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.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

A concept of place making, and the promotion of well being: the West Hendon Inquiry begins


The Holiday Inn, Brent Cross, is placed in perhaps one of the least attractive locations imaginable for any hotel: surrounded on all sides, as it is, by a stranglehold of motorways, high rise flats, an ageing, brutalist style shopping centre, a small industrial estate - and an abandoned rubbish dump. 

The River Brent, once an idyllic retreat, and the favoured subject of pre- Raphaelite Victorian artists like Maddox Brown, now runs through an ecologically barren concrete conduit, full of rusting supermarket trolleys, and plastic bags, waiting for the long promised restoration accompanying yet another 'regeneration' scheme, and serving as another psycho-geographically perfect metaphor, perhaps, for Broken Barnet, where the preservation of environment, if not of community, must accompany the profiteering of property developers.

Yes: to the Holiday Inn, then, yesterday, for the opening day of the West Hendon Housing Inquiry, instigated by the Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government, in order to hear objections to the compulsory purchase of residents homes, in the council owned estate, next to the Welsh Harp, before demolition makes way for a development of luxury housing by Barratts.

The Welsh Harp, of course, is a reservoir created in the 1830s, so as to ensure suffient supply of water for London's canal system. The River Brent flows in and out of it, connecting, for the purposes of our metaphorical journey, one focus of so called regeneration in the western side of the borough, with another, each with their separate story, but both with a common future, as part of a new page of history, refreshed by Tory policies of gerrymandering, social cleansing, and an unswerving support for the insatiable demands of profit hungry large scale developers. And so: West Hendon, then.

Arriving at the Holiday Inn on Tuesday morning, Mrs Angry was immediately distracted by the sight of the events board in the foyer, graced as you should expect, in Broken Barnet-Capitaville, by the corporate image of our new library providers, ie Starbucks: 



Barnet Council, Capita, and G4s: an interesting combination ...

The room was already filling with suits, the suits from Barnet, and Crapita, and Barratts. It became clear throughout the day that the men from Crapita were running the show, in fact. A man from Re foolishly tried sitting next to Mrs Angry and a Labour councillor, to eavesdrop, but was outed by Mrs Angry's crapitorial detector, and moved at the next break, having failed in his mission to reverse the networked surveillance techniques used by her to secure the intelligence on the alleged new library franchise plot, as revealed here.

The Inquiry was to be chaired by Inspector Zoe Hill, who ran the first day's proceedings with admirable tact, and was as accommodating as possible to all parties taking part. 

During the day, Mrs Angry noted, a security man she recognised from the Town Hall paced up and down the corridor outside the Inquiry room, as if they were expecting trouble from some of the residents. In fact the residents behaved impeccably, despite the severe provocation of some of the presentations, and the terrible situation they are in. Curiously, the security man was not in uniform, and if he was wearing his SIA badge, Mrs Angry could not see it, which would be questionable, if he was there on duty, one might think.

Another sign of unease from the local authority became visible once the Guardian journalist Rob Booth turned up, and started talking to the residents. Rob has of course written before about Barnet: the library occupation, and the state of the decaying mansions in Bishops Avenue: the latter subject as far a contrast as one could imagine from the story of West Hendon, and yet, equally valid as evidence of the decadent values of our Tory administration. 

The PR officer from the Town Hall hovered anxiously, watchfully, while residents spoke to the reporter - and seized the opportunity, as soon as possible to whisper in his ear the council's side of things. His article is here  



On the right hand side of the room sat Neil King, QC, counsel for Barnet Council and Barratts, with his assistant, and opposite them on the left, representing a number of residents facing compulsory purchase of their homes, Dan Knowles from Sawyer Fielding, a surveyor specialising in this field of work, who has 26 clients in the next phase of CPOs, and another 12 to come next. He has been involved in negotiations regarding other local schemes such as Stonegrove.

Sitting next to Mr Knowles was Jasmin Parsons, a resident and leaseholder, representing the interests of many other residents, other leaseholders and tenants facing eviction. Or, as she put it - everyone who wanted a voice at this Inquiry.

It was clear from the onset, therefore, how disadvantaged, even here, are the people facing the destruction of their homes in the course of the development. Where is the equality of access to justice, when those affected cannot afford to present their case through the services of a highly experienced, and no doubt very well paid QC, and must challenge the so carefully crafted presentations of Barnet's senior officers, and senior executives from Barratts?

