Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The Park Keeper's Lodge: your last chance to object ...

The story of the sale of the Park Keeper's Lodge, in Victoria Park, the subject of the last three posts, is of course about so much more than the sorry tale of the fate of one historic building, in one corner of Broken Barnet. 

It is the perfect metaphor, a symbol in a landscape, yes, a corporate 'landscape', readers, on which we now make our life's 'journey', all of us who live here, in our own way - the perfect metaphor for the state of our borough, and our nation.

That little Lodge, in the corner of a park, nestling in a high hedged garden, like a sweetly illustrated cottage in some long forgotten book of our childhood reading, surely represents something innately English, a pastoral idyll that was never true, perhaps, but sits in our cultural subconscious, a symbol of something we all long for still, a romantic vision just out of reach.

And now someone wants to knock it down.

But of course. No room for sentiment, in Broken Barnet. Why waste valuable publicly owned assets on the public, when they offer an opportunity for private profit?

In some boroughs, heritage, built or otherwise, is valued, not according to the rule of commerce but for itself, for what it is, and what we were, and what we are today. But not here, or in too many other parts of the country, where property developers circle over every last inch of space, aided by privateering companies and consultants ready, for a price, to help them on their way to more and more new developments.

For every other building under threat, then, let our Lodge, in Victoria Park, serve as test of who may win the battle, in the end, between history and profit: the communities in whose names these buildings are in trust, or the vandals who want to smash them to pieces, and stake their future empires on a foundation of our past.

In case you have not seen it, the story of the assault on Victoria Park is the leading story in the Rotten Boroughs column of the current Private Eye:

Today, Wednesday 24th August, will be the last day that you may object online. Some late written objections that arrive before the final decision is made may be taken into account but to be safe, if you want to object, do it today, up until midnight - no, Mrs Angry, exaggerating as usual - up until 11.59.59 pm. 

Of course you may wish to support the proposal. Do take a look at some of the supporting comments that have been unmasked, since we complained to the CEO about the curious trick which meant that all objections were published with names and addresses, but all supporting comments automatically anonymised. This is believed never to have been a feature of any previous planning consultation, which is why we are able now to spot certain names recurring in these supporting comments, that have popped up on other applications.

Heartening, for example to see the developer, Mr Friedman  (or is he? No one is quite sure)  - supporting his own development.


Ah yes: criminal activity. We can certainly agree that we frown upon that sort of thing, can't we, readers? 

Of course the Lodge, although deliberately neglected by the council since it decided to sell the site circa 2010, has most certainly not been, as some other interesting 'supporting' comments assert, an eyesore for 20 years, and it is not an eyesore now. 

And if there is any criminal activity in the environs of the Lodge, or drug use, that would be because the council has wilfully left it unattended, with the gate open, an open invitation to visitors and trespassers alike, despite constant requests, at Residents Forums, to secure the site and lock it up.

We use the word supporting in quotation marks because many of these, now stripped of the convenient anonymity, are revealed to be members of Mr Friedman's family, including his children, relatives of the architect, of his builder Mr Novruzaj, who actually owns the house given as the address of the purchaser on the contract of sale - various business associates, etcetera etcetera. 

Frankly, these comments, most in areas nowhere near Finchley, let alone the par, in the same rather ungrammatical style - like the proposed block of flats, according to the would be developers, 'very unique', you might say - and with postcodes written, rather curiously, in lower case letters, make for comical reading, especially when you remember that they clearly thought their identities would not be apparent.

Oh ... but hang on. Here is one, from a local doctor. 

Dr Brian Coleman, who lives just over the road, you know. 

39. Dr Brian Coleman  (Supports)

Comment submitted date: Fri 19 Aug 2016

The demolition of this derelict building an eyesore on Long Lane for nearly 20 years is long overdue. The proposed development will provide much needed housing for local people and the underground car parking will insure there are no parking and car issues, if only all local developers adopted this attitude. This modern low key development will enhance the street scene and compliment the neighbouring park as similar but much larger blocks do in neighbouring appears to me this development fullfills the criteria of the Borough's adopted UDP and is bringing a brownfield site back into residential use which it has been for 110 years 

Surely not ... not THAT Brian Coleman? Remember him? Yes. Now he is no longer a councillor, or GLA member, he has become a doctor, see? Like Tory MP Dr Offord, I suppose. Must make an appointment to come and see him about my back problem. And the migraines, brought on by all this campaigning.

Unfortunate that he is a medical man, of course, rather than having, say, a doctorate in environmental studies, or perhaps he would know that his assertion that the Lodge is a 'brownfield site' is bullshit.

As one objector points out:

"The Department for Community and Local Government issued a white paper on this very issue in January 2015. which contains some exclusions relevant to the redevelopment of The Lodge that he seems to be unaware of:

Defining brownfield land suitable for new housing

13.'Brownfield' (previously developed) land is defined in Annex 2 of the National Planning Policy Framework as: Land which is or was occupied by a permanent structure, including the curtilage of the developed land (although it should not be assumed that the whole of the curtilage should be developed) and any associated fixed surface infrastructure.

This excludes:

- land in built-up areas such as private residential gardens, parks, recreation grounds and

And, btw: not housing for local people - will be marketed to Chinese investors, according to the representative who spoke to residents a couple of weeks ago. 

There are, at the time of writing, no less than 412 objections, and only 45 in support. 

Of those 45, you may discount those having an association with the developers and other interested parties, and see that almost no one - especially in Finchley - really wants this hideous development, and that people passionately oppose it - and deeply object in principle to the notion that any part of a public park should be used for commercial development. 

There are too many well reasoned and well expressed objections to list here, and clearly genuine comments from residents who live near the park, and are regular users - for example, a typical response from this resident:

Miss Jayshree Balchandani  (Objects)

Comment submitted date: Sun 21 Aug 2016

The safety and privacy of park users will be seriously affected, which is used by young children and elderly. The proposed building would cause intrusion on the community's recreational experience which is strongly unacceptable. The proposed building is overwhelming and intrusive and out of harmony with the surrounding areas; the under ground parking exit proposed is unacceptable on to the road which is already a high congestion road and would cause further congestion and cause for accidents, and further restricting public right of way. Victoria park is a public amenity and must be preserved as such. It is our and council's responsibility to retain and protect the park as is for our community's well being and health.

I chose to buy my home close to the Victoria park for this very reason. If the planning permission were to be granted it would ruin the faith and the trust we place in our council.

The trust we place in our council.


This from local Rabbi Jeffrey Newman: 


Comment submitted date: Tue 23 Aug 2016

I am shocked that I have only just learnt about this planning application which
effects so many park users from many areas of the Borough, not merely those living
in the immediate area but also especially those throughout Finchley Central, West
and North Finchley.

