Newsletter June 2017

With the planning application for Meadow Works, on which we report below, we can see that high rise urbanisation of the outer London suburbs is creeping ever closer to our area. The euphoria over the rejection by Barnet’s Planning Committee of the proposed redevelopment of the Medical Research Centre in Mill Hill was short lived - the London Mayor has called in the application for him to reconsider. The scheme is for 460 houses and flats in 19 blocks up to 9 storeys high. It will be very visible from our area. Other nearby schemes in the pipeline include the Pentavia site in Mill Hill (685 flats up to 9 storeys), North London Business Park in Brunswick Park (1350 flats in 8/9 storeys), New Barnet Gas works site (357 flats and houses up to 6 storeys), B&Q site Whetstone (124 houses and flats up to 6 storeys) and Barnet House Whetstone (conversion to 234 flats, some as small as 16 sq metres). So far we have avoided such horrors, and maybe the housing slowdown will take some of the heat out of major speculative schemes, but predatory developers should never be underestimated. And we have to face the reality of politicians seeking to deliver the maximum number of housing units possible with scant regard to the wishes of the communities affected.

DISMAY OVER MEADOW WORKS

Following on from the closure last year of Brake Shear House for redevelopment with the loss of local jobs, there is now a planning application to similarly redevelop Meadow Works on the Great North Rd, to be replaced by 78 flats in two buildings extending to six storeys. Along with many residents and other organisations we have objected to the proposal, expressing concern over the overdevelopment of this small site, continuing loss of artisanal workplaces to housing, and the inappropriateness of the height which will dominate an area characterised by low-rise housing, as is evident from the photograph below.

old industrial building, corrugated iron roof and childrens slide in foregroundyellow brick industrial building deserted and cleaned up

Meanwhile the Brake Shear House development has run into difficulties over groundwork problems, apparently discovered just as the last tenants left. The site has been sold on to Shanly Homes, noted for building upmarket housing. They are considering their options and we would not be surprised if they come up with an entirely new scheme to that which got planning consent (which followed from painstaking consultation with the community, including ourselves). The approved scheme included workplaces to replace those lost and we fear that could now be in jeopardy. As an interim measure the new owners are offering new lettings in the old premises for one year, which may be extended. It is somewhat ironic that several firms which moved from here to the Meadow Works site are now considering moving back.

OUTSOURCING OF REFUSE COLLECTION BINNED

full litter binWe were pleased to learn that the Council has decided to keep the Streetscene unit in-house following a costing exercise and public consultation. Apparently the reformed in-house model has progressed in the last twelve months in “becoming a more flexible, cost effective, responsive service”. We are not sure what this means but suspect it means “cuts achieved”. Reductions to street cleaning are evident around the High Street where staffing levels do not allow for bins to be emptied as often or as early in the day as they should, especially ones in peripheral areas such as the one in Alston Rd pictured here.

There is worse to come. The Streetscene budget is being reduced over three years from around £12 million to £10 million. There will be a programme implemented over the next 12 to 18 months to run the service in “the most effective, efficient and economical way possible”. We don’t know what this means either but again suspect it really means “more cuts”. One way to achieve the savings would be to move to fortnightly collections, though no-one on the Council has yet put their head above the parapet to indicate this.

HOSPITAL CPZ GETS GREEN LIGHT

From the original consultation with residents the new Controlled Parking Zone will be limited to Elmbank Ave, Granville Rd, Wellhouse Lane and Wellhouse Close. However, the Council has also agreed to a late request from residents in Sutton Crescent, Lingholm Way, Lexington Way and Garthland Drive to be added to the scheme. Operational hours will be 8am to 6.30pm. This will be an entirely new CPZ as concern had already been expressed about residents from the periphery of Area C parking in streets adjacent to The Spires when they drive into town to shop. We are concerned that parking for hospital staff and visitors will be even more difficult, and one likely effect of this new scheme will be a demand for more streets in the area to be included in the CPZ as parking congestion shifts elsewhere. Alas there is no sign of an effective travel to work policy for hospital staff that might reduce car use.

One initiative that offers some relief to the hospital parking problem is that the council has finally responded to our long standing request to allow all-day parking in bays around Ravenscroft Park, with charges that match the cheapest in town (as in Fitzjohn Avenue car park). Fitzjohn Avenue car park is also being reassessed following complaints that the bays are not wide enough for many modern cars. Indications are that the current 88 spaces may be reduced to 72, with additional spaces for motorcycles.

