Newsletter June 2018

There has been a great deal of publicity about the difficulties High Street chains have been experiencing of late, with household names such as Mothercare and M&S embarking on major closure programmes. Mid-market restaurant chains have also been in serious trouble, perhaps why the two outlets in the Spires designated as restaurants have remained empty. Though national retail shops are now thin on the ground in High Barnet, we too have experienced recent losses, of which more below. On planning, the proposed Premier Inn, Whalebones and the Meadow Works site are our lead stories, but other unwelcome applications are keeping us busy. AND…....

COMING TO A STREET NEAR YOU? ……..

3 or 4 storey buildings might come into 2-storey environments’

This is a quote from a GLA representative at a forum on the Mayor’s Draft London Plan attended by your Chairman. Civic organisations from across the suburbs expressed alarm at the evident intention to promote large-scale intensification which threatens to change the character of many outer areas from ‘suburban’ to ‘urban’. Converting houses to flats, adding extra floors, building in back gardens or demolition and replacement are identified as ways to intensify density in areas characterised by two storey houses, apparently now seen as an unsustainable privilege compared to other European cities where density is much greater and flats the norm.

The London Forum of Civic and Amenity Societies has pointed out that the Plan will remove the development of high-density schemes from public scrutiny and instead will be agreed between developers and planners in confidential meetings. Other horrors including the removal of any controls over density with development proposals decided solely on ‘design’ considerations.

There are real doubts whether anything like the 66,000 homes a year proposed in the Plan are necessary, and what will be built are unlikely to be the affordable homes that are so desperately needed. London has 200,000 more homes than households and many of these empty homes are owned by overseas investors, but there seems to be no will to tackle this. The Plan is also hopelessly deficient in proposals for providing the education, health and transport infrastructure needed to support this projected growth in the population in outer areas.

Our decidedly robust response to the draft Plan is on our website, but the word on the street is that the Plan is likely to be adopted with little change. We anticipate some tough times ahead - and a lot of angry residents.

PREMIER INN APPLICATION SUBMITTED

Artists impression of 3 storey brick building with restaurant on ground floorThis scheme to build a 102 bedroom Premier Inn on the market site has been a major talking point amongst residents, arousing some strong views both for and against. We have supported the scheme, principally because we accept that there is a demand for more hotel beds here and this will bring jobs to the town as well as stimulating the evening economy. We have seen arguments that the site should be used for housing, which indeed we probably would have supported, but we have to respond to the application on its own merits and according to planning regulations. There is also a widespread misunderstanding that the site is protected for use as a market – not so, the market has a Royal Charter but that is not site specific.

We do have reservations concerning the impact of the 4th floor (not visible in the computer image) and the potential for nuisance affecting residents in Chipping Close. There has been a lot of comment regarding possible parking congestion, but we consider the arrangements to use The Spires for overnight parking should be ok. And there is plenty of room in Stapylton Rd car park for guests resistant to paying (and aiming to leave before 8am). Members on email were sent our submission to the Council in response to the planning application.

WHALEBONES PROPOSALS TAKING SHAPE

Park land with overhanging tree branchesThe proposal to put housing on the Whalebones site has progressed to an outline of what is envisaged. We met with the developer in late May and were given an indication of their thinking. Their expectation is that housing will occupy most of the large field adjoining the Elmbank site, with the areas to the east facing Wood St and flanking the upper end of Wellhouse Lane/Wood St largely remaining as ‘community open space’ though also providing a new building for the Guild of Artists and the beekeepers. Who would manage the community spaces and how maintenance would be funded remain unanswered questions. The housing is expected to be a mix of flats and large and small houses, but less dense than the adjoining Elmbank development, and overall height should not exceed 3.5 storeys, including pitched roofs with dormers – something we pressed hard for when we first met the developer. We remain concerned about the potential loss of this important green space, though recognising the pressure on the Council to find sites to deliver all the new homes demanded by the Mayor. There are still a lot of issues to be resolved with the planners, including proposed access points on Wood St and Wellhouse Lane, so the intention to have a planning application submitted by November seems very ambitious. A local consultation event was held on 7 June on the Whalebones site when the proposals were explained in more detail. To see the outline plans go to www.whalebones-consultation.co.uk

MEADOW WORKS FLATS BACK - BUT FEWER

Two elevation drawings, one 4 storeys and one 6 storeysThe other major development of concern to us, though on the edge of our area, is a revised proposal for the Meadow Works site on the Great North Rd. The previous application was for 78 flats in two buildings up to six storeys. The revised scheme is much smaller – 57 flats in two buildings up to four storeys. The drawings here show the previous proposal (the lower drawing) compared to the current one as seen facing the Gt North Rd. The buildings are still very large and will dominate the adjacent two storey houses. We also remain most concerned about the loss of the workshops and associated jobs. These have been disappearing all over London from sites such as this to make way for more lucrative housing developments. The Draft London Plan includes some strengthening of protection for such sites but is likely to be adopted too late to be able to save this one.

