Newsletter February 2017

The rebuilding of The Spires is proceeding well, with the expectation that all will be up and running sometime in the summer. We have waited years for some Highways schemes to progress but suddenly we now have several on the move. We are particularly excited at the prospect of building out part of the pavement in the High St. With other initiatives such as moving the market to the bandstand site and several renovation projects, all this could result in a major transformation in the fortunes of our town centre. But, as ever, there are dark clouds. The saga of the mismanaged Spires car park rumbles on, and the Mayor’s ambition to deliver much more housing for London could also have a transformative effect on our area, but not in a good way. The controversial plan for the Ark school on the Underhill stadium site was considered by the Planning Committee on 25 January and to the surprise of many was rejected.

SPIRES PARKING CHARGES UP AGAIN

Tariff. Up to 1 hour £1.50, up to 3 hours £2.90, up to 4 hours £3.40, over 4 hours £5.80Just as the Council introduced free weekend parking during December Legion Parking decided to join in with Christmas spirit, but with Scrooge rather than Santa Claus as their role model. With just 24 hours notice they increased parking charges in the Spires including the withdrawal of the concessionary Sunday tariff. Spires traders were furious and told us footfall immediately fell. We can confirm this. Just before going to press we found the Saturday morning peak occupancy was under 50%, down from a typical 60% last year (40% weekdays) which was somewhat underwhelming. The only good news is that Legion has not – as yet – increased the charges on the Market site where the now significantly cheaper tariff has boosted occupancy. Meanwhile all the Council parking around town continues to be full and is now substantially cheaper. But, as we have said before, The Spires is THE town centre car park and for our shops to prosper it has to be used much more than it is at present, which means it must become cheaper.

one storey shopping centre courtyardThe Spires owners are more than aware that getting the parking charges right is vital for their investment currently underway. They have been in negotiation with Legion for the past few months, but so far with no resolution. Meanwhile the rebuilding works have been proceeding apace. The West Courtyard has a new surface, with mixed reactions it must be said, and work has started with a similar surface in the East Courtyard. The foundations for the H&M building are well advanced. With the departure of Body Shop work has started on the new restaurants in the West Courtyard. There remains some uncertainty regarding the precise configuration of the restaurants and whether there will be two or three. It is intended to move the market to the bandstand site, possibly including the construction of permanent stalls there. To say the market has been struggling of late would be an understatement so moving to a more prominent location could be the lifeline it desperately needs.

AT LAST! - PROGRESS WITH HIGHWAYS SCHEMES

Walking along the central section of the High St can be a depressing experience with the heavy traffic, narrow and broken pavements, difficulty in crossing, and run down shops with graffiti at the upper levels. There is no single cure but a major uplift should be the building out of a section of the pavement, a scheme which has been under consideration for some years. Various options have been considered, but the proposal officers are now recommending is to widen the pavement on the western side from the Spires pedestrian crossing to the Post Office, which is the one we have previously argued for. It still has to go through several hoops, including funding, but we are hopeful this will happen in the 2017/18 financial year. There would be a loss of a small number of parking spaces but in return, as well as widening of the pavement, we should have enhancements such as trees and benches and the pedestrian crossings will be shorter. There are still issues with loading to be resolved, and the possibility of establishing new loading bays at the High St ends of Salisbury Rd and Union St is being examined.

traffic lane blocked with red and white blocks, church in backgroundOn the agenda for even longer is the scheme for a safer pedestrian crossing and environmental improvements immediately south of St John’s Church. As a precursor to making the proposed changes the High St/Wood St left and right turns were closed from early November on an experimental basis. About 400 cars a day had been using the turnings. Critics argued that subsequent traffic delays were the fault of the closures but we remain sceptical. There was some initial confusion but there is always a build-up in traffic in the run up to Christmas and that was almost certainly the real problem. Drivers seeking access to Union St from the Wood St direction have been inconvenienced, but whether this is sufficient to nullify the scheme needs to be assessed. Our impression is that traffic along the High St may have reduced somewhat, which is positive, but there may be more traffic using Stapylton Rd/St Albans Rd with a consequential increase in congestion there, and Salisbury Rd may be at risk of becoming a bottleneck. We have asked the Council to look very carefully at the implications for traffic across the whole of the town centre and not just at this junction.