The proposed application would severely change the character of the Park - but it
also sets a dangerous precedent for the rest of the Borough where similar open
spaces which are of outstanding importance for the health and well-being of us all
could easily become dominated by inappropriate developments of this sort.
The neglect and now proposed demolition of the heritage keeper's cottage has long
been unacceptable. We need to ensure that the Park maintains its historic character
and the lodge is particularly charming. There is absolutely no reason why it should
not be renovated and form the basis for the café as, for example, in Highgate

Instead the Planning Application proposes to transformed it into another
characterless, bland twentieth century (sic) block of flats. Nothing could be further
from the proper maintenance and development of this valuable open recreational
space than this proposal.

Most of all, the ground area for the new development is an unimaginable increase
on that of the Keeper's Cottage. I do not understand how such a proposal has
reached this apparently advanced stage.

At the very least, I do ask that it be opened for wider consultation over an extended

Mrs Angry notes there is also an objection from the former curator of the listed Church Farmhouse Museum, which, like the Lodge was on the list of targets for sale by Barnet's Tory councillors, was closed, stripped of its collection, and left to rot while failed attempts were made to sell it. Not enough profit in the commercial exploitation of our heritage, after all, it seems.

Local Labour councillors will be raising many serious concerns about the background to the sale and proposed development of the Park Keeper's Lodge at next week's Policy and Resources meeting. Agenda and item available here. (There will also, incidentally, be an item outlining Barnet's belated compliance with the proper criteria for issuing travel passes to disabled residents).

Here is the member's item, from Cllr Ross Houston, who is a Labour member for West Finchley, the ward which includes Victoria Park:

1.1 Councillor Ross Houston has requested that a Member’s item be considered
on the following matter:

‘The sale of the former park keeper's lodge in Victoria Park, and the plan to
demolish it and build a block of eight flats in its place - none of which will be
‘affordable housing’ - is now being investigated by the external auditors.

Labour councillors voted against the sale at the time, and have been liaising
with local residents on this issue – over 500 of whom are opposed to this plan
and made their feelings clear in the 'consultation' on the plan.

I have some questions relating to the sale and the plans, and am particularly
concerned with whether or not the sale and future plans represent value for
money for both the Victoria Park Charitable Trust and the council tax
payer, and whether the future plans for the Park meet strategic Corporate
Plan and Local Development Plan policies:

- The Lodge was sold for £623,000 - could P&R be provided with
whatever valuations the council has for the Lodge?

- Of the £623,000 purchase price, how much is to be deducted for legal
fees, the cost of a Project Manager for the park, and the creation of a
car park?

- Why was the Lodge sold by 'informal tender' and to a cash buyer only?

- Please explain why it was decided to sell the freehold rather than
granting a long lease, and why that represented better value for money
for the Trust and the Park?

- There are covenants and restrictions on the land – please detail what
they are and whether they permit it to be developed for housing? If not
why was the site sold for that purpose?

- In particular please explain why it was decided to sell the freehold to a
developer for housing when the 4 November Full Council report states

“1.4 The building needs an estimated £100,000 expenditure to bring it to
decent homes standard which would be required to be able to use it as
housing. However, housing accommodation, other than that of a park keeper,
is not permitted within the requirements of the Trust and the lodge should not
have been used as temporary accommodation in the past.”

- The Lodge was being used as emergency accommodation for about 20
years - did the Park Charitable Trust benefit from income from the
Council for this purpose?

- The 4 November Full Council report states that consideration was
given by Barnet Homes to acquire the land to use for affordable or
temporary accommodation, but it was found that paying market value
for the land plus refurbishment costs would make this not viable. 

Did Barnet Homes or the Council give any consideration to acquiring the
land and developing it for market sale or private rent? If that is a viable
proposition for a small developer, why wouldn’t it be for Barnet Homes
or a Council Wholly Owned Company?

- At the 4th Nov 2014 Council meeting £100,000 was stated to be
necessary to bring The Lodge to 'decent homes standard'. Please
provide the evidence on which this claim was based, and a copy of the
report in which it was made.

- The planning application for the flats seems to be incomplete - preapplication
advice for example has not been provided - was there any
and what was it?

- Please confirm why the decision to sell was made by councillors at a
Full Council meeting, rather than by a separate body of trustees? The 4
November Full Council report mentions that this could not be delegated
to a council committee – please elaborate further.

- Why were the many objections raised by residents to the sale not
appended to nor mentioned in the Full Council report recommending
that the site was sold? Were the Trustees required to consider that
information before agreeing to sell the site?

- How many residents were formally consulted on these plans and
involved in discussions on the plans before the application was

- What is the precise role of the Etchingham Friends in the sale of the
Lodge and planning application, when were they first involved and

- Please confirm whether the same officers who have given the preapplication
advice, overseen the consultation and worked with the
applicant on the application will also be making the recommendations
on the application to the Planning Committee? 

- Please advise if this is the normal process for planning applications and whether there is any
oversight in the normal planning process by a supervisor/manager to ensure transparency and probity?

- What due diligence has been undertaken in relation to the
application/applicants to ascertain if they are appropriate people to
carry out this development?

- Why were all "supporting' comments in regard to the planning
application anonymised, while all objections were published with full
details of names and addresses, until complaints were made to the
Chief Executive?

- Please confirm that the names and addresses of those leaving
comments about the application online – whether in support or against
– will be published?

- Please advise why local councillors for the ward have not been fully
consulted on discussions relating to future plans for the park?

- For future consultation with local residents and users of the park can
the council confirm what arrangements will be put in place and how will
a more representative range of local residents, and ward
councillors, be involved?

- Public concerns have been expressed about plans for car parking at
the park. Can P&R be provided with details of any plans for car parking
within or on the boundary of the park?

- Please advise what corporate or planning policies are either met or
contravened by cementing over part of the Park and erecting a car

As you will note from the Labour item, Barnet Council's External Auditor is currently investigating the circumstances of the sale of the Lodge. 

It might be better if the current application was suspended until his investigation is complete, however: as things stand,you have until 11.59pm tonight, Wednesday 24th August, to make an objection to the proposal to build flats in Victoria Park. 

If you care about the future of your local parks, and your community, and have not already registered your views, I would urge you to do so here:

Thank you.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Another Blot on the Landscape: the threat to Victoria Park, and what you can do to fight it ...

Residents fighting the development of the Park Keeper's Lodge, in Victoria Park

Update: the Lodge is the subject of the leading story in Private Eye's Rotten Boroughs, in the new edition, out now, available at all good newsagents. And WH Smith. Do run off and buy a copy. Look: all those new PR people in Barnet's Comms Team (costing us £800,000 over 2 years) are huddled over their desks, weeping ...

