Many thanks to all who sent in comments in response to our bulletin in October on the possible proposal to construct a new building in the Wood. We thought members would like to have an update on the situation.
ACTION TO DATE
The comments we received ranged from support for the concept through to objections to having any development of this sort in the Wood. Taking these comments into account we had a useful preliminary discussion with Council officers on 6 November. This clarified a number of questions but left a large number unanswered. We have notified the six ward councillors of our position. We understand that other local organisations, particularly the Highgate Society and the Highgate Conservation Area Advisory Committee, are taking an active interest.
GENERAL FQW STANCE
• In principle we do not object to improving welfare facilities in the Wood.
• Our broad objective in considering the proposals is to respond positively to the requirements of all users of the Wood, particularly children, the disabled and the disadvantaged, while not compromising the essential need to preserve and protect the ecology of the Wood as an area of ancient woodland and its status as statutory local nature reserve.
• However we have strong reservations about the rationale for, and the nature and scale of, the proposals as currently presented.
• They seem to have been pieced together on an ad hoc basis in response to a still evolving and disparate set of ideas.
• There is no clear indication of who will be able to use the facility, when it would be available, or who would control it.
• Far more evidence is needed of the benefits and costs of the proposals; in particular a proper environmental impact assessment, preferably independent, is required in view of the special status of the Wood.
• No temporary solution should be put in place before the long-term option has been decided and proper funding (both capital and servicing/maintenance) has been committed: a temporary facility should not become a long-term fixture.
• The decision-taking process should not be rushed. The issues at stake are too important to be glossed over. There should be full consultation before decisions are taken.
SPECIFIC POINTS OF CONCERN
The following are the most important points we have raised with the Council:
• There needs to be a much better assessment of the demand by the various categories of user of the Wood who can potentially use the facility.
• Usage by disabled persons is particularly unclear. These include many people with hidden or partial disabilities, with varying requirements. The Council’s briefing note refers to a specific request by the Council’s SEND (Special Educational Needs) team to install very high quality ’Changing Places’ toilet/welfare facilities in some of Haringey’s parks but it seems that they are not necessarily seeking such facilities in Queen’s Wood and certainly they seem not to have specified what exactly they need and what usage they would make of Queen’s Wood more generally.
• Likewise usage by schools and children’s groups has not been properly assessed, or their needs specified. While the Council has a record of authorised groups using the Wood, it has little information on groups that are not authorised. Reference has been made by the Council to the Parks team trying to manage the number of such groups so that nature conservation is not compromised, but it has not said how this will be done. This work must be done before further steps are taken. We know that work was started by the then Nature Conservation Officer before he resigned but it should not be completed before a new Officer is appointed and carries out this work.
• No assessment seems to have been made of the needs of other users (general public, dog walkers, adult groups etc).
• Once usage has been properly assessed and defined the overall environmental impact of the proposals needs to be assessed, including that of the change in, and degree of, usage that will result from the provision of any new facilities. Input from the new Nature Conservation Officer, when in place, would be especially valuable.
• It is not clear how this proposal links in with the development of the Council’s Green Strategy.
• The size, appearance and location of the new structure cannot be determined until all this work is done. These aspects will of course need to properly assessed in their own right in due course.
• Issues of access, maintenance and security need to be more fully addressed.
• Provision of the appropriate funding (both capital and management/servicing/maintenance) needs to be better specified and secured before final decisions are taken.
• The proposals will need to be put out to public consultation before final decisions are taken. We believe that full planning permission will be required and the appropriate procedures followed; the permitted development route is not appropriate for a development of this size and nature. Provision must also be made for consultation with all interested parties, especially local groups such as FQW and Highgate Society. These processes will inevitably take time.
Council officers were due to have a meeting with the six Ward Councillors in mid-November. This was postponed until after the general election. We understand that the officers are now trying to rearrange the meeting. Following that meeting they will let us know how they wish to proceed. This is unlikely to be before the New Year. We shall keep you abreast of developments.
Chair, Friends of Queen’s Wood
17 December 2019