Conservationists say developers’ plans to build 2,000 homes in West Hendon are causing a “severe threat” to natural wildlife at a nearby reservoir.
Barratt Metropolitan has submitted the planning application as part of the West Hendon Estate regeneration – but people living in the area fear the effects of the proposed changes.
This is the second time developers have attempted to build next to the Welsh Harp, a nature reserve made up of approximately 170 hectares of open land and water.
In the 1960s the area became a Site of Special Scientific Interest as one of the most important places for bird breeding in southern England. Many species nest in the Welsh Harp, which is home to waterfowl and a large breeding colony of great crested grebes.
Neighbours, who regularly use the Welsh Harp, say plans to demolish their current homes to make way for 2,000 new properties as well as a nursery and primary school will be detrimental to the area.
Among those fighting the plans is Derrick Chung, chairman of West Hendon Residents’ Association and a member of Welsh Harp Conservation Group.
He said: “We’re worried for the wildlife that will be endangered if these plans go ahead - this is a very important area for wildlife.
"But the residents are also worried because there’s no guarantee they’ll be given a new home once it is knocked down. This development must not happen.”
Councillor Julie Johnson, who lives in Woolmead Avenue, says people living on the estate must be put before the developers and their plans.
She said: “I want people to have decent homes but this is definitely being profit-led and I don’t think the existing tenants are getting the best deal.
“I was born in West Hendon so I’ve always known the Welsh Harp and I don’t want it to be jeopardised in any way – building 2,000 homes will jeopardise it.”
The plans also include a community centre and two pedestrian bridges over the Welsh Harp which is jointly managed by Barnet Borough Council, Brent Borough Council and British Waterways.
Zerine Tata, who lives in Hillcroft Crescent, Wembley, said: “I’d be absolutely horrified if this was allowed to go ahead. Welsh Harp is my local haven and when friends come to visit it’s the first place I take them. We’re very lucky to have it and so we must not destroy it.
“What is proposed will destroy the nature reserve and natural wildlife for good as well as cause pollution and noise. This is a severe threat to the Welsh Harp and it’s totally unacceptable.”
Ms Tata, 68, is encouraging people to submit their comments to Barnet’s case officer Thomas Wyld. To add your comment via the council’s website click here.
Councillor Richard Cornelius, leader of Barnet Council, said: “People always have reservations about any regeneration scheme. Only a few weeks ago people were criticising us for not getting going fast enough.
“We think we can bring real improvements in residents’ lives with funding coming almost entirely from the private sector.
“The Welsh Harp is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and this will obviously be a key issue through the planning process.”
A spokesman for Barratt Metropolitan LLP said: "Our proposals will deliver the long-promised regeneration of the West Hendon Estate, breathing fresh life into a neglected area beside the Welsh Harp and achieving the council’s aspiration to create 2,000 new homes, including 25 per cent affordable.
“Estate residents and Barnet will benefit from a £500m injection that will see an increase in open space on the estate, more than 130 jobs provided for local people and the unique Welsh Harp being made visible from The Broadway for the first time.
"We are confident these plans will transform the local area by delivering a new generation of high quality buildings for current and future residents."