The infant Mrs Angry, you may be surprised to hear, was quite often in trouble, as a young child, with her sternly disciplinarian parents, for all sorts of perceived misdemeanours, all the more unwelcome due to the impeccable behaviour of her older brother, who was never naughty, of course, and indeed, whose early life bore more than a passing resemblance to one of the infuriatingly wholesome early lives of the Catholic martyrs and saints, as described in a set of green covered volumes on this subject given to our mother, for some reason, at the time of her marriage. 

Well, in fact the reason may have been that she was marrying a non Catholic, and some of her pious relatives thought her soul was in danger of corruption by Protestant heresy. The books remained in a cupboard, unread by all, except me, on rainy days, when I had read all my library books, and had nothing else to distract me.

But there was one notable lapse in my brother's otherwise unblemished childhood, an indelible memory, you might say (and one which aged 63, he still denies, readers, the big fibber, and yes I will keep repeating this story until you do) when he got hold of Mrs Angry's toy post office, and deliberately smashed the little bottle of Stephen's ink, which she had thought was a thing of great curiosity, and never opened, leaving the tiny cork stopper intact,until the dreadful deed was done, and it was too late.

Ink was important, in my childhood. Ink for the John Bull Printing Press, which I suppose you could say saw the first attempts at Mrs Angry's non digital blogging, perhaps an expose of in house miniature post office break ins - but was too laborious a process to pursue. And then there was the matter of writing, in ink, with a pen.

You were only allowed a fountain pen, once you reached the age of reason, in time for your eleven plus, and, hopefully, for all children of working class parents whose eyes were set on an upward tangent of social aspiration, a smooth transition to grammar school, where the desks, as I recall, still had ceramic pots for inkwells, in honour of dipping pens that we only used for geography, and drawing maps.

Ink is still important, to me, in my middle age, as I still can't write legibly with a biro, or anything else, and I still love the feeling of ink flowing from my broad nibbed pen, shaped and bent as it is now to the mad, angled flow of writing from my dyspraxic hand, the right hand which I was forced to write with, even though, as I discovered rather too late in life, I should have been left handed. 

Stephens' Ink was for fountain pens: a blue-black colour, created by an experimental Victorian 'colour manufacturer', whose guarantee of 'permanence' appealed to the sense of entitlement that our nineteenth century forebears carried, as a natural part of their psyche, a duty and a privilege, a role of colonialism, and empire: making your mark, and asserting your authority, on the ledgers of commerce - and governance.

The 'uncrowned King of Finchley' - Inky Stephens, the son of the colour manufacturer - lived at Avenue House, now rebranded as 'Stephens House' - from 1873, to his death in 1918, at the end of a war which saw the house and grounds he had created turned into a hospital for soldiers wounded in the trenches. In the nineteen twenties his former home was given to the local council, a gift in perpetuity, for the benefit of the people of Finchley.

The people of Finchley still very much enjoy their use of the grounds and house that Stephens left for them. 

Avenue House, now Stephens' House, and the gardens, landscaped with earth excavated as a result of the new railway cuttings, for the GNER railway that employed the first occupant of my house, just along the road, a railway clerk called Nathaniel Corbett, whose dutifully neat census entry, in his own handwriting, may well have been written in that same Stephens ink. 

Famous for its durability, that ink; that permanence - to the extent that it was used not only by Scott, in his ill fated exploration to the South Pole, but in the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, that saw the end of the terrible first World War, that left so many men, so many of my own great uncles, injured, or in need of the rest and recuperation that places like Avenue House were used to provide.

But in an age of paternalistic politics, and philanthropy, Stephens' benevolence saw an earlier act of patronage, one whose motivation, to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria, was really a pretext for the creation of an amenity to benefit the people of Finchley, in fields that he knew as a boy, and a young man, living just a short distance away, across the other side of Ballards Lane.

I thought about Inky Stephens, and his legacy, the other day, wandering about Avenue House, and the grounds he left to us, an estate now run by trustees, and a central part of our community, in this part of Church End, Finchley. 

During the second World War, it became the council's headquarters, and the coat of arms above the doors of some of our soon to be closed libraries is still evident, there, on the side of Inky Stephens' house, still bearing a corporate motto of suitably ambiguous interpretation:

Regnant Quis Serviunt  

Which one might like to think means: They serve, who rule, but might arguably be translated as May they rule, who serve. 

The Tory councillors, senior officers, and private contractors of the London Borough of Broken Barnet, however, not schooled in Latin, or the concept of public service, would seem have chosen to interpret this phrase as We pretend to serve, but are accountable to no one, and are laughing up our sleeves at you, the innocent taxpayers, you great eejits - whilst adding to the range of corporate claptrappery a new motto of gut wrenching hypocrisy: 

'Putting the Community  First' ...

As you may have read in the previous two posts ...

... the fate of Stephens' other gift to the people of Finchley, that is to say the creation of Victoria Park, is left in the hands of the heirs to the borough council that once based itself in Avenue House. The councillors of Barnet Council - the Conservative administration - claim to be the trustees of Victoria Park, and acting as such approved the sale of part of it this year, to a private developer, despite the Covenant that Inky Stephens, and Henry Brooks, and all the local worthy figures put in place to protect their legacy for future generations of the people of Finchley clearly stating that the piece of land which has been sold may not have any building erected on it other than accommodation for the Park Keeper, a cricket pavilion, or bandstand.

In other words, the council has sold this land to a developer, despite the fact that - even if they had power in law to sell it, and that is debatable, and being challenged - the land ... may not be developed. 

If I were you, Mr Friedman, I'd ask for my money back. Nothing can undo the terms of that covenant: and just to be clear, just in case something should happen to the building, the land without the Lodge will be even more worthless.

And something could happen to the building, as someone last week slapped a demolition notice on this historic building.* We must repeat: this plot of land cannot be developed, and is worthless without the current building; and if the Lodge were damaged, while the circumstances of the sale are under scrutiny, this would seem likely to result in serious legal - and possibly financial - repercussions. 

*Update: this notice, to which no one know how to object, or if they could object, disappeared today, Monday 15th of August. Mrs Angry has asked the case officer for an explanation. He has replied: 

I do not know why the site notice may have been removed and I do not wish to make any presumption as to how, or who removed it. The legislation relevant to the demolition process states as follows:

"where the site notice is, without any fault or intention of the applicant, removed, obscured or defaced before the period of 21 days referred to in paragraph (b)(iv) has elapsed, the applicant is treated as having complied with the requirements of that paragraph if the applicant has taken reasonable steps for protection of the notice and, if need be, its replacement;"

Very kind of the officer not to make any presumption as to who removed it, isn't it? And all he has to do, as Mrs Angry has suggested, is to ask Mr Friedman, or Mr Gruber, or whoever owns the Lodge and put the notice up, to ... put it up again.

Another issue under debate with the case officer.