DEVELOPERS CLOSE IN ON WHALEBONES

grass and wild plantsAn ecological survey commissioned by the Trustees has been completed and we are aware that plans for redevelopment are being prepared by the appointed developer. We believe initial discussions with Council officers have already taken place. The stated aim is to have a planning application submitted by the end of the year. We have been promised consultation with the community but we hope this will not be just window dressing on a scheme that is largely settled. There is indeed considerable public opposition to any development at all, including our MP and some Councillors, so once proposals are made public we anticipate a major backlash.

MORE SPECIALIST SHOPS

Woof Lounge doggie spa and boutiqueVelofit bike shop spinning classes

We have long held the view that outside the prime retail area specialist ‘destination’ shops have the best chance of survival. We have recently had some interesting new arrivals. Following on from the tailor ‘New Stitch’ in St Albans Rd, also opened in the immediate vicinity are ‘The Woof Lounge’, described as a doggie spa and boutique (lucky pooches) and ‘Velofit’, a bicycle shop. As well as selling new bikes Velofit undertakes repairs, respraying and customised adaptations. We wish them all well

row of small shopsAlso at the St Albans Rd junction Reni’s café has had a makeover inside and out and looks very much the better for it. It now sits in a particularly attractive run of shops. A pity we cannot say the same for the appearance of much of the rest of the High St.

Of late closures have thankfully been largely absent, though the jewellers in The Spires has gone.

At the lower end of the High St a number of new arrivals have joined the somewhat crowded catering sector. ‘Munchies’ has opened near to the College, whilst further down ‘Expresso Workshop’ has appeared. In the same area we are still awaiting Pepe’s Grilled Chicken mentioned in our previous Newsletter. Although we often hear the grumble that there are too many cafés in the area, it continues to surprise just how resilient this expanding market appears to be notwithstanding occasional failures.

CHURCH TURNING REINSTATED

bus and turning lorry in front of churchThe experimental closure of the turning by the Church from Wood St to the High St came to an end at the beginning of May. The experiment was to test whether the crossing for pedestrians might be significantly improved by paving over that section of road. There was a lot of criticism of the closure, particularly because of the rather erratic behaviour of some drivers when they found the turning was closed. There was a perception of increased traffic elsewhere in town. Highways have been monitoring traffic movement to gauge the impact of the closure. A report is awaited.

BEWARE CONVERSIONS BY STEALTH

We recently came across a situation in Strafford Rd where what appeared to be an extension was in fact an additional flat. Because no-one noticed, or if they did they did not complain, the landlord has just waited the statutory four years and then applied for a Lawful Development Certificate. The Council is considering the application, but had a planning application been made at the time the works were undertaken it would almost certainly have been turned down. The Council enforcement team has recently been strengthened but they are only as good as the information they receive. Vigilance by neighbours is the best way to catch out abuse of planning controls, especially illegal conversion to flats and homes in multiple occupation.

large house on cornerA proposal to add a mansard roof to Wessex Court in West End Lane to facilitate an additional floor of flats attracted some 40 objections, including ourselves, although there was also considerable public support, not least from several existing residents of the building. But the Council shared our view that this was overdevelopment and out of character with the neighbourhood, and the application was rejected. Also strongly opposed by us and others was a proposal to convert to flats the house at 12 Hadley Highstone (the former Loch Fyne restaurant pictured), and we were pleased that it was rejected.

More cheering outcomes to proposals we opposed included the refusal on appeal for a back garden glorified shed in Puller Rd to be used as residential accommodation; an application to build a residence in the back garden of a house in Wood St which attracted some 30 objections was also rejected.

Less welcome was the approval for cosmetic alterations to the frontage of the additional floor at 141 High St, dubbed by us as ‘the beach hut’. We consider this gross disregard of what was approved should have resulted in a demand for demolition. The minor alterations are now in progress. Also approved is the rebuild of 108 to 112 High St (Toy Galaxy etc) which we have featured in previous Newsletters. We consider the design to be decidedly bland and would have liked to have seen something much better for this prominent High St site. The consolation is that it will be a world better than what is there now.

PUBS – DECLINE AND FALL

pub closedpub with small car outside

The closure of the White Lion was not unexpected given the dismal level of trading over past years. It now looks rather sorry for itself, and the departing leaseholder removed most of the interior fittings. It has been bought by a local developer who tells us he has no plans to demolish this locally listed building but has yet to decide its future use. We can expect a proposal to construct flats to the rear, but this is unlikely to happen soon as the same developer owns the car wash site next door and intends to develop that first.