However well the Inspector runs this Inquiry, the inequality of representation is a fact that cannot be denied, and this will be almost certain to deliver an outcome which does not reach the expectations of residents, for that reason, and others too. The remit of the Inquiry, as Ms Hill so patiently, and repeatedly explained, is limited, and cannot address areas regarding the planning application itself.

Anyone with any understanding of the background to this story would surely agree that in regard to the limitations imposed by such a narrow interpretation of the Inquiry is the absence, from the documentation submitted to the Inquiry so far, of the original agreement with Barratts: the PDA and viability studies.

Naturally it is in the interests of both Barnet Council and Barratts to continue to refuse to put this information in the public domain, on the grounds of 'commercial sensitivity' - the reason always given, by the authority to FOI requests which seek to hold contractual partners of the authority to account. This might be a bona fide excuse at an earlier part of a tender process: it is hard to see any justification for continuing to withold this vital information so many years later, and at the point of a formal Inquiry.

It was ironic, in fact, that there were several references throughout the first day to the financial viability of the development by the counsel for the council and contractors, asking us to sympathise with the financial constraints they claimed compelled them to push forwards with the phase of the scheme that is shortly to remove so many residents of the estate from their homes.

We do not know how true the claims made by the council and the developers really are. We do not know how much profit they stand to make from the scheme. We do not know how much they paid the taxpayers of this borough for the land they are building on. We do not know if it is true that they paid nothing at all. We do not know how much the land they have taken is worth now, compared to when the agreement was made. And nor does the Inspector: so how can she possibly fairly assess the arrangements for the compulsory purchase orders of the properties in question?

Last year the ICO ordered the disclosure, in part, of the viability report concerning the Heygate regeneration, in Southwark. 




This finding ought surely to apply to Barnet and Barratts, especially as the time that has elapsed since the agreement is so long, and any argument extending to the 'operating model' and 'projections' are no longer relevant. Ms Hill explained that she would need a 'compelling reason' to ask for the viability report to be appended to the Inquiry documents. One might imagine that if the residents had the privilege of the same degree of legal representation as the council and developers, that compelling reason would be strongly argued on their behalf.

The proceedings began with an introduction of representatives, and reference to the objectors concerned. Neil King QC stated there were now 77 remaining objections, and he proceeded to deliver what an opening address, which was meant to be a summary of his clients' position, but became, as Ms Hill remarked, with commendable restraint, 'lengthy, as openings go ...'

The essential point of the address was to explain to the Inquiry why the Compulsory Purchase Orders were necessary - why Phase 3 of the development was itself a key component of the programme of work,  and why failure to proceed would put the financial viability of the whole scheme at risk, or rather their investment would not see an adequate return.

Ah, well then, was the immediate thought of several of us listening to this tale of woe: let us see the evidence, the details of the viability study, so as to assess for ourselves the truth of such an assertion.

The West Hendon 'regeneration' was, we heard, was mindful of the human rights implications that would ensue the purchase and demolition of so many properties. Yes, people would lose their homes, but there was 'a compelling case' in the public interest that outweighed the 'private loss' of the residents so affected. There would be 'social and economic benefits'.

We heard a fairly dismissive description of the estate as a 1960s large panel construction which had had 'a series of problems' - poor insulation, lighting and thermal difficulties - management problems.

We were not told why Barnet Council, as landlord, had failed to address such problems, for some reason, but residents later raised this in a series of questions.

Phase 3, we were told, would, once the homes in question had been demolished, all traces removed and landscaped, provide a visual link to the Welsh Harp. The architect, Hendrik Heyns, would, in the new development,  create a 'clear hierarchy' of buildings, urban blocks gathered around courtyards.

The development complies with the London plan, the core strategy and UDP. Mrs Angry did not hear any reference to density, which was odd, as she was pretty sure someone had claimed the density of the scheme exceeds recommended levels.

