Neighbours are battling plans for a new development on green belt land in Mill Hill which they fear will “change the character of the area”.

Marstead Living wants to build 175 units of “specialist older persons’ housing” on a site in The Ridgeway that is currently home to Watch Tower House and Kingdom Hall, which were formerly used by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Barnet Council received almost 200 letters of objection during a consultation on the plans, which have yet to be considered by a planning committee. There were 27 letters in support.

The proposed scheme, which lies within Mill Hill Conservation Area, would see the existing buildings demolished to make way for ten blocks ranging between three and five storeys, plus a basement level.

Elizabeth Silver, who lives locally, said residents were “fed up with overdevelopment causing the piecemeal loss of green belt and a total change in the character of the area”.

According to the developer’s proposals, the building footprint will rise by 18.4 per cent and the volume will almost double compared to existing structures if the scheme goes ahead.

Times Series: Marked on the map is Kingdom Hall and Watch Tower House that form the development site in The Ridgeway in Mill Hill. Credit: Google MapsMarked on the map is Kingdom Hall and Watch Tower House that form the development site in The Ridgeway in Mill Hill. Credit: Google Maps

Ms Silver said mature trees would be felled and that saplings planted elsewhere on the site would take “at least 20 years to provide cover”. She also raised concerns that plans to open up the field next to the buildings to the public could see it used for “farmers’ markets, concerts and film screenings”, which she said would lead to “more noise and parking issues, and loss of wildlife habitat”.

The developer has pointed out that the total “built-up” area would fall by almost 15 per cent, with areas of hardstanding set to be removed under the scheme.

However, in its initial response to the plans, Greater London Authority said the application “represents inappropriate development on the green belt and is currently unacceptable”. It added that a “full public benefits package is required to determine whether very special circumstances exist” that would justify green belt development.

Further concerns raised by residents include the potential for more traffic and parking problems in The Ridgeway, plus a lack of GP provision. Ms Silver urged councillors to heed residents’ concerns over the scheme and be “mindful of local sentiment if they wish to be re-elected on 5th May”.

Mark Alper, chief executive of Marstead Living, said the developer was “incredibly proud” of the scheme and what he called its “extremely respectful and considered design”.

He cooled concerns about parking, stating there will be a basement car park, and says buildings will be screened by an extra 175 trees.

He added: “These proposals actually reduce the proportion of the site that is currently built up by nearly 15 per cent. By reducing urban sprawl and giving more of the site back to nature, this new specialist housing development will actually have a positive effect on biodiversity in the area, with an 11 per cent increase in habitat and 145 per cent increase in hedgerows, helping a great variety of plants, animals and insects flourish.

"We have taken great care to listen to the community and be a good neighbour as we very much want to be a part of the future of Mill Hill, creating homes that people can enjoy through their later years without having to leave this wonderful area.”