February | March 2013

Our Campaigning Hits the Front Page – Muswell Hill Police Station Goes for Development

Our constant championing of local causes to keep our area clean, green and safe, is attracting media attention. While last year our Association featured in the local press a record 16 times, we have not yet made the front page this early in the year before. The proposed closure of Muswell Hill Police Station, featured on the front page of the Broadway Ham and High on 17th February, has caused outrage to members. Our Chairman, John Hajdu, is ensuring that our collective voice is heard by the decision makers. “It is short-sighted and not in the community’s interests”, he is quoted as saying.

One concern is that our three local Safer Neighbourhood teams’ work will be compromised as in disparate locations the information sharing that they rely on will be more difficult. Members have also expressed their dismay that the historic station will be sold to developers

Broadway Flower Troughs

An earlier edition of the newspaper ran details our fight to keep our area looking green and ‘card about’ starting with the Broadway’s flower troughs. As a result, new sponsors have now come forward. The Muswell Hill Sustainability Group has volunteered plants for two flower troughs at the roundabout. We welcome other donations.

Threat to the Rookfield CA

Our Association is supporting our new members in the Rookfields Conservation Area in their campaign to save the Hollybank site, a large strip of land north of Cranmore way, from development. The plan the Hollybank Action Group is opposing would see homes built on what is now the site of garages, a cottage and a copse. There is also a large ‘public’ WW2 air raid shelter there and the remains of an underground petrol tank with petrol pumps now gone.

Most of the garages are wide enough for cars and the campaigners claim a latent demand for car parking there already exists. Nine businesses also use the garages, for example, for storage or as premises from which to operate. The Hollybank Action Group is concerned about development being allowed to take place within a Conservation Area, especially one that is subject to an Article 4 directive, and the precedent this sets for development in other conservation areas. Contact Helen Finch at helen.finch@btconnect.com if you would like to be kept informed of progress.

What is the Value of Our Community Land?

Peter Thompson, our Association Legal Eagle,discusses the relevance of the Localism Act 2011 to land in our area (edited)

Under the heading ‘Assets of Community Value’ the Localism Act 2011 provides a system for listing land ‘of community value’ in order to prevent it being sold off without the community having a chance to bid for it. It applied to land but not, apparently, to other community assets like the Langton Clock, the Queen’s Avenue horse-trough and the Transmitter in Alexandra Park. This is clear from the requirement that the listing must include “a description of the nominated land including its proposed boundaries’.

So, does the Act empower conservationists to list the whole of Muswell Hill and protect it from falling into the hands of developers. No, there are various restrictions. Only ‘a voluntary or community body’ with a local connection may make an application for listing. Happily, our Association falls within the definition. But we cannot nominate any old land. Dwelling-houses are excluded and the land has to have community value, which means that its use ‘furthers the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community”.

So let us focus on something modest like the little ‘park’ by the John Baird public house. That, some may think, is a nice little community refuge where you can sit and talk and further your social wellbeing. It looks like a suitable candidate for listing. The first step is to identify its boundaries and owners by a search of the Land Registry and then persuade MHFGA or some other sizable voluntary community body with a local connection to apply to the Council for this little parcel of land to be listed. Once that is successfully done, members can sleep at night knowing that the owner cannot sell off the land without a community interest group being given six weeks to ask to be considered as a bidder for the land and six months in which to buy it. Be warned: the bidding may well be in competition with commercial operators who have deep pockets and who want to acquire the land for development. The MHFGA also does not fall within the definition of a ‘community interest group’ since it is a group of individual members, not a corporate organisation.

Maybe a corporate body like en10energy limited would be willing to bid for the land. Otherwise is may be necessary to form a bespoke company called, perhaps, the Community Land in Muswell Hill Company limited, that can buy the land and register its ownership. The Fortis Green Community Allotments Trust made a bid for their land, with money provided by members. The deal was done with Thames Water. The Rookfield Management company, formed by the Rookfield Estate residents, successfully bought their verges and trees alongside their houses from the freeholders.

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