But you know, the key strategic aim of the plan was - no, not making shed loads of money, of course, what was it ... checking notes ... ah: The Promotion of Well Being

Not sure whose well being. Perhaps the well being of the well rewarded senior executives of Barratts, but certainly not the leaseholders facing the compulsory purchase of their homes, or the tenants going through the distress of eviction: the process of 'decanting', as they call it - those whose community is being ripped apart, torn down and eradicated so as to make room for people with more money and more inclined to vote for the Tory administration which approved the scheme in the first place.

But still we sat listening to Mr King, and heard him tell us all about the 'variety of economic and social benefits' ... high quality homes, better management etc etc. 

The pledges made to residents, around the only time they have been balloted as to their opinion of the development, even though the development over which they were balloted was not the same development being built now ... and even though those residents are being effectively largely excluded from any chance of a home in the new buildings.

We heard that 'changes had to be made', in regard to the pledges, due to 'changed' economic factors. We are not in a position to judge the truth of this, because, let us say it again, we do not know the financial details hidden in that viability study.

We were reminded that the Inquiry could not be used to contest the level of offers made to leaseholders. It was not a valuation tribunal. Just as well, from their point of view, of course.

Compulsory Purchase Orders, we heard, are 'a postive tool in planning'.

More references, of many more throughout the day, to 'decanting'.
decant
dɪˈkant/
verb
past tense: decanted; past participle: decanted
gradually pour (wine, port, or another liquid) from one container into another, typically in order to separate out sediment.

Tenants, non secure tenants, moved to the estate and kept there for years but not allowed the dignity of formal long term protection of rights: human detritus, to be removed at the will of the council and their developers.

Decanted, like the dregs at the bottom of a cheap bottle of wine: an term so offensive, so dehumanising, but so casually used that its offensive implications simply do not register with the housing officers and developers, and their lawyers and apologists, who so easily overlook the real suffering caused by their actions and decisions. 

Actions and decisions all in the pursuit of profit, led, in this case, by the lure of private profit from public land, subsidised by the public purse: by you, and me, and most offensive of all, by the taxes of the working people of West Hendon being thrown out of their homes, and airbrushed out of the lovely photographs in the advertisements for Hendon Waterside.

A break then: and we were allowed to take photographs, if we wished. Mrs Angry took this one of Jasmin Parsons, peering at the model of the estate where she lives: behind her resident Kalim Khalick and Dan Knowles talk to the Guardian's Rob Booth.


After the break, it was time for witness evidence from Mr Martin, described on the fact sheet as: Martin Cowie, BA (Hons) DIP TP, LBB Interim Assistant Director of Strategic Planning, Regeneration and Transport. (We like Interims, in Barnet, don't we? Except of course 'Re', the Barnet-Capita hybrid, the Joint Venture, is rather more Capita, than Barnet, other than in terms of burden of risk).

Mr Cowie was there to tell us all about 'LBB's Regeneration Objectives'. This began with a brief history of the West Hendon scheme, beginning in what is, in Capitaville, prehistory:  2002, when a Labour-Libdem Coalition (yes, can you believe it?) thought it ought to abide by the principles of the Decent Homes strategy. Not a bad idea, you might agree. Well, not, of course if you are a Barnet Tory councillor, and take over the administration shortly afterwards. Decent Homes? For poor people? For f*cks sake: what were they thinking?

Mr King took Mr Cowie through his statement, in summary, a process which promised to be almost as long in summary as the summary of Mr King's opening remarks. So, from 2002, and the prospect of Decent Homes, to 2015, and a development bearing no resemblance to the original proposals and pledges, but now a luxury build from which the local community was excluded, and indeed will be removed, in order to facilitate its creation.

The change in the developement was due, said Mr Cowie, to 'changing economic circumstances' but he held that the scheme would be 'a inclusive place for all sections of the community'. What was to be avoided was having 'pockets of the new scheme sitting in an 'old and unattractive setting. This would, Mrs Angry could see, be most unfortunate, and it was lucky that the council and developers would make a lovely new view of the Harp, by knocking down a few homes. 

As Mr Cowie told us, with an admirably straight face, the concept of place making is very important to the council

Ah yes: place making. Love that. Easy, see: you take a place, and you turn it into ... another place. A different sort of place, obviously, without any poor people in it. And if any poor people get in the way of the new place, you decant them. 

Time for objectors to ask Mr Cowie questions.