SALISBURY ROAD FLATS REJECTED

Your Chairman spoke at the planning Committee meeting that considered the proposed ‘pile of boxes’ – sorry, block of flats - in Salisbury Rd, and we were pleased that this ultra- contemporary design was refused. The developer has not appealed so we await their next move. Meanwhile Barnet Old People’s Welfare, who for many years occupied the Fern Room on the site, has closed down. Losing one of our best known local voluntary groups is a matter of considerable regret. The developer had the re-provision of a community facility in the redevelopment plan, but there was uncertainty over matters such as rent and who else would share the facility. We understand BOPW were also struggling to attract enough volunteers to keep their services running, so they decided to call it a day. They have also closed their offshoot at St Stephen’s Hall on Bells Hill.

Other planning applications we have opposed included the fourth in two years to add an extra floor to Wessex Court in West End Lane. And another perennial - yet again we objected to offices/flats behind 141 High St (the carpet shop). It was withdrawn, but no doubt they will be back. An application that particularly exercised us was a proposal in Arkley to replace a bungalow with a block of 8 three- bedroom flats over three floors. We strongly opposed this and it was duly withdrawn, but as ever we expect a modified proposal to appear in due course.

Developers are never slow to use their imagination to maximise the potential of a building plot, of which ‘backland’ - or ‘garden’ developments as they are better known - are especially resented by residents. They continue to creep in. After several planning applications and numerous adaptations to the scheme, the tiny house to the rear of 33 Puller Rd, which looks as though it is just an upmarket garden shed, has finally secured planning consent. Better news is the refusal of a proposal in Leicester Rd to add two houses behind a recently approved scheme to demolish a house and replace it with a block of flats. We have objected to a proposal to demolish a single house in an existing backland development in Barnet Rd and replace it with three houses.

The developer has submitted minor amendments to the approved scheme to rebuild the concrete eyesore in the High St above the Village Food Centre, hence why this scheme has been slow to start. The long awaited rebuild of After Office Hours is also proceeding at a snail’s pace, with an archaeological survey still to get clearance.

Though the architecture is not to everyone’s taste the rebuilding of the Dollis Valley estate and re-invention as Brook Valley Gardens is progressing well. The pleasant streets are a world away from the ugly flats on the site. Next up is the construction of several large blocks of flats, which may prove to be rather less appealing. The other major development in town, Elmbank, is also now progressing well with all the houses and blocks of flats completed or construction well advanced. The houses look quite pleasing but the site is somewhat dominated by the four storey blocks of flats. That said, the flats do appear to be selling well. The larger houses are moving more slowly, but £1.6million for a five bed house with a small garden does seem a lot to ask.

Row of modern brick houses with dormer windowsbig block of red brick flats with cars in the foreground

SQUEEZING YOUR WASTE

We have previously commented on the substantial reduction in the Council’s Street Scene budget so it is no surprise that economy measures are on the way. The main changes are the abandonment of the separate collection of food waste, which will now go in the black bin, and garden waste will be collected on a weekday instead of Saturday, though the experimental six week suspension over the Christmas period will now be permanent. The good news is that there are no other proposals to change the frequency of collections. One measure less welcome is the withdrawal of the Bring Bank service for collecting items such as textiles and small electricals. The one on Stapylton Rd car park has always been well used, though not emptied anywhere near as frequently as was needed, resulting in ‘fly tipping’ alongside. The spot fine for littering is being increased to £100 with no discount for early payment. The fine for fly tipping is £400, so leaving a mattress on the pavement could be an expensive business. Major incidents of fly tipping face prosecution. The changes are expected to save £1.2 million a year.

PAVEMENT WIDENING CONSULTATION

Consultation on the proposal to widen the pavements along part of the High Street, as featured in the previous Newsletter, was open for three weeks up to 21 June. We alerted members on email to the consultation information site in the former jeweller’s kiosk in The Spires. We contributed to the development of the plans and the scheme is now supported by all the local organisations represented on the Town Team. If the scheme goes ahead, our expectation is that the High St will have a major stimulus, including an increase in café outdoor seating. Just three outlets currently offer outdoor seating (though there are several in the Spires and others have seating at the rear). By comparison, along the High Rd we counted seven instances of outdoor seating in Whetstone, sixteen in North Finchley and fourteen in Finchley Church End.

