I’m very pleased to be standing here today to host Barnet Residents Association AGM. It’s great to be able to hold it in person rather than online.
- Despite the impact of covid lockdown the high street has proved quite resilient. Most shops re-opened and there have been several new openings.
- Obviously the high street is organic with openings and closings every year but currently Barnet high street has a vacancy rate of 12.9%. While this is higher than the South East (9.9%) and UK (11.2%) averages but when you consider pipeline activity (i.e., known openings like Gail’s) then the vacancy rate drops to an impressive 7.9%.
- The southern end of the high street often neglected has seen something of a renaissance. Above ‘Simply Local’ has finally been painted and all other units occupied. One notable exception is the curry cottage building which is in desperate need of some TLC especially to the wonderful windows on the front floor.
- The quality of shop fronts varies enormously but thankfully some businesses take pride in their appearance. New additions Zarrin Patisserie and G. Mantella are notable examples of what good looks like. At the other end of the scale, we have Balady which has chosen a particular garish shuttered front which now sits next to the historic Mitre pub.
- The community plan much delayed due to Covid shortlisted 5 projects including one to redevelop an empty unit on the high street. Through the generosity of the current owner of number 98 who has offered the site rent free while plans are progressed for re-development. A wonderful gesture and we hope that more owners follow suit. It is hoped the new Chipping Work Shop will open later this month.
- One very current danger is the proposed gambling licence for the former TSB building. As you will appreciate from our newsletters you have to lodge based on planning law. We are currently perfecting the wording for our objection and will inform members in due course.
- The long-awaited CCTV for St Albans Road has been successfully installed after a 3-year campaign and thankfully seems to be working.
- We have successfully lobbied the council for bins to replace the ones that have been removed over the last few years although more are needed.
- High Barnet has long been classified as a primary town centre, but the cleaning regime didn’t reflect the status. Thankfully we are now seeing regular mechanical cleaning along the primary section which is to be welcomed.
- Unfortunately Fly posters advertising summer festivals are a particular issue now but the council have assured us that they will clean them off.
- The committee helped clean and then oil the long bench in church passage. A satisfying job but suspect it will need doing again next year.
- We know that many members regularly do litter picking around their locality but earlier this year we organised our inaugural town centre own litter pick and a very successful event it was with about 30 bags collected. A big thank you to everyone that played their part. We hope to repeat it again in the not-too-distant future and we also hope to re-introduce our regular stall in The Spires.
The Spires was purchased last year and so far very little has changed apart from changes to the bandstand area although other improvements to the courtyards are being discussed. BYM have succeeded in getting Waitrose to re-sign and have taken action to replace NCP.
We still feel they will consider adding extra floors to accommodate residential but have no further information at this point.
- Only yesterday it was reported that pubs have declined by 7,000 in the last 10 years so ACVs (Assets of Community Value) are important tools to help protect community assets. It’s therefore encouraging that both The Sebright Arms and The Monk have been renewed and an application for The Nelson is underway. The Mitre is now a managed house. The Black Horse is under new ownership and seems to be trading well. Thankfully the much-liked Library bar has also now re-opened.
- It's important to note that ACV’s are not exclusively for pubs, and we are now considering an application for Barnet Library.
TRANSPORT & HIGHWAYS
- BRA had previously received approval for a town centre wide review but was never progressed by officers. I’m pleased to report that a meeting is scheduled for later this month to take the matter forward with High Barnet’s two local councillors.
- On a less positive note, members were angry to hear about the changes to the 84 bus and we’re extremely disappointed that a solution couldn’t be found. With the extension of the ULEZ zone journeys across borders are becoming more and not less important so a strategic plan for transport across the M25 needs commissioning.
- The proposal to extend the ULEZ zone could have huge implications for lower paid workers that travel from outside the borough and rely on their car to get to work.
- Currently there is a lack of strategic vision for areas like High Barnet that for practical reasons can’t switch to an electric car.
- I believe the Network Recovery Plan is flawed and there are many examples of roads being resurfaced that don’t need it and those that do being overlooked. A more equitable and transparent process is required.
- We continue to have good success with planning applications but occasionally we are disappointed. Planners approved a 25 micro flats in Park Road. This is particularly disappointing as the rules have since changed on light which was a key element of our objection.
- The applications for the former Statons office & Bentley showroom have both been refused and turned down on appeal. While we accept an element of development it needs to be sympathetic with the area, or they risk changing the face of Hadley permanently.
- Though there were concerns about the suitability of the building at 50 Moxon St to provide a special needs school we decided to stay neutral and not comment. The planning application has been approved.
- The owners of 70 High Street have applied for a judicial review of the demolition order and have also tried to avoid demolition twice by submitting planning applications to tweak what has been built. So far the council has stood firm with both applications refused.
- There has been many applications for ‘mega’ developments, and we continue to monitor closely including developments at Victoria Quarter, New Barnet, Arnos Grove & Cockfosters Stations, Barnet House Whetstone.
- Taylor Wimpey withdrew from the proposed scheme to redevelopment the High Barnet tube station car park and since nothing more has been heard. Similarly with Whalebones following refusal by the Planning Inspector.
- The old market site was purchased in January but has subsequently fallen through. We know that BYM Capital (Spires owners) are interested but not at the rumoured £3m price tag. In the meantime, we are attempting to contact current owners Aberdeen City Council to return the site to community use until such time as it is finally sold.
- Following a change of owner and pressure from ourselves the Crown & Anchor building has been restored to its former glory although we were enamoured with the proposed new frontage but that has now been refused.
- Barnet Council applied for advertising banners on our lampposts. While there has been no determination we hope that the Museum’s banners have convinced them that it isn’t needed.
- Construction of the new flats and houses on the former Brake Shear House site is underway. We were pleased to be able to influence keeping the overall size within the prevailing height of the buildings on the High St.
In summary our high street is in a good state, but we will continue to the work to get empty units reopened and fight to ensure that any developments are appropriate and fit the character of the area.
Our finances are in good shape which allows us to make donations e.g. This year we donated to the charity Art for Knives.
And as at today we have a record number of members at 767.
Finally, as outgoing chair I just want to say a few words about Gordon Massey who is retiring from the committee this year and acknowledge his immense contribution to the association. He helped resurrect Barnet Residents after a period of dormancy some 17 years ago. His knowledge of the planning system is second to none. He has held roles of chair, planning, planning policy, newsletter editor and highways. Thank you Gordon you will be sorely missed.
LEAD ROUND OF APPLAUSE.