Mr Knowles asked points of information regarding owner occupiers and tenants whose circumstances would appear not to have been addressed by the recent offers from Barratts. Mr Cowie was uncertain. They're not allowed to come back, claimed a woman in the public seats, seemingly better informed.

Jasmin Parsons asked about Ramsay Close which has now been removed from the scheme: why? 

Leaseholder Kalim Khalick asked about the state of the buildings as described in the report: you were the managers, he reminded the Barnet officer. And he pointed out the amount of work for which he and other leaseholders were now being billed: £10,000 worth of maintenance.

Local Labour councillor Devra Kay asked about the infrastructure that the huge increase in population will require, and the state of progress in agreeing the delivery of schools, GPs and so on. It seemed clear from the response that nothing much was in place yet, nor was likely to be in time for the new residents.

Jasmin Parsons raised a point about references to deprivation in regard to the estate. Mr Cowie advised her that it was defined by government. She felt that the references implied the residents were people 'living in squalor' - that is how we see you describing us ... She pointed out that in 2002, the council had stated it would not be doing any more major maintenance. Residents had asked for documentation regarding maintenance and inspection - but it had still not appeared. And the economic changes? There had been an upturn, so where was the argument.

Mr Cowie stated he could only restate some of the key points, but then went on to assert that West Hendon suffered from problems associated with 'large post war council estates'.  It was, he said 'as simple as that'. West Hendon, he added, rather ridiculously, 'would not be an attractive place, fifty years hence ...' He meant, of course, the estate, left as it is: but the estate has been neglected, and the idea of refurbishment ignored, once the prospect of handing it over to developers had taken hold. Jasmin alleged that the council actually refused government money to improve the estate so as to be able to follow its own plans for development.

Kalim asked again about the issue of supposed economic benefits. They were knocking down the shops, for a better view, and a higher price for properties. Where were the 1500 new households going to shop? Where were the promised construction jobs for the local people? What was the economic benefit to the community? 

There is no community, said a woman behind us: it's going, going, gone ...

Mr Cowie burbled on rather frantically now about a 'significant uplift' to the area, as a result of the spending power of the swanky new residents. The truth is that anyone with the means to buy one of the luxury homes in Hendon Waterside is going to be severely disappointed to see the state of the local amenities and shops: the level of gentrification they will no doubt require to make them feel more at home is a long, long way off. Last time Mrs Angry read the marketing blurb, potential buyers were being advised that they would find all  they need in Hampstead ...

A question from resident Jackie Coleman. They talk about the visual impact: what about the human impact, in destroying a whole community? You are making out these buildings are for us, she said, they are for the private sector ... she said her neighbours had gone, and so had the wildlife from the Harp.

Cowie was talking even more incomprehensibly now, about unfortunate impacts, well burst, in many ways. Eh?

Dan Knowles introduced the theme that neither the council nor the developers want to discuss: the pledges made to residents, which they feel are now all being broken. 

You will have a brand new home
All will be housed on the new development
You will have a choice of landlord
You will have a choice of where to move
You have a real say in the regeneration
York Memorial Park will not be touched
Homeowners properties will be bought at current housing prices
No major works will be undertaken while the regeneration is under construction


It is fair to assume, he said that public opinion, if it were to be re-balloted, would not be so much in the council's favour ...

Mr Cowie tended not to agree, and tried to convince us that not so many of the pledges had been thrown out. 

Kalim said that if the pledges had not changed, 'none of us would be in this building'.

After lunch, the session resumed with Matt Calladine, Head of development for Barratt London, sitting in the hot seat, to delight us all with his vision of the 'Scheme description and commitment to delivery'.  Mr King took him through his statement. 

It transpired that they had indemnified the council's CPO arrangements, and were paying the costs of the Inquiry. Mrs Angry resolved to eat more biscuits, and appropriate more bottles of water. Generous of them, you might think, but then: they are getting a luxury housing development from us, so: fair enough, really, isn't it?

Mr Calladine had clearly been doing his homework during the lunch break and was keen to mop up any unfortunate misunderstandings or omissions in the contribution by Mr Cowie.

