The first stage of a major redevelopment of the Hendon area centred on Middlesex University has been agreed.

The Hendon Hub Redevelopment is expected to provide nearly 800 student homes and new facilities for the university, with construction costs estimated at £90 million.

An outline business case for the scheme, which would also see Hendon Public Library moved out of its current Grade II-listed building to make way for a business school, was approved at a meeting of Barnet Council’s policy and resources committee on Tuesday (December 8).

If further stages of the project get the go-ahead, it is expected to provide 792 student homes, academic space, offices, a new public library building and other community facilities close to the Middlesex University campus in The Burroughs.

There are currently two funding options being considered. The council could borrow money from the Government or enter into an agreement with a private partner. Both involve leasing the new buildings to Middlesex University.

Committee chairman and council leader Cllr Dan Thomas (Conservative, Finchley Church End) told the meeting: “There has been some concern from residents that the university is going to expand, but there are no intentions to expand overall student numbers.

“This is about improving the facilities that they offer to students and facilities for the community as well. There will be a much-needed financial benefit for the council and council taxpayers.”

Programme manager Suzi Carter added: “The intention is to improve the buildings in The Burroughs and Church End. We have aimed for a modern architectural design in keeping with the heritage structures.”

But a Conservative councillor for Hendon, Cllr Nizza Fluss, called on the committee to reject the proposals and come back with plans that would “benefit the wider Hendon community”.

Cllr Fluss said she saw no reason for the library to move out of its current building, which was modernised in 2004 at “vast expense”.

“I am deeply concerned about the cost implications to the council,” she added. “The council will have to borrow more money, publicly or privately, for the Middlesex University Hub project. We all know what just happened in Croydon, with their fancy projects.

“Council officers are constantly warning us of financial doom and gloom. You just approved a budget with substantial cuts for our residents. Why would Barnet take on such a massive debt?”

Labour leader Cllr Barry Rawlings (Coppetts) also warned over the potential impact on the council’s finances. “Once you have spent this money on pursuing it, it is unlikely to turn back – and it is a very high-risk scheme,” he said.

“What we are being asked to agree is something where we haven’t decided what the delivery options are, haven’t decided on the funding strategy, we’re not sure what the tax implications are, and a risk register – you might as well make a whole-page spread.”

Cllr Rawlings also warned Hendon residents could be left with a temporary library in portable buildings if the scheme ran into financial difficulty – a concern that was echoed by Lib Dem group leader Cllr Gabriel Rozenberg (Garden Suburb).

Responding to the concerns, Cllr Thomas said he expected students would want to return to campus once the Covid-19 pandemic is over, and Middlesex University would not enter into a long-term lease if it did not feel it was viable.

He added that a full business case would provide more detail on funding and delivery, and pledged his administration would never allow a temporary library to “languish in portable buildings”.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats voted against the recommendation to approve the outline business case, but it was approved when Conservative committee members voted in favour.

A public consultation on the redevelopment proposals is due to take place during February and March before a full business case is submitted in the spring.

Subject to planning applications being approved, the development is due for completion in 2025.