The applicants for the current development of the Lodge may have been misled, or simply misunderstood the restrictions on the use of the site. We do not know, as the application, which is online, has been accepted by the Capita planners with the section in which details of the advice given to them in February left mysteriously empty. When the case officer was asked why that was, the response was:

The applicant sought pre-application advice from the local authority earlier this year. That advice was provided. The applicant has stated that that has been received, but has not indicated what that advice was. Clearly it would have been better if that box had been filled in. However, it is not a reason to invalidate the application or the decision. It is not a legal requirement to fill in that box.

Mrs Angry was not satisfied with that reply: why, in the interests of transparency, could the missing information not be supplied now, during the period of consultation? He did not reply until asked again: then responded that he disagreed that this meant the process has been 'less than transparent'. Mrs Angry is not satisfied with this reply, either.

Now here are more curious developments, in regard to this very curious development application.

The proposed development of flats on the site of the historic Park Keeper's Lodge - overlooking a children's playground, which does not appear in this image

Last week a number of residents were asked to go up to the Lodge for a photograph for a local newspaper. While we were being photographed, a young man turned up who claimed he was 'in charge' of the property. Whilst chewing his way through a packet of bread rolls, he regarded us with a fair amount of suspicion, but assumed that we were interested in renting - or even buying - the property.

The Lodge, we learned, could be rented, although some work still needed doing on it. They had only spent a minimal amount on renovating the property.  How very odd: when the sale of the Lodge was approved by councillors, they had been told by officers that it was necessary because it would cost £100,000 to bring the property to a decent standard of accommodation. 

Now then: Mrs Angry has asked for the report which proves this claim, as part of the audit trail - but it has not been supplied. It would seem reasonable to assume that that is, therefore, because it never existed. And if such a high level of cost was necessary to make the property suitable for tenants, why now is the Lodge being advertised to let, when only a fraction of that cost has been spent on it?  

More information was forthcoming from our new friend. Who did he work for? Eddy. Or Adi. That would be Mr Friedman. Oh: any news of Mr Gruber, who bought the property? Nope. Or why had they put the demolition notice up?

Demolition notice? Nothing to do with them, apparently. Goodness me. Then, a little later, when we were allowed into the garden: ah, the demolition notice was for a very small shed, the size of a kindergarten wendy house, that might accommodate one particularly anti social two year old. Hmm. No. No, it's not. And then, after we left, it transpired our friend had admitted the demolition notice (which has now disappeared) was from them, after all. Oh.

We also were told we could buy the Lodge for £1.5 million: a nice little earner from an outlay of £623,000 in cash, and a lick of paint, you might think. Or rent it, maybe as bedsits. Or, when they had knocked down the building they also wanted to let, and built twelve flats, these would be available, but we apparently will have to compete with the marketing of these highly desirable properties to investment buyers from China, who are awfully keen to buy a flat in Victoria Park, you know.

But the planning application, we said, is for only eight flats. Are you sure you are going to have twelve? Apparently so, which is interesting, isn't it, readers?

Victoria Park, 1930s,  Bandstand in the distance

This weekend a number of residents spent time in the park and elsewhere giving out leaflets urging others to object to this most objectionable of planning applications. Mrs Angry would urge you, dear reader, to do the same, by the 23rd of this month. You may do so online - where there are already many sensible objections, from local residents and park users, and - most curiously - a number of very suspicious, anonymous comments in favour of the application, a large number of which arrived, as if by magic, as predicted, yesterday, Sunday.

And here is a very peculiar thing, readers, and one which would appear to have no reasonable explanation. 

Online objections on this application appear to end up as documents, with the names and addresses of objectors clearly shown.

Online supporting comments appear to be automatically anonymised.

This curious phenomenon was tested at the weekend by someone who made an objection, but clicked the box on the webform which asks if you are supporting. Instead of ending up in the document section, this comment was automatically anonymised. How could that happen, do you suppose, and why would there be a difference? Why is it allowable for supporting comments for this application to remain anonymous, but not those who object? 

Is this is another apparent breach in the principle of transparency, in the course of this consultation process?

One example of this sort of comment, from an unknown source, is as follows:

Comment submitted date: Sun 14 Aug 2016
I support the development!!!
I have just graduated from my masters degree and would love to move into one of these beautiful apartments. 
I have been searching for ages for a flat in Barnet and everything is old and worn out. My parents told me about this new development which straight away appealed to me as I visit the park 5 times a week. 
In addition, I have heard of many rape and sexual harassment incidents and I believe that renovating the lodge could eliminate these problems. 

Being AGAINST this development is being FOR rape!

We love the idea, of course, that someone just finishing a master's degree could afford to buy a flat in Finchley. Or a flat anywhere in London ... but in truth, the offensive nature of this particular comment fits horribly the equally inappropriate suggestion in the application itself, in the Design and Access document, funnily enough, that building a block of flats in a public park should be allowed because of some magic power to prevent incidents of rape, claimed here as an argument put by a senior Barnet officer, who, they state:

... also highlighted the serious issues of vandalism and serious crimes including cases of rape affecting Victoria Park, mainly during night time. She was of the opinion that the constant presence of residents in the proposed flats will help reduce this problem. 

In recent years, there has been one incident of rape in the park, and another rape recently in Long Lane. What would reduce the risk to women in this area, and the perception of risk, would be better lighting - something the council has refused to consider only weeks ago - and the return of proper council park keepers to reassure residents and help maintain the park as a safe, pleasant and tidy environment. What will not help is using the issue of rape, and violence against women, in an insensitive and cynical attempt to support a proposal for commercial development within the footprint of a public park.

Parents worrying about the possibility of risk from predatory paedophile activity through their children being observed from the balconies of anonymous residents of this block do not have their concerns addressed by the applicants, of course. And the mitigation for this will be, predictably, look: we will move the playground for you.

Well, no: we don't want our playground moved, for the convenience of profiteering developers. 

We  don't want a block of flats in the park, thank you very much. 

We don't want you to pretend that this is all for the benefit of the park, because - oh, yes, we will move your playground, and it will be a wonderful new playground, and we'll do up the tennis courts, & do the maintenance and improvements you already pay for through your council tax. 

We don't want you to take money from the sale of the Lodge for 'legal fees', and use some of it to build a car park, in our park, to make money for the council from the flats planned for the old police station, across the road.

We don't want you to take money from the sale of the Lodge: we want you to give it back, as you may well have to, if it turns out you had no right to flog it off in the first place.

The response from residents in the park who were told about the development proposals was one of disbelief. Then outrage. If the Lodge is developed, the fury of park users will be uncontainable, and will reverberate in political impact for years to come, in this largely middle class, conservative minded area. Some residents were going to write to their MP. Ha. Good luck with that one: remember he was Leader of the Council, in 2009, when the decision was first made.

Some of the older residents we met in the park while out leafleting were of course particularly upset by the proposals. Many commented that they had seen the park decline, in recent years, almost as if by deliberate policy.