A year later than we expected the pedestrian crossing on Wellhouse Lane is being put in place along with the much needed roundabout at the junction with Wood St. A pedestrian crossing has also been installed on Mays Lane for the benefit of children walking to St Catherine’s school. There is no news on the proposal to install a pedestrian crossing on Alston Rd along with an associated 20mph zone.

TFL is proposing to solve the problem of disabled access at the northbound bus stops outside Shapla, where there is a double step down to street level preventing the use of the low platforms on the buses. The scheme will involve lowering the level of the pavement and also raising the level of the road. We would have preferred to solve the problem by sending the 34 bus onwards to Arkley and then moving the bus stops to the lay-by where the buses currently terminate. Alas TFL have continued to resist this proposal because they reckon maintaining the existing service will necessitate more buses at a cost of up to £400,000 a year. The provision of bus services in the area is currently being reviewed by TFL and we hope to see the findings sometime soon.

WILL THE ARK SINK?

288 objections were submitted in response to the planning application for the Ark Pioneer school on the Underhill football ground site. Almost all came from residents in the immediate area who were concerned about the environmental impact of nearly 2000 people arriving at the site each day. There were other concerns regarding pollution, safety in travelling to school, whether the site was large enough for the size of the proposed school and the impact on neighbouring schools. There were 112 submissions supporting the school, the vast majority from High Barnet where parents do have very real concerns about finding a suitable school for their boys. We objected, both in support of the environmental concerns, but primarily on the grounds that we considered the case for so many additional school places in our area has not been made (our detailed submission can be found on our website). The proposal went before the Planning Committee on 25 January and councillors agreed with the local residents and rejected the application. We expect the matter will now go to appeal. Maybe a smaller secondary school only would be an acceptable compromise for everyone concerned.

One feature that looked rather odd in the planning application was that the number of staff proposed seemed rather fewer than might be expected. What we now know is that the word ‘Pioneer’ in the name has a very specific meaning, namely that the school intends to pioneer a new way of teaching called ‘Blended Learning’. What this means is that students will be taught with a mix of traditional classroom tuition alongside self-learning sitting at computer terminals under the supervision of a classroom assistant. This system has been introduced in the US, but not without controversy we understand. If the school is built we can only suggest that parents research Blended Learning before decided whether they are content for their child to be taught in this way.

NEW IMAGE FOR THE RED LION

red lion pub with refurbished entrances and windowsScaffolding has gone up around the Red Lion to facilitate a complete repaint and conversion of this outlet from a Toby Carvery to a Stonehouse Restaurant (picture is artist’s impression of how it should look). This rebranding will involve extending the offering from just a carvery to include pizzas and burgers. We have not heard many cheers around town at the news that we are to get yet more opportunities to guzzle pizzas and burgers, but rather more concerning is that owners M&B have said they are introducing the Stonehouse brand into outlets that are under-performing. Presumably they are hoping that by widening the offering it will attract more customers – we do hope so.

Still on the subject of pubs, the future of The Monk has been thrown into doubt with Greene King putting it on the market. They appear not to have had any takers to date and are believed to be seeking a new tenant. We didn’t like it when they first acquired the pub and did nothing by way of improvements, they just changed the name from the historically significant ‘Monken Holt’. Greene King also recently bought the Spirit group so they also now own The Mitre. We hope they are not going to again interfere with a popular and successful local pub and ruin it. Following the Asset of Community Value listing of the Sebright Arms being nullified on a technicality, another application was made by a collective of residents in the area, and this has been approved. The listing of the White Lion was also nullified on a similar technicality, but with a succession of short-term tenants this pub has been struggling for some time.

SHOP SHRINKAGE

 Bairstow Eves High Barnet has movedFor the last couple of years we have seen a steady reduction in the number of vacant shops along the High St but this has taken a step backwards of late. Across London a substantial number of estate agents disappeared in 2016 and our area was no exception, with Savills and Bairstow Eaves both closing down. The slow but noticeable trend for shops to change to other uses has been reflected in planning applications to change the ground floor of No 1 High St (first on the left coming up the hill) to a podiatry clinic, and for the former computer shop at 198 High St to be converted to an office.