UPS AND DOWNS IN THE HIGH STREET

Over the years we have reported on the ebb and flow of the fortunes of our Town Centre. Though we have never hit the depths of many provincial towns, we have never hit the sunlit uplands either. Our vacancy rate is a little over 8%, below the national average which is over 9%. So not a disaster, but the concentration of empty units in The Spires and nearby makes things appear worse than they are. We have had a number of closures of late, though offset by some new arrivals. The management of The Spires has hotly denied rumours that H&M and Carluccio’s are closing, saying that since the charges in the car park were reduced before Christmas there has been a major increase in footfall in the Spires. We sincerely hope they are right. The imminent move of the market to the bandstand should be positive in supporting both the market and The Spires. We will be able to explore the fortunes of The Spires at our AGM, when Shaun Wall, Manager of The Spires, will be our speaker.

Losses have included well known chains and long established local outlets. New Look and Victoria Bakery have closed in The Spires. At the top of the High Street we have lost Flairline (after 43 years in Barnet) and Prezzo. Gone at the lower end of the High St is Dudleys. Also gone is the French cheese stall on the Bandstand site.

small shop now closedrestaurant now closed

But not all is doom and gloom, though new outlets largely reflect the continuing trend to personal services and catering. Take7 dry cleaners has opened at the top end of the High St. So along with dry cleaning also available at New Stitch, another fairly recent arrival on St Albans Rd, this has increased the number of dry cleaners in town from two to four. The specialist cheese shop in Union St has been warmly welcomed.

dry cleaners shopcheese shop (outside)

The new pizza restaurant in Church Passage should be open by the time this Newsletter reaches members. Wiltons, the Greek patisserie, have had to make some changes to their plans, delaying their arrival in the former Store 21. Health Fusion Holistic Clinic is set to open in the former De Vere lettings shop at the top end of the High Street. Iceland has had a refit. The frontage to the Thai restaurant opposite the Church has had a makeover and been renamed Angtong, though they might have been better advised to do something more radical with the vast canteen-like interior. The former Pizza Piccanti seems to be slowly grinding towards a re-opening with an interior refit and renamed Umi’s. The expanded offerings will enable our under-nourished students to now add a burger and a chicken leg to their slice of pizza.

restaurantrestaurant

shop with fruit and vegetables outsideThe Village Food Centre attracted a lot of positive comments when it first opened. Encouraged by their initial success they have expanded into the two adjacent shop units, adding in a bakery and an extensive selection of alcohol. This expansion has had a more mixed reception and we do hope they have not overstretched themselves. The introduction of alcohol came as something of a surprise, but the offerings are unlikely to attract sophisticated wine buffs. The signage is decidedly brash and maybe they would have widened their appeal with something rather more elegant. We wait to see how they cope when work starts on the new flats above.

KEEPING DOWN APPEARANCES

The sunshine was with us for most of May - decidedly uplifting following the long dismal winter. But there is a downside – a walk along the High St in pleasant weather accentuates the drab and often neglected state of so many of our shops. The Grade 11 listed TSB/Maison building is looking especially awful, including a disintegrating parapet, a matter we have pursued with the Council. The shop alongside Foxtons, long empty, has at last had the boarding replaced and painted, but that has taken a couple of years with ourselves, the Council and our MP amongst others pressing Foxton’s for improvements. There is a possibility that the plastic windows, installed to replace wooden ones about to fall out, will be removed and wooden windows put back.

window with boxes piled up inside and a disintegrating parapet above itboarded up shop painted black between mcdonalds and foxtons

We have had more examples of the ever continuing problem in the Conservation Areas of new shop fronts being installed without planning permission. - Natural Nails and no. 230 at the top end of the High Street being the latest offenders. The latter also replaced wooded windows with plastic ones, though they are at least broadly the same design as the originals. We have asked the Council to pursue both of these.

shop front natural nailsshop with scaffolding

At 189/191 High St (next to the Monken Holt) a new modern frontage was installed without planning consent. We complained to the Council and for this one the owners acknowledged their error. A planning application was submitted for a new traditional style frontage at ground level and replacement wooden windows above. We now

have the new frontage which looks rather good, but still await the wooden windows. We are pleased that after standing empty for over two years the ground floor of the refurbished former Magistrates Court is now occupied as offices. This fine building was the subject of a successful local campaign, in which we played no small part, to save it from demolition and replacement with a nondescript block of flats.

white shop frontold magistrates court now converted into flats

BUS REVIEW RESULTS OUT SOON

red 384 bus to Cockfosters Station with trees in the backgroundThe TfL review of local bus services, which had been proceeding somewhat slowly over the past couple of years, is now approaching a conclusion. The emerging proposals for change are decidedly less radical than what we hoped, but we do have the possibility of improvements to east-west links and easier access to buses for station users. Consultation on any proposed changes is expected in the Autumn.