It's Your Park: Keep it Green - (while we sell it off), say Barnet Council

They are right: cutting the maintenance of parks is all part of a strategy, to encourage people to believe the only way of preserving their local open spaces is by 'self funding', commercial exploitation ... and development. Our Tory councillors are ideologically opposed to what they see as the subsidisation of public services, and public amenities. It is a political choice, not as they pretend, driven by austerity, and budget restraint. 

Only weeks ago, for example, they approved a whopping £800,000 splurge on six new PR posts, in order to 'manage' the reputation of the council, just in time for the run up to the next local elections. And handed £500,000 to a nationally funded body, the RAF museum. All while slashing our local public library service, and demanding our parks find new sources of funding, and approving the sale of our Lodge.

Peter (not his real name) - one of the older residents who spoke to me so on Saturday, in the cafe by the Bowling club, which is threatened by the new plans for a car park, had been visiting the park, he said, for seventy seven years. He is in frail health, and his memories seemed particularly poignant, slipping out of the reach of living memory, and at such a sad point in the history of our park.

Perhaps Peter was one of those naughty boys who used to so torment the then park keeper, and former occupant of the Lodge, old 'treacle feet'. He could remember the pond down by the lower Etchingham Park Road entrance, and the boating lake, and thought he knew where there were still stones from the old fountain. Best of all, he knew the identity of the many unusual trees in Victoria Park: the tree from Africa, by the cafe, which smells of chocolate, in summer; the strawberry tree which flowers and bears fruits at the same time; the mulberry trees, and so many others.

It's not really a surprise that the Park should have these exotic examples planted around the park. And it is shocking that no one has done an ecological and botanical survey of what is there, and the impact any development would have on the immediate environment.

Inky Stephens would have chosen the trees for Victoria Park with great care. In the grounds of his home at Avenue House you can still the range of magnificent examples he planted in his own arboretum, specimens from countries all over the world. 

Stephens lived in the age of the great botanical explorers, and an era of gardening innovation, enriched by discoveries from the far corners of every continent. But it was also, of course, the age of Victorian philanthropy, led by men and women like him who wanted to share his good fortune with others, and enrich their lives, in the process. 

He would have been horrified at the assault on his creation, and the betrayal of the principles in which he believed which the current proposals represent. 

As part of his legacy, he left something precious, now under threat in a way which he foresaw, hence the care he took to protect that legacy by legal restrictions, rights for the people of future generations to enjoy Victoria Park,  in a way which he would have thought was binding, in perpetuity, and as permanent as the very words they are written in, in unfading ink, on that Covenant. 

If you walk about your local park, in this borough, you will notice that the local council has tied laminated notices everywhere, informing you, with no sense of irony, as of course a sense of irony is in short supply, in the corporate offices of Broken Barnet, that 'It's your park: keep it green'.

Well, yes: it is your park, and not theirs. 

Time to remind your councillors, then - and their lackeys in Capita planning -  just whose park it is.

Act now, while there is time - before August 23rd, if possible -  to protect it from the hands of developers, and the ruthless ideological tactics of your local council: please object, either online, via email to -
or in writing, to:

Assistant Director of Development Management and Building Control, 
London Borough of Barnet,
1255 High Road
N20 0EJ

Thank you.

All postcard views of Victoria Park from a private collection.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Dancing with the park: the story of the Lodge, continued

Summertime, in Broken Barnet, is the most dangerous season of the year. 

While Parliament is in recess, and council business slows down, our lucky Tory councillors pack their suitcases, and head off for their holiday homes in the Auvergne, or a lovely beach somewhere, or sit in their back gardens sipping Pimms and happily ignoring the emails from constituents clogging up their in boxes, while naughty senior officers take the opportunity to approve all sorts of decisions that might otherwise meet with some sort of token resistance from our elected representatives. 

Some might be policy decisions - remember 'We have decided on a Joint Venture', for example? Or other 'sensitive' and risky issues might be slipped through, while no one is looking.

Planning applications, and their  'consultations', for example. 

Planning applications, consultations and decisions, specifically, that involve a plot to demolish an Edwardian Park Keeper's Lodge, and allow a developer to build a block of eight flats, right there, within the footprint of Victoria Park, in Finchley, neatly setting a precedent for the development of all our other parks and open spaces.

Hard luck, friends in planning: Mrs Angry has not packed her suitcase yet, but is on your case instead. Read on.

The story continues, from the last post.

An application to knock down the lovely Lodge building, and replace it with flats, has now been submitted by a company of architects - Tal Arc - who are apparently only the agents for this proposal, for a company called The Lodge Victoria Park Ltd, formed on March 10th this year, and whose director is a Mr Adi Friedman, who has a number of other companies listed, as you may note.

The application is dated the 8th July, yet Mrs Angry understands from a reliable source that the favoured handful of residents who have been, behind closed doors, consulted over the development by the council have had access to these plans since June, well before the application was submitted. 

This is in direct defiance of the principles of transparency, and equality of access to meaningful consultation with the authority. 

This small and unaccountable group of residents, however well meaning, are not a formally constituted group, are not representative of the wider community and the majority of park users, (been guests at the House of Commons, mind you, courtesy of Tory MP Mike Freer) - and are clearly being used to endorse a council process, rather than the future of the park being decided by a wide ranging and open engagement with residents. Mrs Angry has twice asked about these meetings, and if they are minuted, and has not been given a reply. Never mind: Freedom of Information requests from the council have been submitted instead.

There is a collection of documents now online for the consultation process, in which residents are able to make objection to these plans. Please have a look, and register your views. Be prepared for a shock: the designs are breathtakingly awful - a choice of two eyewatering options:

View of the proposed flats, from inside the Park

View of the proposed flats, from Long Lane, same angle as photo below, with the post box -that couple are loved up, aren't they? Suppose we are meant to think they are dreaming of their future together, on one of those balconies, acting as park keepers (no, really - read on). Hard to tell this is the site of the Lodge, as nothing remains but three trees.

(It should be noted , by the way, that the application is continually 'unavailable' - apparently a common occurrence with planning applications that receive a lot of attention. And yes, the website is the responsibility of Capita too. Any prolonged viewing may time out, and block your access, requiring you to log out and in again, once you have worked out what is wrong. Some people may not realise this and not bother to try again. During a limited period of consultation, this habitual failure clearly will have an impact on access for residents, and is frankly unacceptable, yet exactly what we must expect from our contractual partners, unfortunately).

It appears that the case officer dealing with the application was consulted by the applicants as far back as February of this year. 

Planning in Barnet, of course, is now run by Capita, who have a particularly tangled variety of roles in overseeing the application process: dealing with applicants, objectors, and advising on the decision itself. 

A matter of concern in regard to this application is that although the agent admits advice was given by a Barnet/Capita officer - ticking the box that asks:

Has assistance or prior advice been sought from the local authority about this application?