The temporary furniture shop in the former Store 21 outlet has been replaced by another temporary occupant pending major works to this building which should start soon, including the inevitable conversion of the upper floors to accommodate more flats. The closure of Annabel’s is disappointing as it did bring a touch of class to the lower end of the High St. Also closed is Mail Boxes Etc near the Church junction.

Rather more cheering is the opening of a tailor’s shop, ‘New Stitch’ on St Albans Rd, featuring a smart frontage. 7D High St – the former Curry Cottage – is to become a Pepe’s casual dining outlet – “the home of fresh flame grilled chicken”, with piri-piri a speciality we are told. Residents must be salivating in anticipation.

Further afield Delage, the well-regarded French café in New Barnet, has closed, as has the short-lived organic bakery in the parade near the Everyman cinema. We do like to see outlets open that bring quality products and something different to the area, but anything outside the mainstream chains can be difficult to sustain.

GEORGIAN WINDOWS REINSTATED

Paddy Power and Dudley's with flats above with glazing bars added to windowsThe Council enforcement team took up our complaint when the owners of 60/62 High St replaced the Georgian windows in the upper floors with modern replacements. As the building is in the conservation area planning permission should have been sought. We were pleased that the owners readily acknowledged their error and have now installed replacement Georgian style windows.

If only other owners or occupiers, whether intentionally or in ignorance, who similarly contravene planning rules would be so contrite. Unfortunately we have too many instances where sinners try and carry on regardless, such as Guns and Smoke and Shaketastic with their unauthorised signage. Maybe half of shop front alterations or signage changes do not follow the requirement to apply for planning consent. And it is invariably these offenders whose frontages are often poorly presented.

ELMBANK SHOWHOUSE TAKES SHAPE

red brick block of flats, two storeys plus dormer windowsWith the shell of the first block of flats completed, soon to open as the marketing suite, it is possible to get an idea of how the Elmbank development is going look. The first phase of 17 flats has been advertised at £505,000 to £550,000, price levels that might induce heart failure in some of our members, but almost all have been sold off-plan. At the other extreme a 5 bedroom detached is likely to be around £1.5 million, which by comparison seems to be quite good value. The site has suffered some instances of theft, including the audacious removal of a digger and a dumper truck. Of course, this being Arkley we would expect the rogues to be ambitious and clever with it. Work is expected to start very soon on the other major redevelopment site in town at Brake Shear House off the High St.

three storey block of flats nearing completion, yellow brickThe new block of flats in Tapster St is approaching completion, in our view an acceptable and appropriate design. Alas this is the only good news for this area. We strongly opposed the proposed council development to replace the tile shop and warehouse in Moxon St. We consider the ultra-modern frontage that will face onto Moxon St to be out of keeping with this conservation area and the height will blight the adjacent Georgian houses. The three councillors on the Planning Committee from our end of the Borough spoke against the scheme and voted two against with one abstention. But councillors from other parts of the Borough voted in favour, perhaps accepting that as it was a Council scheme they ought to support it, so it was passed. Meanwhile a scheme to replace the old school at the junction of Moxon St and Tapster St with three storey flats has been rejected by the planners. The scheme for the garage site in Moxon St has also been dismissed on appeal, apparently because the design was not traditional enough! Though these schemes had their drawbacks they were more appealing than the one that has been approved.

The muddle in Moxon St led us to seek a discussion with council planners regarding their strategic approach to developments around the town centre. We perceive a lack of consistency with some decisions that emphasise the traditional character of the town and others which have encouraged more modern designs. A test of the Council’s resolve will be the further application now in to put a contemporary building on the former tyre depot site at 54A St Albans Rd, located between the White Lion pub and John Trotter Hall. We are preparing an objection.