Meanwhile, following complaints about erratic timekeeping improvements have been made to the 107 service. We cannot claim any credit on this one, but we know our MP Theresa Villiers was very active in pursuing this.

JOUST THE JOB FOR A SUMMER’S DAY

cannons, smoke and battle renactmentprocession of soldiers in armour with banners

The Medieval Fair on 9/10 June proved to be a great success, with Wars of the Roses battles staged by some 100 re-enactors and a medieval village the main attractions. Organisers Barnet Museum are engaged in a long-term project to raise the profile of The Battle of Barnet, which could bring considerable benefit to the town. This free event, which also featured a linked display of heraldic banners along the High St, was supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Finances permitting, it is hoped to stage similar events in the future.

classic car -- if you can identify it, please let the webmaster knowAnother major new event is the Barnet Armed Forces Day on 30th June 10.00 am until 3.00pm at the Army Reserve site on St Albans Rd. Military vehicles will be on display, and running in tandem on site will be the annual Classic Car Show, held on the market site in previous years. The car show will include a parade of the cars at intervals along the High Street from about 10.30 am until 11.10 am, before taking up positions on the Army Reserve site. There will be more classic cars on display than in previous years as well as motorbikes. There will also be music from a local group, a refreshment stall in aid of army charities, and other stalls.

To complete the weekend the garden at 26 Normandy Avenue will be open to visitors on 1 July from 2pm to 6pm. Opened for the first time last year, that event attracted 201 visitors and raised £1160 for charity.

AND BRIEFLY…..

On the Northern Line a combination of insufficient trains and overcrowding in Central London led TFL to start/terminate some rush hour trains at Finchley Central, with consequential overcrowding and inconvenience to passengers using stations at the top end of the line. This could persist for a long time as the deterioration in TfL’s finances has delayed the ordering of additional trains needed for the Battersea extension. A major rebuild. of Camden Town station has been announced, which, when completed, may lead to the splitting of the Northern Line, with all High Barnet trains running via Bank. We don’t find this idea very appealing, but if pursued it is likely to be at least five years away, so one issue we need not concern ourselves with for now.

The Physic Well is now being renovated by Barnet Council and should be ready for re-opening in August under the auspices of Barnet Museum. The intention is to have openings on six days a year.

blue and white market stallsThe hospital is considering enlargement of the car park by building an upper floor on part of the site. It is a pity this was not done some years ago as it might have avoided the necessity of introducing into surrounding roads the ‘Hospital Controlled Parking Zone’, which should be implemented very soon. We are aware that this CPZ is not universally welcomed by residents both within the designated area and in streets on the fringe who fear the problem will just transfer to them. We find CPZ proposals are invariably divisive and endeavour not to take sides, though we do wish to be sure that the consultation exercises have been conducted correctly and all households affected have had the opportunity to vote for or against the proposals.

The move of the market to the bandstand site is taking a long time to be implemented but is necessary as a precursor to the building of the Premier Inn. All key interested parties – The Spires owners, the traders and Friends of Barnet Market are supportive of the move. Consideration is being given to allowing additional stalls on ‘the mound’ - the open space alongside the bus terminus. This area is partly owned by Barnet Council so there are some tricky issues to resolve before this might happen. The teenage market on the bandstand site (pictured), planned for once a month for twelve months from April, has established itself, having run successfully on three occasions.

INVITATION TO ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

Monday 9th July 2018, 7.30pm, The Bull Theatre, 68 High Street, EN5 5SJ

Guest Speaker: Shaun Wall, Manager, The Spires

Following our guest speaker the formal meeting will open with a report from the Chairman, followed by presentation of the annual accounts, and election of officers. We need to elect Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer and Committee Members. Committee member James Barton resigned during the year so we have a vacancy, and are looking for someone with an interest in the High St shops or planning matters. All other Committee members are offering themselves for re-election, though Chairman Gordon Massey will be standing down but seeking to remain on the Committee. Ken Rowland has offered himself for election as Chairman.

MEMBERSHIP MATTERS

We have examined the legislation regarding data privacy which came into force on 25 May 2018. We have concluded that all our communications to members fall within the definition of ‘legitimate interest’, dealing with either membership matters or drawing to the attention of members particular local issues relating to the activities of the Association. We have therefore not considered it necessary to seek the individual consent of members asking if they wish to continue to receive emails or other communications. We can confirm that the personal data we hold is used solely for the purposes of administering the business of the Association and will not be shared with any third party. In line with GDPR requirements we will now encrypt members data in the event that it is transmitted over the internet. Members may also request a copy of the information we hold on them. If any member has any queries on this matter or no longer wishes to receive information emails please contact our Membership Secretary.

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