Build Outs : Questions we have been asked

This is an additional list of questions and answers reflecting comments we have received about the Town Team scheme to widen the pavements in Barnet High Street.

WHAT IS THE POINT OF THE SCHEME?

To regenerate the town centre by encouraging more footfall. Its pedestrians that shop, not cars. Recognising that fact is why many schemes have been introduced all over the country and in London. The aim is to change the balance between cars and pedestrians to encourage the latter. High Barnet has a particularly high proportion of visitors who arrive on foot or by bus because large numbers of people live close to the town centre and we have 13 bus routes. Encouraging pedestrians is way more important than catering for the few drivers who seek to park in the High St - and they can park elsewhere.

In all our years of community activism people tell us how bad the High St is – ‘run down and nothing but charity shops’ is the typical comment. This a real chance to change that. Landlords and prospective quality businesses need some tangible encouragement to believe things are on the up.

IT WON’T WORK?

That has not been the experience from recent environmental improvements. The regeneration of the Churchyard and Church Passage was well received and more people are seen there. The new Spires frontage has been well received. Lots of people like to sit out in front of Carluccio’s – we could see that replicated further along the High St. These schemes DO work in bringing in more people.

WHY LOSE THE PARKING PLACES?

They are only 7 out of 700 in town – they are not fundamental to the shops in the High St as we explain below

Large stretches of the High St from Moxon St south and from Boots up to The Bentley Garage have no parking. The shops in those areas have survived better than the shops in the central section of the High St

We did a snapshot 1 hour morning observation last week and in the time only 2 drivers went in businesses along the stretch in question. We saw four drivers go into The Spires and others went elsewhere. We do not claim this is a definitive survey but it is indicative of the pattern of activity

Blue badge holders park in numbers for up to 2 hours at a time, often occupying 3 or 4 of the 7 spaces, and the time they stay shows they are not just nipping into the shops there

WHY NOT JUST GET RID OF THE CHARITY SHOPS?

That’s down to landlords. They tell us they are fed up with businesses that go bust because that causes them hassle. They take charity shops with some reluctance but know they do not go bust. At the moment landlords have no incentive to risk new tenants. The prospect from no change is even more charity shops.

WOULD IT BE BETTER TO MAKE PARKING FREE?

All the council parking is full every day, so making it cheaper would not enable more people to park. The Spires where charges are higher is far from full, but it is privately run so the council cannot influence that. We do expect usage there will increase following the redevelopment, but that will only benefit The Spires and not the High St unless people can be tempted to gwalk out beyond The Spires

BARNET COULD BETTER SPEND ITS MONEY ON OTHER THINGS LIKE STREET CLEANING AND POTHOLES?

It’s not Barnet’s money. TFL have a specific fund for improvements of this kind. It has been running this for many years and would not continue with it if schemes were not a success. Barnet has been slow to follow other councils in applying to this fund

WHAT ABOUT POLLUTION?

It’s stationery traffic caused by congestion that is the main cause of pollution. We have a very congested High St. Removing parking and shortening the pedestrian crossings will allow traffic to flow more freely – and thus less pollution

WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF THE SCHEME DOES NOT GO AHEAD?

We just keep our run-down High St unless someone can come up with a workable alternative. The regenerated Spires will have more shoppers, and we expect further redevelopment there in the future. The High St risks falling way behind as an unloved backwater. The prize from a regenerated High St will be for it to move forward in tandem with The Spires.