- details of the pre-application advice received are supposed to be given, but there is a blank space in the box for the information. 

How odd.

This is clearly in conflict with the principles of transparency, and should not be tolerated.

Of course the advice might have been: go home and have a cold shower, and rethink the whole thing, chum, because this'll never get approved. But we simply don't know.

Before we look further at the planning application itself, let us examine the identity of the developers behind these terrible proposals.

A couple of weeks ago, Mrs Angry went along to the council offices at North London Business Park, in order to exercise the annual right of all residents to inspect the authority's accounts, and to look at the details of the sale of the Lodge.

The Lodge was sold by contract, on the 30th March, for a cash sale of £623,000. That was the first surprise. You might find a house for sale in this area for that amount, but it would be small, and not in one of the nicer roads near the park. Let alone IN the park, of course. 

And for a site that was clearly being bought for development, such a price seems remarkably low, and not the best value use of a publicly owned property. 

But then of course, this is not so much an exercise, any more, in profit, as a disposal of something that has become an almighty problem, and entirely due to the council's own greed, and failure to check the status of the property they thought they could quickly flog for a nice fat capital gain. But more of that later.

The Lodge was sold not to the company known as the "Lodge Victoria Park Ltd', but to an individual, a Mr Nathan Gruber, who gives an address in Hendon, but is remarkably hard to track down. His connection to the Lodge is unknown: the only officers listed for the Lodge company are Mr Friedman and his wife. 

The address given for Mr Gruber, according to Land Registry records, is owned by a couple named Spiro and Enerita Novruzaj: Spiro Novruzaj, Mrs Angry understands, is an associate of Mr Friedman, and a builder. Mrs Novruzaj is the only name listed on the Electoral Roll for the address given by Mr Gruber. 

There may of course be a perfectly reasonable explanation for all this, and Mrs Angry will be happy to update the story if such further information comes to light.

Barnet Council has had HSE issues with Mr Novruzaj, as you can see here.

And Mr Friedman would appear to have had quite a lot of interaction with the planning department of Barnet Council. 

(All of this information, incidentally, is in the public domain, from published online records. Mrs Angry has withheld some addresses, through choice, but the evidence is available should you wish to check).

One of Mr Friedman's companies, CDEG, has been involved, for example, along with the same architects, with the development of a property in Vivian Avenue, Hendon. There are no less than seventy nine comments submitted by residents on that particular case, many of which make for interesting reading.

Rather oddly, one random comment clicked on turned out to be a heartwarming commendation for the development, from someone ... oh, listed at the same address as the Friedmans? Mr Spiro Novruzaj ... Is that right? Perhaps he is their lodger.

I want to praise the applicant on taking aboard the neighbours comments and
recommendations and reducing the amount of flats from 9 flats to 7 and also reducing the roof volume in order the accommodate the neighbours wishes ,I support the application and can't wait to see the new and welcome addition to the road.

There is another person of that name at Mr Gruber's address, who really likes the proposal, funnily enough. And another Mr Novruzaj, Virgjil  - but at another address in Watford Way. 

Oh, and here is another one supporting the application from ... a Mrs Friedman. Same address in Mill Hill. She likes the plans too. And another Friedman, same address, and name, funnily enough again, as someone at '6 Hendon' who is awfully keen, and says: MORE HOUSING ...BRILLIANT. 

Quite a lot of similarly gushing comments, many anonymous, saying equally favourable things. Quite a lot saying the same thing, in CAPITAL LETTERS. No need to shout.

But then again, one typical objector is unimpressed, and says:

I'm highly concerned about the impact this application would have on an already

saturated street accommodation-wise. I also find the vague comments supporting this application suspicious as anyone with a vested interest in Vivian Avenue would normally oppose such an encroaching multiple occupancy application. 

And another comment:

I hope the planning committee can see the difference in the quality of arguments that

object and support the planning proposals. It is very obvious to those that have a valid interest in objecting proposals because they are simply an ugly, invasive, and inconsiderate to the residents and neighbourhood.

The address in Mill Hill given for the developers themselves, a house built after demolition of a previous property, has also been the source of some contention, including an enforcement issue regarding a swimming pool

Returning to the application submitted by Tal Arc, on behalf of Mr Friedman's company, then: what do we find?

Let's go straight to the Area Analysis, the first of two, which has three maps marking examples the applicants think support their application on the grounds of similar building height, flat roofs, and 'the principle of flats'.

Similar building height: mmm. The only example visible in the area they can find is the local church, St Paul's, a Victorian building (celebrating its centenary in 1986, with attendance by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Margaret Thatcher, and former parishioner Cliff Richard - unmissable event, one imagines ...) The height of the church, now minus its steeple - possibly similar, not much else in common with the monstrosity the developers want to stick in the park across the road, sadly.

Looking around manically for other examples, they can only come up with the Pentland Centre, which is a commercial office building, streets away,  and not in the vicinity of the park: as the crow flies it is probably about half a mile away - Mrs Angry asked this crow, sitting rather sulkily on the back fence of the Lodge, the other day, a fence only erected because she protested the council appeared to be leaving the building unsecured ...

The crow wasn't sure about the distance, but he was pretty damn furious about the pending destruction of the Lodge, and most of the shelter offered by the trees and shrubbery in its grounds.

Back to the documents: flat roofs. Any in the area? Nope, not visible. Again the Pentland Centre, and again, including a very small and discreet block of flats that is adjacent to one of the park boundaries - but is completely hidden from the park by trees.

Third category, 'the principle of flats' ... the applicants have drawn and coloured in a blue circle around the park which includes everything except ... the park, which takes up about a quarter of the radius. That would be, you see, because no one has yet been allowed to build a block of flats in a park. Not sure why, are you? Spoil-sporting, red tape wielding bureaucrats standing in the way of profit ...

Next up, second Area Analysis. This is a cracker. Most amusing. The examples given really are desperate. Oh look: the church again, and tssk, an extension, which actually is very well done, in sympathy with the church, and indeed includes gabled details similar to the Lodge they want to destroy.

'A pair of semis', on the other side of Long Lane, is in fact one house next to a small block of flats which was built in the fifties or sixties, when planning restrictions were less acute, and which anyway is neatly hidden by a mature silver birch tree, and, even better, a lovely ancient hawthorn hedge, which is probably the remainder of an old field boundary.

None of the examples, apart from the red brick, modest block hidden behind mature trees, is anywhere near the park, let alone within the sight of the park's outline.

And all are utterly irrelevant, because there is nothing to compare with the ghastly proposal under consideration, as of course there is NO building in the park, or anything that could possibly be comparable.