Elsewhere in the area we were disappointed that the proposal to convert to flats the house at the junction of Manor Rd and Manorside, initially rejected, has been allowed following a second application. Residents fought very hard to get this scheme stopped. The only consolation is that the revised design is a world better than the original. Another disappointment was the allowing on appeal for the construction of flats to replace the house at the junction of Mays Lane and Fitzjohn Ave. More encouraging is the rejection by the planners of a proposal to convert a house on Quinta Drive to flats, though we have to see what happens should it go to appeal. We objected to all three of these schemes by maintaining our policy of opposing the loss of family homes to flats except in locations where such conversions are now the norm. Also pleasing was the rejection on appeal to demolish a house in Sunset View and replace it with a much larger property incorporating a substantial basement. Several residents objected as did we on the grounds that the appearance of this new building would have been very intrusive in this fine street in the Conservation Area. Upcoming is an application to covert to five flats the former Loch Fyne in Hadley Highstone, currently a large single house. Such a conversion would be a first for this area and we expect there will be strong opposition.

The planning application to rebuild the frontage to 108 – 112 High St (Toy Galaxy etc) was rejected (reported in October Newsletter) but this has now gone to appeal. Some preparatory work has begun prior to the demolition and rebuilding of 68 High St (After Office Hours), and the conversion to flats of the upper floors of 85 High St (Former Specs Direct) is in progress. There was another planning application here to alter the frontage following on from changes previously approved. We thought what was agreed was bad enough and objected to this further butchering, and were pleased to see the application rejected.

The saga of the extra floor to 141 High St (‘The Beach Hut’) continues. A further planning application has been submitted offering some cosmetic changes designed to ameliorate the impact. We have objected as we think this is still way short of what is needed. A decision is awaited. The owner has also appealed against the original enforcement notice so we will now find out what the Planning Inspectorate thinks of this carbuncle. To the rear of the building there is an existing planning approval to construct a block of offices but the owner decided to submit a further application for a block of flats instead. This did not go down well with the existing flat residents at 141 nor the occupiers of the shops to the ground floor, and several objected, supported by ourselves. The application has been refused

two storey terraced houses, yellow brickNow completed is the development of 25 homes comprising the Older Women’s Co-operative Housing in Union St. This brings a most interesting venture to our area – unique in the UK – which featured on TV news. The building was designed to reflect the prevailing property style in this well preserved street at the heart of the conservation area. The finished product has provoked mixed responses as it is a blend of traditional (especially the roofs/chimneys) and contemporary styles (especially the windows/doors). We can only suggest that members take a look and decide for themselves whether or not they like it.

Also nearing completion is Fairfield Place, a row of six houses at the junction of Barnet Hill and Mays Lane, replacing the former Red Lion pub that stood here until recently. They are being offered from £895,000 upwards, though we guess that the marketing information will not include the recent readings taken at the junction which identified that NO2 pollution exceeded the legal limit.

OPEN DOOR NEARLY OPEN

John Trotter Hall on St Albans Rd, originally built as the Church’s primary school in 1844, is nearly ready to open as the Open Door Centre. When fully operating the Centre will provide a daily drop-in facility for older people including a café and lunches, as well as offering rooms for hire for meetings, conferences and other community activities. The Centre aims to provide an environment where older people will feel welcome and secure, and also stimulated and challenged.

The John Trotter Trust charity was launched in 2010 to raise funds to buy and refurbish the building. Over six years the Trust has raised some £1.3 million to buy and refurbish the property, a superb community achievement, with some 80% of the money coming from personal donations and sponsored events. One of the Trustees undertook a sponsored 1300-mile cycle ride around Britain, another supporter raised over £2000 from the sale of apple pies over the six years, and customers of the Sebright Arms raised over £3500. We have every expectation that the Centre will be a success and be quickly established as a popular and valued addition to support for the elderly in our community.

LIBRARY - A NEW ERA OF SELF-HELP

The Council review of library services seemed to go on for ever and as it involved substantial cuts it was the subject of considerable controversy. We took the view that keeping all the Borough libraries going should be the prime objective and in return reluctantly accepted there would be a reduction in both the size of libraries and the services on offer. This is the option the council has adopted and here in Chipping Barnet this has resulted in some of the internal area being given over to offices for letting (up to 28 people) and a substantial reduction in staffing levels. We are told the six current staff will be retained but on reduced hours, supported by up to three volunteers at other times. There will be a small community room on the ground floor and the Hyde Room will be available for letting. The library is currently closed to enable the alterations to take place. One positive is that opening times will be longer, but with no staff present for most of the time. Entrance will be via a swipe card system with supervision reliant on CCTV. The new arrangements will be:

