Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The price of Brian Coleman: Boris panics and pulls out all the stops

By an extraordinary coincidence, on the day of Boris Johnson's visit to Broken Barnet for the 'Talk London' event in Hendon, two interesting announcements have been made.

One tells us that Boris has suddenly decided to renege on the agreement made to support hugely controversial Brent Cross Cricklewood development, the most important development in London, and one that has been in progress for a decade: according to a story in tonight's Standard, the scheme is effectively 'dead in the water'. Brian Coleman is quoted approving of Boris' move, thus neatly taking credit for seeing off a scheme fought unsupported by local activists - see below for their press release.

The second announcement informs us that Barnet is to be given another beautifully timed hand out from the Mayor's Outer London fund, a fund Mrs Angry had never heard of until the run up to the elections this May, funnily enough. Boris has just given Chipping Barnet high street £400k and now look: good news ... the story in the local Times claims £3.7 million pounds of mroe money found down the back of his sofa is on its way.

Ah, except that when you look at the detail, nearly £1 million of this has actually been given by cash strapped Barnet, to itself, in a ceremonial offering to the Boris campaign. this is to be spent on, ha ha, a 'cultural quarter' in North Finchley around the Arts Depot ... funny that we cannot afford culture when it comes to keeping our museums, but can find the money when it comes to keeping Boris Johnson supplied with good news stories before his visit to the borough.

The truth is that the Mayor's advisers know that they have to resort to desperate measures in order to try and mitigate the Brian Coleman factor, when it comes to the Barnet and Camden consituency. Coleman and the parking fiasco are responsible for a spectacular loss of Tory support in this area: this stunt is aimed at distracting us from the realities of another four bloody years with Coleman, and the resulting fall out for Boris's campaign by association. Will it work?

Just how stupid do you think we are, Boris?

Press release from the “Coalition for a Sustainable Brent Cross Cricklewood Development”

17 Jan 2012:

The campaign welcomes the collapse of the grotesque, car-based Brent Cross scheme. However, it is totally unacceptable to still go ahead with the easy-profit shopping centre expansion, which we are told is a “possibility”.

We demand the whole plan is scrapped, and the arrogant local developers, and their ineffective PR company, are removed from the project.

Measures in new Localism Act mean that over-bearing property companies, in alliance with conceited Barnet Council, cannot get away with “business as usual”. This is a great day for people-power – not Hammerson plc and not Mike Freer (former Barnet leader, now MP).

We want development based on people’s aspirations for a sustainable, low-carbon, exciting regeneration of the area. This means starting from scratch, and will also obviously have to wait for improvements in the economy.

The developers have wasted many years – not ONE home has been built, not ONE transport improvement. Barnet Council has also wasted many hours of work in promoting something nobody wanted - their web site still estimates 29,000 extra cars every day in the Brent Cross area, which would cause traffic misery.

The developers have just received planning permission for a small building at Brent Cross – but have resorted to making the application from a tax haven in the Channel Islands. They have no shame, and are behaving no better than bankers.

Lia Colacicco, Co-ordinator of the Brent Cross Coalition, said:

“The regeneration was always a mirage, despite the PR spin, the developers were only ever committed to building a few hundred new housing units anyway. In return for cheaply purchasing large swathes of public land, their main return to the local population would have been gridlocked traffic. I hope the next deal is more transparent, and involves a stretch of light rail to link to local tube lines.”

Alison Hopkins, Dollis Hill resident, said:

“What we are being offered now is little different from the rejected shopping centre planning application of 13 years ago. We will still get lots of extra traffic, but no transport improvements. The developers want to “pick the low-hanging fruit” of what pays out quick profits. The Brent Cross Waste Incinerator seems to be a dead project now, but we will continue to campaign, to make absolutely sure.”

David Howard, Chair of the Federation of Residents Associations of Barnet, said:

“The Brent Cross Cricklewood development would have had a negative impact on the infrastructure and the environment of much of North London and for generations to come. Brian Coleman cannot quote my phrase of “hobbit homes”, since he has done nothing to stop the scheme, and we have. We need the public land at Brent Cross to be kept out of the hands of the developers, and corridors across it reserved for a future light railway to Brent Cross Northern Line station, and to other local areas.”

The “Coalition for a Sustainable Brent Cross Cricklewood Plan” comprises twelve residents’ associations plus the Federation of Residents’ Associations in Barnet (representing the 12 largest residents’ associations in Barnet), Brent Cyclists, the North West London Light Railway (NWLLR) group, Brent Friends of the Earth (FoE), Barnet & Enfield FoE, Camden FoE, Sarah Teather (MP for Brent Central), Dawn Butler, (former MP for Brent South), Labour and LibDem Councillors from Brent and Camden, Navin Shah (London Assembly Member for Brent and Harrow), Darren Johnson (London Assembly Member), Jean Lambert (London MEP), Brent Green Party, Barnet Green Party, Alexis Rowell, (former Chair of Camden Sustainability Taskforce), Brent and Barnet Trades Union Councils, and Bestway Group.

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