The developers explain their random selection:

"Analysis of the local area in terms of building design, architectural style,
materials, building lines, heights and uses shows some variety that would
justify an appropriate "local context". Although the predominant style would
be suburban Victorian, there are too many exceptions to this to rule out a
precendent for a unique development. (sic)

As shown in the diagrams, our proposal is in keeping with a lot of the
important characteristics of the area, such as land use, height, building line
etc. Within these constraints, which we adhered to in the design process,
the architectural style and design is reflecting its unique stand-alone position
where a typical terraced-style development would be very inappropriate."

Erm, no: your proposal is blatantly NOT in keeping with a lot of the important characteristics of the area.

You do admit the predominant style is 'suburban Victorian' (although in fact much of it is Edwardian) and one would have to be a total idiot to think that the hideous, crashingly anachronistic design - either option - would be anything other than a monstrous blot on the landscape of an Edwardian park, let alone the fact that its construction will have robbed the park of its historic lodge.

That 'unique stand-alone' position is a publicly owned open space, and you have no right to build there, let alone erect such an unnecessary, ugly property - most amusing to see you think a 'typical terraced-style development would be very inappropriate', but not a glaringly 21st century, violently unsympathetic, not to say tasteless, design like this ...

The block plans show clearly how huge the proposed new building will be, compared to the Lodge they want to destroy. Apart from the inappropriate style, the scale of the proposal is wildly out of proportion, and a huge expansion, that will have to be squeezed into this small and sensitive site.

And what these plans do not show is that the flats, and several balconies, will directly and closely overlook a children's playground, nearest to the part where there is a large slide for young children. This raises all sorts of safeguarding issues - and again, we must emphasise this is hardly surprising, as building within the footprint of a park is unheard of, for obvious reasons, so the right of young children to be able to play freely and safely within a publicly owned open space, unwatched by anonymous adults, rarely becomes a problem.

Next document: the Proposed Site/Ground Floor. You will see from this drawing details of the underground car park - yes, really - which on a site of this nature, and scale, is simply preposterous, but necessary from the developer's point of view because there is of course no space for parking the dozen or so cars they are allowing for the residents of the proposed block of flats. You will also see the entrance is right on to Long Lane, where the footpath is quite narrow, in a place next to the entrance to the Park, by a crossing point, and near the junction with Park View Road.

This junction and this crossing, is already a dangerous spot. There are many accidents here caused by cars crossing Long Lane from Park View, or Oakfield Road, or simply speeding down Long Lane.

As this is one of the main gates to the Park, there are often many excitable young children rushing towards the entrance, and vulnerable to accidents - one six year old daughter of a mother at my children's school was knocked down at this crossing and sustained a badly broken leg. Another acquaintance, a mother of five, was knocked down at the phone box by the junction as a result of a car swerving to avoid a collision at the junction - again, another broken leg, and a baby in a buggy overturned, and lucky to escape without serious harm.

Imagine the risk to children and other pedestrians from cars being able to access and exit the proposed flats at this location - it simply is not safe.

Let's look at the entertaining 'Sustainability Appraisal'. Apart from a lot of padding, which clearly does not apply to this proposal, and an obsession with carbon dioxide, this statement neatly tiptoes around the obvious joke: that these plans represent the worst sort of assault on a green space that could possibly be imagined, not mitigated in terms of sustainability measures proposed for the ghastly flats, but created by its very existence.

Oh, hang on: here we have a nod to 'Ecology'. Gird up your loins.

"The developers’ sustainability objective is to conserve and enhance the biodiversity of
the region by conserving and enhancing areas valued for their diversity of wildlife,
habitats, and landscape value". 

Hmm. Conserving and enhancing the biodiversity, and the landscape value, by demolishing the built heritage and mature planting represented by the Lodge and its garden, and erecting a repulsive modern structure in its place, with room for 12 polluting cars.

Oh, hang on, again: there will be a green roof. I take it all back.

My friend the crow will enjoy that, anyway, even if no one else will see it. And not all the trees will be cut down, because the developer has graciously indicated he may follow the principle of “right place, right tree”.

Mrs Angry's friend, the Park Lodge crow - and yes, she does wander about the place talking to random crows, and, yes, frankly, her children are quite worried about her - has asked her if any formal assessment of the ecological impact of this development has been made, and do you know, I don't think it has. He was a bit pissed off, when he found that out, tbh. Still. Early days, Mr Crow: early days.

And now - Mrs Angry's favourite bit. Design and Access:

Here the breathless agent for the developers tells us that this is a 'very unique site'. Lol.

Not just unique, see: very unique.

And that is why they must be allowed to come along and make it even more unique, but ... in a very bad way: by creating an abominable eyesore in a beautiful park. To be fair, that is ... more than very unique. It is unprecedented. Hats off.

And then:

"The site was originally occupied by the park keeper’s lodge, and although it is an intrinsic
part of the park, it has always been a separate entity with clear distinct boundaries.
Throughout Victoria Park’s history, the site in question has never been accessible to the
public; it was always intended for private residential use. The site has always had tall
railings and hedges around its entire perimeter to physically separate it from the public
realm of the park. "

Erm. No, in fact clearly you know nothing about the history of Victoria Park.

There was access from the Park to the Lodge, for gardeners to use the tool shed. Even if there were always some hedging, it is tall now because the trees and bushes have matured. Until Mrs Angry came along and insisted the council secure the property once our asset stripping council had evicted the family who lived there, there was no fencing, and anyway, the house and garden fit naturally into the Park, being part of the original layout.

"However it has been vacant and derelict for years, falling into a bad state of disrepair. It is worth mentioning that the park keeper’s lodge is not a Listed Building and it lacks any
architectural merit". 

Well, it has only been vacant because the council evicted the tenants, aiming to flog the property off to the highest bidder and make a big fat capital profit but - oh dear, they then found themselves unable to sell when they realised, too late, that the Park was protected by covenants.

Mmm. Who allowed it to fall into disrepair, and why?

Why were councillors told that it would cost £100,000 to bring the Lodge to a satisfactory standard of accommodation, when the new owners have already put it up for rental with nothing like that spent on it, and where is the report Mrs Angry asked for as part of the audit trail that would prove councillors had not been misled into thinking the Lodge was unviable as a rented property? Does it not exist? That would be very naughty, wouldn't it, readers?

And now: the lodge is not a Listed Building, and lacks any architectural merit.

Not listed, true: but it is well nigh impossible to get anything listed these days, and I'm not sure if anyone tried.

But of no architectural value?

Says who?

In fact that is not true at all. It is a charming example of Edwardian, Arts & Crafts style architecture, and there may not be many other examples of similar park buildings of this period.

But anyway, why, if there is no architectural merit, two nights after the Residents Forum where the issue was discussed so furiously by residents, did some unknown person go to the extent of climbing up a ladder, and smashing off the decorative terracotta finials from the roof, as well as, in frankly a petty and utterly unnecessary act, saw the period style chimney in half?

We continue.

