties, and whereas the newcomers will have lovely views of the Welsh Harp, the original residents will now gaze, as Andrew Dismore, cribbing from this blog, told Ed Miliband last week, on the back yards of the kebab shops of the Edgware Road. If they haven't all closed by then.

Ironic, then, that the unwanted residents of the council estate built to provide them with decent housing, post war, are now shoved on to the former location of the memorial: a place marked for things to be forgotten - the living and the dead.

After a break Andrew Dismore was questioned further by Dan Knowles: he commented on the way in which off plan sales of properties on new developments discriminates against local residents, and does not create a decent, settled community. The example of Beaufort Park was raised, where those moved there on shared equity deals found themselves facing huge service charges.

Next to take a seat as a witness, or rather to continue cross examination by Dan Knowles, was planning officer Mr Thomas Wyld. 

All Barnet planning officers now, of course, are now employed by the Capita-Barnet joint venture 'Re'. Yes: Capita is in charge of planning - and in charge of valuing the leasehold properties, and buying them too; and at the same time are expected to safeguard the best interests of residents, including the residents of West Hendon. A difficult juggling act, one might conclude.

A discussion on density ensued: Mr Wyld informed us that high density was not a reason for refusal of a planning application  - even on this scale.

As for criticisms of lack of services such as healthcare, and schools? Meh. No objections had been received in regard to the former, and seven out of twelve GPs were taking on new patients. Mrs Angry counted on the fingers of both hands, and then again, and calculated that that meant five out of twelve were not, which might cause problems when a couple of thousand new families arrived in West Hendon, as indeed would the lack of any new primary school to cater for the children, at least in the immediate future. 

Ah, but Mrs Angry, Mr Wyld had an answer for that too: families, children, illness - no. There won't be any, see, in Hendon Waterside, just as we hear a vicar near Beaufort Park was told there wouldn't be any there. 

Apparently, in the perfect world envisaged by the designers of luxury housing developments, the ideal residents are young professionals with busy jobs, mortgages, disposable salary, and no children. They must never be unwell, or have children, in fact, because that would spoil everything, and create a demand for ... schools and GPs and parks, and all the sort of things developers don't want to think about, as there is no profit in them.

Mr Wyld put it another way, when asked about the lack of any new secondary schools, he said that the 'child yield' projections indicated that, even taking into consideration of the existing 'child bulge' (feck knows) there would be no need for one. 

Odd, because we are promised a new primary school, so some statistical 'slippage', as it were, must be predicted between the crisply ironed sheets of Hendon Waterside's future inhabitants, but clearly when these inconvenient children reach the age of 11, they will be bussed out of the safe world of the new development, across the dangerous comprehensively schooled territory of West Hendon, to QEBoys, or Henrietta Barnett.

Time for residents' spokeswoman Jasmin Parsons to examine Mr Wyld. 

Good Morning - and how are you? she asked, in her disarming way, and then launched straight into the subject of - yes, York Park. York Memorial Park. She insisted there had been a stone cross on the car park site, and a service held in York Park. 

As we know now, of course she was absolutely right all along: but that is for the next post.

A disagreement followed now about the lack of transport planning: the bus lanes that would be lost, despite the big increase in traffic. They are only broken bus lanes, commented Mr Wyld, unmoved. Of course, thought Mrs Angry. This is Broken Barnet, after all.

Community facilities: so much promised by the council, and so little delivered - community centres closed, and not replaced, or rents charged to residents. When will the new centre be available? No one could say, for certain, but it would not be anytime soon. The Deerfield Social Club, known locally as 'The Madhouse': taken off them, 0r rather 'acquired', by Capita - and not being replaced. 

After lunch, Mrs Angry went to the cafe next door, in Hendon Library, with Councillor Kay, and was suddenly struck by an idea, the result of a peculiar suspicion that had been growing over listening to evidence over the last couple of days of the Inquiry. She left her half eaten sandwich on the table and hurried upstairs to see if the borough archivist was around. He was. 

Did he know anything about York Memorial Park, in West Hendon? 

He did. 

Was it true, as she expected him to confirm, that there was no evidence at all to substantiate the story that the park had any sort of memorial status? 

He looked at her, rather bemused. That was not true at all, he said: did she want to see the material he had? 

Yes - yes: as a matter of fact, she did. 

It was arranged she should come back in an hour or so to see what was held in the Archives.

In the meanwhile, back for a short session at the Inquiry. 

Giving evidence now was Mr Paul Watling, head of valuation at Capita. 

(Mrs Angry, who is easily amused, and easily distracted by the significance of such things, thought it apt that the  the valuer from Capita should take his name from that of the Roman road, Watling Street, which became the Edgware Road, on which the West Hendon estate is located ...)

Leaseholders on the estate are angry because they say Capita has undervalued their homes, and they cannot meet the 50% contribution required in the belatedly offered shared equity scheme on new properties. Mr Watling tried to explain why these valuations were so low.

He told us leasehold properties had been inspected for valuation on an 'ad hoc' basis. Offers had been made to owners, and then revised offers. Oh, and a letter had been sent to leaseholders by the deputy Chair of Hendon Conservative Association. Move on, move on, nothing to see here. Yes, just a letter from Tory councillor Tom Davey, lead member for housing, in his capacity as ... oh. Oh dear: doesn't sound credible, does it? But here you go: a real treat, featuring the man who wants the new development stuffed full with Russian oligarchs, and the MP who previously described the leaseholders and tenants who tried to lobby him at a constituency meeting last year as a 'ragtag bunch', hid in the church hall, refused to see them, and then had to be taken home in the back of a police van. Enjoy.


When the Inquiry resumed on Friday morning, Paul Watling returned to continue with his evidence, cross examined by Dan Knowles.

He said that offers to leaseholders had been made by post last June. Mr Knowles pointed out that in some cases, offers were made a matter of hours before the Compulsory Purchase Orders were made.

Only 16 out of 34 properties were inspected.

So some offers were made when the properties had not been inspected?

Yes, they were.

What about residents who had to be informed of the possible loss of rights of access?

All parties written to on the 10th July. But it transpired that Mr Watling was now of the opinion that there were no 'justifiable claims'. After questioning about timescales, he qualified this by saying at the moment he thought no rights were impacted.

Inspector Zoe Hill was interested in how Mr Watling had arrived at his valuations. He said based on 'market transactions' on the estate, and outside it, although it was difficult to make comparisons on market value directly to West Hendon, because it 'depends on one's judgement'. Ah. It was his opinion, ultimately, it seems. And his opinion was that West Hendon properties were pretty well 'obsolete'.

There had been 'revised offers', and goodwill payments dangled in front of some leaseholders, but of course they were obliged, if accepted, to withdraw from the Housing Inquiry which had been appointed.

Next came some awkward questions about the letter from Cllr Davey. This offer, about to be offered: or had it already been offered? Ah. It seems there was only a 'confusion in tenses'.

The use of the Conservative Association heading, said Mr Knowles, suggested some political interference over the most recent offer ...? If it is Capita who advises over the level of offer, how is it the Conservative Association can make this goodwill gesture?

I think you would need to ask the Conservative Association. Mr Watling had known nothing about the letter, until he saw it in a submission to the Inquiry. He would probably have advised that it should not have been sent.

Jasmin's turn: she observed, amongst other interesting matters, that Capita's low offers had the effect of ensuring no one from the estate would be able to stay on the new development.

Mr Watling said that as a valuer, I am concerned with value.  

There is a difference, he said, between value, and worth.

Capita, commented Jasmin, run around seventy per cent of council services, now. Is there not a conflict of interest, here?

No, he didn't believe so. Capita was simply a number of different services, albeit 'under the one umbrella'. 

Councillor Adam Langleben asked if he would agree that the 'regeneration' has brought a blight to property values. No, he was not sure he would. There were historic and physical factors. Yes, thought Mrs Angry, like a history of neglect by the council landlords.

Councillor Devra Kay pointed out that there seemed to be no consideration given to the beautiful location and views of these properties, and the presence of the wildlife. And that the shoddy repairs, and having to live on a building site was not their fault. 

Mr Watling kept repeating that the valuations were largely calculated on the basis of his opinion, and therefore the process we now know was entirely subjective, and has no inbuilt safeguard for the best interests of owners.

The last witness of the day was surveyor and CPO expert Dan Knowles, no longer cross examining but making his own statement. 

He explained that for his 19 clients entitled to shared equity deals, there were only ten properties available, and only one actually affordable. There were hidden costs which helped make such a deal prohibitive: huge service charges, £13, 000 charges for a parking space.

In regard to those clients facing loss of access rights, the impact was not yet known.

The level of public consultation was of an insufficient standard: the ballot was twelve years old and out of date. 

He described the case of an elderly resident with heart and lung conditions, whose GP had recommended she should move as soon as possible. Listening to this one really had to wonder why any attempt to rehouse this poor woman had not been done long ago, to save her and her family such distress throughout the construction works now making life so unbearable for residents.

Mr King's turn to examine Mr Knowles. The limitations of the Inquiry, we were reminded were that it could only consider whether the CPOs could be confirmed. It was not about valuation. There was no requirement for market value offers until the Secretary of State confirmed this, although it was good practice, said Mr Knowles, to do this. Otherwise purchasers start low and progress upwards, Equally the surveyors will start high, said Mr King.

'Blighting effects' had to be left out. Yes, said Mr Knowles, you have to value as in a 'no scheme world'. 

A no scheme world. Is there such a place? Not in Broken Barnet, where every property has its price, and a house is only a home if you can afford to buy it, and not always even then.

Before Mrs Angry realised what was happening, there was a sudden diversion to the matter of York Park, and a reference to 'new evidence'. She sat up, and watched with some wry amusement the reaction in certain quarters.

What that evidence is, will be the subject of the next post, but let us say it was enough for Dan Knowles to question the assertions made for so long by the council and Barratts about the park, and indeed the bombing raid. 

This put something of a spanner in the works, as you can imagine. Despite having made arrangements to submit this new evidence, the Inspector appeared not to realise this, and alluded somewhat obscurely to 'cost implications', as did Mr King, who then smoothly added that of course, at this stage, he had not intention of making any such application. Mrs Angry didn't know what they were banging on about, then: just as well, probably.

Anyway, said Mr King: the bomb fell outside the area under consideration. Mrs Angry shook her head, but he didn't notice. 

The discussion turned at last to the matter of consultation. Mr King was of the opinion that residents had had an opportunity to participate in the planning process. Mr Knowles thought that they felt disengaged, and disenfranchised. The residents felt they were not being effectively listened to, but rather told what was happening. Any engagement then, he thought, seemed to them to be a 'futile exercise'. 

There is a difference, said Neil King, QC, between listening to, and taking action


It didn't necessarily mean accepting their views.

Indeed, thought Mrs Angry. 

Why would anyone think that any consultation with residents and tax payers facing the demolition of their homes, and the destruction of their community, should carry any obligation to respect their opinion? 

Who are these people, to put their private loss before the interests of private developers, and the half baked political agenda of our crackpot Tory council?


The hearing resumes this morning. 


It promises to be an interesting day.