He told us there had been a test, a couple of weeks ago, to see how many people working in site were indeed, as promised to residents originally, from the local area. He proudly announced that 21% of workers were from NW9, or immediate postcodes. Mrs Angry thought he seemed to expect us to be impressed by that. But erm: that means that 79% do not, and of the 21%, there is no proof that any are from the local community in West Hendon, as NW9 is rather large, and - surrounding postcodes?

More talk of phasing - and 'decanting' and the dire consequences to their profits, should people not feck off out of it and let them knock their homes down. Mrs Angry's terminology, rather than Mr Calladine's, of course.

Phase 3 required this, we heard, in order to provide 'a gateway to the site ... permeability' and, oh: a view to the Welsh Harp for those who are ready to pay big wonga for it. To hell with the 'decanting block'. Move along please, you're spoiling the view, don't you know?

Well, the upshot of it all, as Mr King reminded us, is that 'times have changed, and that is a fact'. Facts is facts, in Capitaville, as they are in Coketown. We live in Hard Times, do we not?

Our latterday Gradgrind continued to lead the man from Barratts through more a difficult terrain of unpalatable facts into a nicer place, where he could be seen to offer encouragement to residents to drop their objections, and learn to love Barratts and Barnet Council ... offers dependent on individuals' private arrangements, of course.


After a break, Dan Knowles started to question Mr Calladine.

Viability could change month by month: how was it assessed?

- There were regular updates.

Of the 21% of workers were any noted specifically as being from the West Hendon estate?

- No.

Shared equity: only ten properties being made available - how many of them are actually affordable?


- 90%.


Only one property was actually affordable to those eligible, according to Mr Knowles, for 18 of the clients he represents.


Mr Calladine suggested they could sit down and talk ...


Ms Hill hoped they might be able to find common ground.


Jasmin asked a very interesting question.


Originally there was no shared equity available: all this was a recent proposal, and only through pressure - why?


- He wasn't sure of the historic circumstances.


Promises being made so late, yet they still want people out by the end of March!


- Now looking no earlier than the end of June.


York Memorial Park (which the original pledge had promised to preserve, but was given to Barratts to build on). You are splitting up the remaining part of the park, splitting it in two, taking away our football pitch.


-You can access other playing fields, over Silkstream Bridge.


But we can't take part in activities together, playing football, looking on, interacting ...


-We are enhancing it, not dissecting it.


You've stolen York Memorial Park to open up the area, to make a green concrete corridor to link  the Welsh Harp with the Edgware Road.


-This is a permeable and open scheme.


About the drones that you were flying over our homes, on Sunday ... (This was an incredible despatch, from the war zone that is West Hendon - Barratts apparently using surveillance and photography not just of the building site but the estate, with no consultation - police were called).


- This was the fault of the Sales and Marketing Team's consultants, who were taking advantage of lovely weather. It will not happen again.


Kalim asked what was going to happen between the time when their local shops are demolished, and the appearance of new ones. It transpired there would be expected to be a gap of at about two years. Shops do naturally evolve, he said. But the area, according to the man from Barratts 'would regenerate itself.

Funny, thought Mrs Angry: I thought that was what you were supposed to do, on our behalf?


You talk about the area as if it is just West Hendon Estate, said Kalim: there are thousands of others living around here, West Hendon is not just a housing estate, there is a community on both sides of the Edgware Road. 


It's about getting a diverse community, he was informed. The local cafe is doing wonderful business. Hmm, thought Mrs Angry: from the workers wanting a full English. Can't quite see the Russian oligarchs sitting down to a nice fry up. Still: there's a Carluccios in Hampstead.


And so the questions continued. Residents were assured that there will be enough units available for shared equity for those interested. The point that almost none are now eligible was not answered by vague hints that the developers would now be prepared to consider individual cases.


Adam  Langleben tried to find out how many properties had been marketed overseas. 


I couldn't tell you, said Mr Calladine.


Was it true there was a 20% profit margin for Barratts?


Mr Calladine was not commenting.


Wasn't it true that the properties were really only affordable for young professionals on high salaries?


I understand your point of view. Some people, he said ... may choose to live elsewhere.


Or more likely, thought Mrs Angry, the majority of people in the local community will have no choice at all, and will be driven out, decanted, made homeless, rootless, dispersed - while Barratts sit back, count the money, and enjoy the benefits of their development, on our land, their West Hendon.


The Inquiry is expected to continue for eight days.