There was considerable concern that Greene King were trying to sell off The Monk for redevelopment. In the event it was a relief when new management arrived in May, so this pub should be safe for the immediate future at least, but it does need to be better used. Meantime a group of local residents, supported by ourselves, have applied to have the pub registered as an Asset of Community Value. Though offering limited protection, the ACV listing does put obstacles in the way of the owners and may encourage them to think twice when considering disposal. Across London some 25% of pubs have been lost since 2001. Over the same period we reckon to have lost 40% of the pubs in our two wards.

STEP FREE ACCESS PROBLEM RESOLVED

removal of double steps at the edge of the pavement almost completedTFL has long been exercised by the difficulty faced by infirm passengers or those with pushchairs in boarding buses at the northbound stops by the Shapla restaurant where there are two steps down from the pavement. We long argued that if the 34 bus was extended to Arkley the bus stops could be moved to where the 34 currently terminates. Alas TFL were not persuaded and instead decided on a costly realignment of the pavement and the road to deal with the problem. The work involves lowering the pavement on the west side of the High St and raising it on the east side. The work to replace the pavement on the west side is now complete with the east side currently in progress. The level of the road will then be raised. The double steps were once a feature all along the High St and the removal of the last of them is another lost link with the past..

SPIRES REBUILD WELL ADVANCED

Despite rumours to the contrary the owners have told us the project remains on schedule and H&M remain on board, with a July target for the shell to be handed over for fitting out. The three restaurants originally intended for the West Courtyard have been reduced to two with Savers remaining where they are including the shop front being moved forward.

With the courtyards resurfaced it is possible to get an impression what the finished scheme will look like. Certainly the appearance will be very fresh and modern. Maybe not to everyone’s taste, but the remaining original units do now look rather tired and understated. We can anticipate more development following completion of the current project. We have no idea what the owners might have in mind, but we are aware they have been buying property around the market site, so we do expect something ambitious to emerge in due course.

CRIME LEVELS STEADY BUT …..

Whilst there has not been an overall increase in crime in our area the daytime knifing incident in Courthouse Gardens has certainly rattled public confidence. It was no surprise that youths were involved as youth-on- youth aggressive behaviour has been more evident even around the High St. We have previously reported on rising levels of anti-social behaviour with increased levels of graffiti, and theft of mopeds for joyriding has emerged as a problem in Underhill. We have had difficulties in the past over anti-social behaviour and it only came well under control when each ward gained a Safer Neighbourhood Team of nine officers. It may be no coincidence that now these teams are reduced to three officers as a result of cuts in police numbers we are again seeing a rise in what might be described as low-level nuisance crime. And maybe a result of such crime going unchecked can lead to the kind of serious incident such as that in Courthouse Gardens.

We appreciate the local police are doing all they can with the resources available, which might include them not always being available because they can be called elsewhere to serious incidents such as terrorist attacks. And they have to deal with a wide range of issues. For example car washes have recently been checked for illegal employment practices, people have been found living in tents on Hadley Green, and following complaints about speeding buses the garage in Potters Bar was visited with management there agreeing to take action. Following the eviction of Star buses from the Everyman cinema car park there have again been lots of complaints about their buses parking in residential roads in the Leicester Rd area. A further check on misuse of blue badges around the High St is planned following the successful operation late last year.

PAVEMENT BUILD OUT CONTROVERSY

pavement in the High Street to be widenedWe have featured the long planned scheme to build out the pavements on the west side of the High St in previous Newsletters and emailed members in April when the Council put out the scheme to consultation. There has been a lot of opposition to the loss of seven parking bays including a petition collected in a number of shops. It is unfortunate that from the start the scheme has just been described as building out the pavements as though the objective was just to widen them to make walking easier. That is not the point at all. It would be more correct to describe it as a town centre regeneration scheme to encourage more footfall through the creation of a much more appealing public space.

We have continued to be clear in our support for the scheme and more detailed arguments are on our website. We remain firmly of the view that to revive the fortunes of the High St imaginative measures are needed to match the thought that has gone into reviving The Spires. Key is the recognition that it is pedestrians, not cars, that matter. We know that about two thirds of the visitors to the town arrive by foot or bus and of those that arrive by car the vast majority effectively become pedestrians as they have to walk into town from the four main car parks. We want to encourage more footfall, and it can only come from these sources. The handful of parking bays in the High St are always full so we cannot expect more shop custom from there. The loss of seven parking bays would be a small price compared to the potential gain in footfall, the object of many similar schemes undertaken elsewhere. Officers are currently reviewing the responses to the consultation.