Monday to Friday opening 07.00 to 22.00

Saturday opening 07.00 to 17.00

Sunday opening 10.00 to 17.00

Staff will be present Tuesday 09.00 to 12.30, Wednesday 14.00 to 20.00, Friday 14.00 to 17.00, Saturday 09.00 to 17.00, Sunday 14.00 to 17.00, with the expectation of assistance from volunteer staff Monday and Thursday. The challenge is to remember all this! Many people have concerns about this new system but our view is that we have wait and see how well it works.

A LOAD OF RUBBISH

rubbish sacks on pavementThe collection of rubbish from the flats at the junction of St Albans Rd has been a continuing problem because of the absence of a suitable location for bin storage. The photo is an example of the problem where rubbish is ending up strewn along the pavement. We have asked owners Martyn Gerrard to do something about it.

The Council recently ran a public consultation on proposals to introduce changes to the waste collection service. It was evident that this was primarily a cost cutting exercise, with the consultation essentially about whether waste collection should stay in house or be contracted out. The service is largely well regarded and it would be sad if it were to deteriorate. A further reduction in funding could also wreak havoc with the already overstretched street cleaning service in our town centre. The Council say that the budget for 2017/18 will be £34.3 Million, which is £4 million down on 2016/17, but the savings target will be delivered by “on-going efficiencies and service improvements”. We are still trying to work that one out. A previous budget cut that reduced staffing levels has been evidenced by overflowing litter bins around the town centre. The Council has also got to work out how it will increase recycling from 50% to a target of 65% as resources are squeezed. There is some good news. Many residents get angry about littering and the Council now intends to have officers on patrol with the power to issue spot fines, similar to what Enfield has been doing for some years, which should be welcomed by all who share a sense of civic responsibility.

POLICE TARGET ERRANT MOTORISTS

We have been told that our neighbourhood police officers have been trained to use speed guns and will be using them in various local locations. In the previous newsletter we reported on the exercise in Galley Lane that resulted in forty-two stops and nine tickets. We get a lot of comments from members about speeding – Hadley Green, Meadway and Alston Rd are frequently mentioned, so it is pleasing that a more sustained effort to control the problem is now happening. Also most welcome was a further check on blue badges undertaken around the town centre at the end of November. Five badges were seized. As well as speeding the safer neighbourhood team are prioritising personal theft in the High St and The Spires, and will be closely watching the library for any anti-social behaviour when it re-opens with limited supervision. The overall crime rate for the last three months of 2016 was down by some 10% on the same period in 2015. Burglary was significantly lower.

shop with one window boarded upgrafitti high up on a wall above the level of the neighbouring building's roof

Anti-social behaviour and vandalism around the High St are a continuing nuisance. Windows at the Tanning Shop and Western Union were broken a couple of weeks ago and we are aware of others over previous months. Apart from the disruption to businesses, this might lead to insurers being more inclined to insist on shutters. In silent hours shutters can create a depressing, indeed rather menacing feeling for anyone walking around, and thus reduce the overall appeal of the town centre, especially the evening economy. Graffiti continues to be another nuisance that detracts from the appeal of the town centre, so it is pleasing to learn that the police have been urging traders to put gates on their fire escapes at the rear.

YET MORE HOMES ON THE HORIZON

Barnet’s Local Plan envisages 27000 new homes in the Borough over the period 2010 to 2030. The Mayor’s draft revision of the London Plan indicates even more housing with more intensive developments around suburban town centres. This is probably code for urbanisation characterised by high rise flats similar to what has happened to much of Inner London and those more unfortunate outer areas such as around New Barnet station. So a higher housing target for Barnet may follow, and with it the possibility of high-rise coming to our area could be an increasing threat. Should this happen it would destroy the small-town feel of High Barnet which many of us cherish. And there are repeated calls to ‘review’ the Green Belt, even though a recent survey identified that 115,000 homes are already planned for Green belt sites in London and the surrounding Counties, though the vast majority are in the latter. A policy change to allow large scale incursions into the Green Belt would again pose a major threat to our area.

