Residents left aghast by double “u-turn” by Barnet Conservatives: Dismore questions legality of decisions

Residents of Colindale and Underhill were left enraged after a meeting of the Barnet Council Planning Committee last night, as Conservative Councillors on the committee voted against their own previous recommendations to refuse permission for a new Paddy Power gambling outlet in Colindale and the Ark Academy proposals in Underhill.

Andrew Dismore, Labour London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden, has written to Barnet Council Chief Executive John Hooton, challenging the legality of both decisions (See emails below)

Mr Dismore said:

‘In introducing the Ark Academy item, the Chair referred to who was to pay for the proposed school. This is clearly not a lawful planning consideration, and no officer corrected this statement. This renders the decision in my view unlawful, as it took irrelevant factors into account.

‘The Paddy Power application was taken by a differently constituted committee to that which heard the community representations and debate, in that one of the Conservative Councillors who voted for it was not present at the otr5ginal meeting which was’ minded to refuse’. As she had not heard all the argument, this also renders this decision unlawful.

‘Both decisions in my view ought to be reviewed by another committee to ensure planning law prevails.

‘The Council cannot ride roughshod over the law, no matter how convenient it might be to them’.

Residents disputed claims over the  Ark Academy made by the Council that there was a need for addition school places in the east of the borough given the nearby Totteridge Academy still has places, and that no “special circumstances” had been demonstrated to allow the building on Green Belt. Ward Councillor Paul Edwards also spoke about the detrimental impact that parking and traffic to the site would have, given the demand for school places is in the west of the Borough, and public transport connections are poor.

Conservative Councillors on the committee, who had voted to refuse a previous application for a larger version of the school, performed their first u-turn of the night and in a close 6-5 decision voted to approve the new plans, sparking anger from residents. Pupils of The Totteridge Academy in the public gallery were especially affronted when Conservative Councillor Wendy Prentice said that her grandson attended the school and she “could tell you a few things about that school”.

The committee then considered the Paddy Power application, which had been deferred from the previous meeting of the committee. At the previous meeting, Councillors had voted to ‘mind to refuse’ the application, only deferred the reasons for the refusal.

Conservative members of the committee voted down every reason for refusal that they had previously agreed with, and then voted to approve the application. Residents in the public gallery were left flabbergasted by the decision, and voiced their displeasure, forcing the adjournment of the meeting.

Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden Andrew Dismore attended the meeting and spoke against the Ark Academy scheme. He had been refused permission to speak on the Paddy Power application, despite requesting to.

Mr Dismore said:

‘in addition to taking unlawful decisions, just when you think Barnet’s Conservative Councillors could not sink any lower, they manage to disgust residents of two wards in one night with their double u-turns. It is clear that the green belt isn’t safe in the Barnet Conservatives’ hands. They keep failing to protect it time and time again. I don’t know how they think the principle of a school on the former Underhill Stadium site is wrong one meeting then right at another. They cannot say the traffic issues have been resolved by new bus stops when there are no new bus services!

‘The Council’s case was laughable. Their list of alternative sites was a joke, and their suggestion that the Government’s funding of the new school should be a factor in planning decision making was wrong and illegal.

‘On Paddy Power, their flip-flopping is not even  legal. How can different members hear the same application? Barnet Council is just a shambles. I am increasingly confident that next May the incompetent Conservatives will be replaced by a very talented Labour team who will at last get to grips with this failing planning department.’



  • Andrew Dismore is the Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden
  • Documents for the meeting can be found here.

Text of letter to John Hooton, on Underhill Stadium:

Dear Mr Hooton,

I am writing to you, to question the legality of the decision at last night’s planning committee to approve this application.

In introducing the item, the Chair made a clear argument, that one of the factors in the application was the  that the proposed school was to be funded by the Government; and if the application was refused, then any other school elsewhere would have to be funded by the Borough.

I am sure you will appreciate that the issue of funding for the proposed school is not a planning consideration in law, but clearly was a factor in the mind of the Chair, and also by extension those the Chair sought to influence, namely the Conservative members of the Committee. Moreover, no officer stepped in to correct the Chair and to make the point that this was an irrelevant factor.

In approving the application, the Committee therefore took into account irrelevant matters, which I argue makes the decision unlawful, and would make this application susceptible to judicial review.

In the circumstances, I argue that the decision, being unlawful, ought to be referred back to another differently constituted committee, for a lawful decision to be taken.

I await your response.

Best regards

Andrew Dismore AM

Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden


Text of letter to John Hooton, on Paddy Power:

Dear Mr Hooton,

I am writing to you, to question the legality of the decision at last night’s planning committee to approve this application.

After representations   from local people and full debate on 28th September, the committee were ‘minded to refuse’ the application, and it was deferred for reasons for refusal to be drafted.

Last night, the reasons advanced by officers were voted down in turn, followed by a motion from the chair to approve which was passed. All votes were passed by a majority of one.

I note that the membership of the committee at the two meetings was different, in that Cllr Prentice was not present at the first meeting, to hear community representations or the then debate leading to the decision to ‘mind to refuse’; yet she voted to refuse last night.

As she was not present at the first meeting, how can it be said she was fully appraised of the issues to make an informed decision, as no further community representations (or indeed my own) were allowed at the second meeting last night? I would argue she was not, and as the decision to approve was taken by a majority of just one, I would argue that this decision was unlawful and should be taken again, after public representations and a full debate at another meeting of the Committee, which could well then come back to the original conclusion.

I await hearing from you as a matter of urgency.


Andrew Dismore AM

Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden