Parking in High Barnet

Prior to 2013 the council parking provision was very rigid with the same charges and permitted stay periods exactly the same everywhere except the centre of the High St. The result was that prime locations in Moxon St and Stapylton Rd car parks and the High St north of St Albans Rd were almost completely full of commuters with, amazingly, only the 22 bays in the centre of the High St guaranteed to be available for shoppers. Fitzjohn Avenue car park was largely ignored by both shoppers and commuters being rarely more than 20% full. The saviour for shoppers was The Spires car park which charged a nominal 20p an hour and soaked up the demand, so there was little pressure for council policies to change.

Disaster followed when the council increased charges and withdrew cash machines at the same time as The Spires started to substantially increase charges, all happening when the recession started to bite. Unlike other competing centres there was no free parking to cushion the impact. The result was shop vacancies increasing to over 12% at one point, a level we believe was significantly higher than any other town centre in the Borough. An enduring legacy is the presence of 10 charity shops in the prime retail area. This does demonstrate the potentially disastrous impact on a town when parking is inadequately managed.

Including in the Chipping Barnet Town Centre Strategy, adopted in June 2013, was a commitment to review parking and this was duly done. BRA suggested certain principles which were accepted leading to;

  • Removal of commuters from the prime central parking areas by limiting the maximum stay period – Moxon St and the top end of the High St were duly reduced to a 4 hour limit.
  • Compensating commuters by designating Fitzjohn Avenue as long stay with the cheapest all day charge in town.
  • Having variable charges reflecting the level of demand at each location, resulting in short-term charges in Moxon St and Stapleton Rd being cheaper than along the High St. This approach was further extended some months later by introducing free time in Moxon St and along Hadley Green.
  • Helping visitors by introducing credit card machines in the centre of the High St, Stapylton Rd and Moxon St.

BRA estimated that well over 100 spaces were liberated for short-term parking

Where are we now?

From time to time BRA does an occupancy count. Examples are Tuesdays (one of the quieter days of the week) 15 and 21 December 2015. We looked at Fitzjohn, Moxon St and Stapylton car parks along with the centre and top end of the High St. Of the approx. 290 space we found just 16 empty on 15 December and 64 on 21 December. But on this second occasion 50 of the empty spaces were in Fitzjohn Ave car park, largely a result of the College being in recess. December is a particularly busy time of year, but we have consistently found that at peak times around the middle of the day overall occupancy is typically around 90%.

Currently all the council parking is cheaper than privately owned and run Spires and market car parks, where prices were ratcheted up annually over each of the five years to 2014. We have been doing battle with the owners and operators of the car park, and in 2015 prices were not increased, whilst on the market site prices were recently nudged down, which has produced a noticeable increase in occupancy. The Spires is typically about 40% full, achieving at best 60% on Saturdays. So whilst council parking is effectively full, there are usually 200 or so empty spaces in The Spires and market.

Are further changes needed?

For The Spires it is evident that a rethink is needed, though alas not yet evident to those in control. For council parking we consider that a more subtle approach could improve the goal of both increasing shopper parking and hopefully attracting more to the town, whilst also continuing to cater for commuters working in the town.

  • Stapylton Rd still allows all day parking and is largely full of commuters (except Saturdays). Reduce this to four hours maximum and a lot more shoppers could then park there. Also consider one hour free as in Moxon St.
  • We believe some commuters are still using Moxon St and the top end of the High St by paying for four hours by phone and then renewing for four hours. This could be discouraged by either upping the charge after three hours or stipulating no return after four hours.
  • Make parking easier for visitors by installing credit card machines in Fitzjohn Avenue car park and at the top end of the High St, thus eliminating pay by phone as the only option for all the major council parking locations.
  • BRA did not support the petition for one hour free parking in the High St, principally because we considered that allowing people to linger for an hour could reduce turnover in the prime central area, but also because we consider other issues are more important than making parking free in a location where demand exceeds supply and which visitors seem to be content to pay for. We were also (and remain) concerned that the substantial amount of revenue which the council would forego might be recouped by upping charges elsewhere in town. A short period of free parking, perhaps 30 minutes or 20 minutes, as Harrow has adopted across the Borough, could however possibly improve turnover and send a stronger message that free parking is available in the town.
  • If more commuters are to be displaced from the central areas consider allowing them to park at competitive rates in what are currently residents only on-street bays on the periphery of the town centre that remain empty all day. These can be found in considerable numbers in Hillside Gardens, East View and around Ravenscroft Park

Barnet Residents Association

January 2016