Sunday 14 September 2014

West Hendon Estate battles Barratts and Barnet

Cross-posting from Shahrar Ali's blog - edited version. Full version with more photographs and interview HERE

On Saturday 13 September, residents came out in force to assert their claim to be able to live in a peaceful, clean neighbourhood, without the noise and pollution impact of construction work on their doorstep. The neighbourhood was West Hendon estate on the bank of the Welsh Harp nature reserve. The contractor was Barratts Homes, determined to extend its real estate with prior permission of Barnet Council and with all the nods and winks that came before that.

Brent and Barnet Greens have been active on the campaign to preserve the habitat of Welsh Harp for several years, against the threat from over development on both sides of the council boundary and were visible at this protest. Discussion of the impact of this latest development on current tenants in social housing came to the fore last summer at a public meeting hosted at Brent Council (Brent Unites against Welsh Harp overdevelopment). Unfortunately, despite the approval from Barnet, Brent did not mount a judicial review and it was unlikely residents would be able to afford to do so.

I lent my megaphone to a resident who was driven around the estate to drum up a bit more people power. We began obstructing the main gate to the construction site, as dozens of contractors started to arrive. Our spirits were up as we sang, “Aint gonna do no work today”.  A couple of vehicles were mounted up against the hoarding at the critical entrance and banners and placards were mounted around.

Site managers came to speak to us and we entered into a conversation about the impact of their construction on the neighbours and the prospect of worse to come with the demolition of a tower block on the opposite side of the street, with residents still living a stone’s throw away. We conveyed our mission not to allow construction trucks into the site and the managers were turned back. Minutes later we were joined by police asking who was in charge. They entered into a diffuse conversation with our flat hierarchy, followed by a visit to the site office. They returned to announce that they “would allow” our presence there so long as we did not impede emergency vehicles.

Minutes later, came the highlight of the action – a concrete truck performed a U-turn mid-way up the road. The small crowd was jubilant and time to take a group picture.

Further actions are planned – please follow on facebook or @ourwesthendon #ourwesthendon

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