OPEN DOOR OPEN

cafe interior with wooden panellingGraced by the Bishop of Stepney the Open Door project in John Trotter House (the former Red Cross building) on St Albans Rd was opened on 13 May. The interior fit-out is very attractive creating a warm, comfortable environment complete with a mini-café. This will provide a drop-in centre designed for use by the elderly. Opening hours are 9am to 4pm Tuesday to Friday including an afternoon session for dementia sufferers and their carers. Other space is available for community groups to hire. Fund raising continues for phase II of the project which will entail the creation of more space on the first floor.

Planning consent has now been granted for the Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice on Byng Rd. This is another scheme that is coming to fruition through support from the voluntary efforts of the community.

ALSTON RD – AT LAST A BEACON OF LIGHT

zebra crossing and Victorian cottagesOur friends SPACES took about six years to get onto the Highways work programme their request for safety improvements at the junction of Alston Rd and the Avenue where many children cross on their way to school. The works have involved a new pedestrian crossing, improvements to pavements and a 20mph speed limit. What we understood to be a national shortage of belisha beacons and other street furniture prevented the use of the pedestrian crossing long after it was completed. One pleasing aspect to the scheme is that the glut of signage at the entrance to Wentworth Rd has been largely eliminated.

GARDENS OPEN

garden with annual flowersAnd now we seem to be enjoying some fine summer weather gardens can be seen at their best. The Library garden has been in bloom (pictured), in contrast to the Library itself where closure has just been a blooming nuisance. Members of SPACES planted out the garden last year and continue to maintain it.

Some local gardens have opening days for the public as part of the National Garden Scheme with proceeds to charity. Opening this year for the first time is 26 Normandy Avenue, which will be open on Sunday 23 July 2-6pm, admission £3.50. [Not 26 July as in early versions of this newsletter] Another garden open the same day is at 190 Barnet Rd. More information on the scheme and gardens that are open can be found at https://www.ngs.org.uk/find-a-garden.

AND BRIEFLY …….

To our surprise there has not been an appeal against the rejection of the planning application for the Ark Pioneer Academy school in Underhill. We believe they are considering a revised scheme for a smaller school. This could be more acceptable, especially if the problematic junior school is dropped in its entirety. But we will still be seeking reassurance regarding the long-term viability of Totteridge Academy.

Following a pilot in Childs Hill the Council has approved the provision of parking permits allowing teachers to park in controlled parking zones. At £190 per annum the permits are something of a bargain. One restriction is that they will not be allowed for CPZs where the number of residents permits exceeds 85% of capacity. This should exclude Area C in High Barnet but we are not so sure about Area D in Underhill.

The library closed again in June until 9 October – this time for the major works required to create additional office space. Though this extra space was originally intended for letting to raise money for the Council, rumour has it that the new Council offices in Colindale will not be large enough, so it is very possible that Council staff will now be out-stationed here.

The Council heritage team is conducting a review across the Borough to identify any additional buildings of architectural or historic merit that might be considered for local listing. Volunteers from the public are assisting with the review and members of our committee are involved.

The Council has woken up to the damage caused when skips are placed in front gardens during building works. It is easy to manhandle a skip into position but when the loaded skip is collected this often results in damage to the pavement. In future a permit will be needed to cross a pavement over a specified weight limit and pavements will be inspected for signs of damage.

TFL are proposing to reduce the frequency of the 384 bus from four to three an hour, citing poor loadings as the reason. There has been a backlash supported by a petition mainly because of the use of the service by children to travel to and from the JCOSS school in New Barnet. We recognise that for much of the day usage is low, but we are miffed that the proposed change has come in advance of a full review of bus services in our area which supposedly is currently in progress.

The Physic Well is now being opened on a regular basis by volunteers from Barnet Museum. Opening dates for the remainder of this year are 22/7, 26/8, 23/9, 28/10, 25/11, 2pm to 4pm. Entry is free.


INVITATION TO ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

Thursday 13 July 2017, 7.30pm, The Bull Theatre, 68 High Street, EN5 5SJ

Guest Speaker: Richard Cornelius, Leader, Barnet Council

Members are invited to submit questions for Cllr Cornelius in advance of the meeting by email to the secretary (see contacts page).

Following our guest speaker the formal meeting will open with a report from the Chairman, followed by a proposed amendment to the constitution (see below), presentation of the annual accounts, and election of officers. We need to elect Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer and Committee Members. All existing officers and members of the committee have offered themselves for re-election and Ken Rowland, co-opted during the year, is offering himself for election.

Proposed amendment to the constitution:

Para 16 line two: change ‘6 months’ to ‘7 months’. The object of this proposal is to give us greater flexibility in fixing the date of the AGM as we have experienced problems in finding a suitable date in June, as is evident this year where we have had to fix the date for July.