"The plot is unlike any other site, sitting on the edge of a large suburban park. There is no
rhythm or suburban residential pattern adjoining the site. In fact, the existing park keeper’s lodge is a very different type of dwelling compared to the predominant semi-detached and terraced houses in the streets surrounding the park". 

Unlike any other site. Very unique, in fact. But tut tut: no rhythm or suburban residential pattern adjoining the site. Eh? What the f*ck does that mean? No 'rhythm'? Well, there is nothing at all adjoining the site, in fact, rhythmic or not, because - it is in a public park!

A very different type of dwelling ... well, yes, so is the church, and - now fly like a crow to the Pentland Centre, both of which you refer to in defence of your horrible design. But the overall characteristic of this part of Finchley is perfectly in sympathy with both the Park, and the Lodge. In Finchley, if you bothered to look around, you will see other examples of such Edwardian architecture. Manorside School, for example, which you conveniently overlook, although closer than the Pentland Centre - Edwardian, again. The streets right across from the Park, near the Church, are full of particularly beautiful houses of this period - including the road where our MP lives: funnily enough, no reference is made to this area.

There is nothing like the designs in these proposals - and for good reason. They would be utterly unacceptable within the context of this area, and the predominant houses to which you refer.

Ok. Fair warning: stand by for the best bit. The Design Process:

"Being surrounded on three sides by the park, this site presented a very particular
opportunity for us as designers: our proposal would need to “dance” with the park, being
both its partner and protector; it would act as a stand-alone gate to the park, while
providing a sense of identity to it; and it should contribute to the typical relaxing
environment of the park while still presenting an inviting front elevation to Long Lane." 

Yes. This ghastly thing, this assault on the aesthetic senses, their design, must 'dance' with the park.

The dance of death, perhaps: a tango over the edge of reason.

God help me. And they say it will be both 'partner, and protector'? In the way of all abusive relationships, that might be true, from the point of view of the one with his hand on your throat. While dancing you over that edge.

A stand-alone gate to the park? Suppose there will be an admission fee, soon enough - or:

Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here, sort of thing, over the gate?

Enough. Oh, but there is more, Mrs Angry - there is more ...

"As designers, we have a duty and a responsibility on this occasion to try to contribute to the overall well-being of the park, for the mutual benefit of it and the proposed development. From our point of view, and due to the increase of population and risks this involves, every resident of the building will unofficially act as a park keeper".

Isn't that lovely?

Mummy, who is that man on that balcony watching me through his binoculars?

It's alright, darling, it's just one of the new park keepers ...

The developers not only had discussions with and advice from Mr Linford (which they have forgotten to tell us about in the application) they went to see another senior officer, Mrs Sawyer, who mentioned the fact that there have been rapes in and near the park:

"Mrs Sawyer also highlighted the serious issues of vandalism and serious crimes including cases of rape affecting Victoria Park, mainly during night time. She was of the opinion that the constant presence of residents in the proposed flats will help reduce this problem."

Yes. I imagine that will help. It doesn't matter that recently, when Labour councillor Devra Kay referred to the latest incident of rape, just across the road from the Lodge, and asked the council to consider improving the low level of lighting which results from their cost cutting budget, they dismissed her concerns. The new park keepers will keep us safe.

That is the last, most ironic feature of this tawdry business: the annexation of the issue of rape, co-opted to make the case for the commercial development of a park. Yes: this is Broken Barnet, in case any of us have forgotten.

Call me old fashioned, but I prefer the thought of a proper park keeper, living in the Park Keeper's Lodge, chasing local children on their bikes and looking after the grounds, as his job, like 'Treaclefeet', or Thomas Smith: see below, and in the previous post.

If this development is allowed, please don't think that will be the end of the assault on Victoria Park. There are already plans for further developments. Certain parties have their eye on the council's buildings near the Ballards Lane entrance, and there is a plan to create a car park by the bowling green, and possibly on the new croquet lawn. Another rumour talks about houses on the Long Lane side.

Mrs Angry was invited to visit the Bowling Club (hasn't joined yet, due to a shortage of pleated skirts, and sensible shoes) and met the very charming members, and their Chair, and heard about their deep concerns about these awful proposals.

Sylvia and Gary, members of Victoria Park Bowling Club

The new car park, we understand, will be funded by the inconveniently ringfenced money raised by the sale of the Lodge. Now this is rather questionable, apart from the awful idea of carving up the park: that money according to the covenant, can only be used for the 'benefit' of the Park. Yet it is proposed it should be used to create a car park that will produce income for the council! And they have let slip that it is likely to be used by the residents of the proposed development of flats in the former Police Station.

Also of interest, by the way, is the fact that it is believed some of the money from the Lodge sale has been kept back by the council for 'legal fees'. Let's hope that is not true.

But there is another aspect of this saga that has been overlooked. And that is the story of those covenants set in place by Inky Stephens, and Henry Brooks, and all the other canny local dignitaries who, moulded as they were, in the golden age of philanthropy, and civic pride, worried about the future of Victoria Park, and tried their best to protect it and preserve it for generations to come.

Barnet Council sold the Park Keeper's Lodge after so many years, after taking advice which they hoped supported their actions - but it is clear that a definitive view of the interpretation of the covenant has not been achieved. And a careful reading of the documents - and yes, Mrs Angry has read them - suggests that even if the site may be sold, and that is at the very least questionable,  any other building that is not a Lodge, or a cricket pavilion, may not be built.

As a certain officer suggested - the developers who bought the Lodge may have acquired a 'white elephant', and find themselves unable to exploit the commercial value that they thought the site contained.

It may also be that the sale itself is open to challenge.

It is the responsibility of the council now to make sure these plans are rejected - and that the building is protected from demolition - and it must be made absolutely clear that any unpermitted demolition will not be tolerated.

There is every reason to retain this historic property, and use it as intended, for the benefit of the park users: it would make a perfect cafe, for example, like the stables at Avenue House. But as a site for potential development, with or without the Lodge, there is no future at all.

If you want to see this awful proposal rejected, and protect Victoria Park from the threat of developments, please, please, object now, via the council's website, or in writing.

Rather curiously, the notice advising local residents about these plans only seems to have appeared on Monday - and look at where it has been placed: wrapped round a parking notice pole, as far away as possible from the Lodge itself, despite there being a lamp post adjacent to the property, and others between there and this spot. Call that consultation? I don't.

Barnet Tories have been trying for years to persuade residents that the commercialisation of our parks and open spaces is acceptable. At least two consultations on this theme have been roundly thrown out, so now the threat comes on a one to one basis, starting with this 'Premier Park', here in Finchley. If this is permitted, every park, and every green space, every publicly owned open space will be up for grabs. It's up to you now, to prevent this.

Here is the link to the documents, and where you can make objections to the proposals:

You can also follow @victoriaparkfi1 or updates on this story.