Some parts of the Borough are already experiencing unwelcome intensification proposals on top of the known schemes in areas such as Colindale and Cricklewood. There is a planning application to build 4 tower blocks of 7-9 storeys on the Pentavia Park site in Mill Hill. This has attracted an enormous number of objections, which is hardly surprising for a suburban ward that is otherwise characterised by low- rise housing. Closer to home another recent application is to amend the approved scheme for the former Gas Works site in New Barnet and construct a number of additional 4-6 storey blocks. We took part in the original consultation and what we thought was the agreed scheme had just one block rising to six storeys. We have joined with many residents in the area in opposing the revised plans.

AND BRIEFLY ….

The Royal Free NHS Trust has been failing to meet A&E targets for the time taken to see patients. Figures for individual hospitals are not available but we know that demand at Barnet is now consistently way in excess of the planned capacity. The shuttle bus between Barnet and the Royal Free has been withdrawn. The Trust is the owner of the private Hadley Wood Hospital in Moxon St. Profits should benefit the NHS but we are intrigued how the arrangement will work with the Trust presiding over both public and private facilities.

We are aware of difficulties in the area regarding access to GP services. Healthwatch Barnet does have some guidance on its website at www.healthwatchbarnet.co.uk/primarycare regarding alternatives to seeing GPs out of hours, along with other useful information including a report on dentistry in the Borough.

CCTV cameras are now in place at the box junctions High St/Wood St and High St/St Albans Rd, and cameras are also in place outside Monken Hadley primary school and St Catherine’s RC primary school. Get it wrong and it could cost you £130. Many residents are unhappy with the increasing use of cameras for highways supervision, but we probably have to just get used to it. A consolation is that the income might fill a few more potholes.

Congratulations to those members who responded to our exhortation to go in and complain to TSB that their clock out front was not working. TSB did respond to the pressure and we now have a working clock again. And again following public comments they have said they intend to improve their rather tatty frontage.

The Xmas Fayre in the High St was blessed with exceptionally good weather and was another great success. Utilising the College Forecourt and the Tudor Hall brought an added dimension and allowed for more stalls than previously. The Committee is based at The Bull and is always on the lookout for new volunteers to help with organising the event. Anyone interested is encouraged to call in at The Bull and ask to speak to Susi Earnshaw

Barnet Museum has gone through some tough times so it is pleasing to report that things have gone rather well of late. The council has at last granted a long lease on the property at a peppercorn rent. The Museum has also secured a £98,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a range of initiatives associated with the Battle of Barnet, including support for the continuing search to try and identify the exact location. Nothing so far and the search has moved further North. We are keeping our fingers crossed that it doesn’t end up being renamed the Battle of Trotters Bottom.

MEMBERSHIP MATTERS

In our previous Newsletter we said membership was on target to reach 600 by the end of the year. Well, we made it. On 31 December membership stood at 610. We have come a long way from 2005 when the then dormant Association was reactivated with just 215 members. We are grateful to all those who have joined and stayed with us. A substantial membership gives us the authority to legitimately claim that we represent the interests of residents in our two wards. And of course we are always pleased to welcome new members, so do share this newsletter with friends and neighbours and encourage them to join.

Although we have done well with membership we have always struggled to recruit committee members. We are especially on the lookout for people with experience of planning (not necessarily at a professional level), highways and parking, and local government administration, or a keenness to get engaged with these issues. The committee meets every six weeks or so, with potential recruits invited as observers until they decide whether or not to join. Anyone interested is invited to contact the Chairman or Secretary via our website.

To help us manage our increasing membership, we are making some changes. Anyone joining in future will have a renewal date which accords each year with the date on which they joined, and some existing members will see their renewal date move back from the 1st January to a date that accords more closely with the dates on which our newsletters, and hence reminders, can be dispatched.  There will be no need to change any standing orders.

As well as the three newsletters a year we do email members from time to time on local matters of particular interest. If we do not have your email address we do urge you to let us have it by contacting the Membership Secretary at 71 Byng Rd., Barnet, Herts, EN5 4NP. (the email address is in the form of an image to prevent spam).