Update 29 June 2021: We announced in the June Newsletter that our AGM 2021 would take place on Monday 5th July at 7.30PM. This date relied on the relaxation of COVID-19 related regulations that prevented indoor gatherings. As you will know, the relaxation planned for 21st June did not take place, and a 'physical' AGM cannot now be held on the planned date. The Committee decided that we would nevertheless still proceed with an AGM to conduct essential business but would take advantage of new technologies by conducting it through a Zoom-enabled meeting, with interested members taking part from home. This approach will allow us to maintain the original date and time. The Zoom link will be made available to members by email, or contact us.
As we went to press there was still uncertainty whether the remaining restrictions imposed as a consequence of Covid will be lifted. However, even with some restrictions remaining the signs are that the economy has not suffered as badly as feared, so there are grounds for optimism. From observations of activity in our High St we can see reasons to share this positive outlook. Not only have nearly all of our shops reopened, we have also welcomed a number of new outlets, with others on the way. In addition, the refurbishment of a number of existing shops has added to this potentially heady brew.
We have been very busy in recent weeks addressing issues around litter and other matters that impact on the public realm. And, as ever, planning issues continue to demand close attention.
Is The Spires under threat?
Members on email have received a number of communications regarding the sale of The Spires to BYM Capital, a property development company who have been acquiring sites since 2017 with the intention of converting offices to residential use. This appears to be their first venture into retail, but they have indicated it is their intention to maintain retail businesses on the site. We do however expect a proposal for an element of redevelopment, with flats on upper floors almost a certainty.
No-one disputes that the rebuilding undertaken by the previous owners has been a failure and the centre is now something of a mess. An element of sensitive redevelopment could re-invigorate the shopping area and a well-designed residential component could also prove positive. But of course we are also alive to the dangers of over-development of blocks of flats, where excessive massing and height could be a disaster for the town.
Barnet Council is a key player here, both as the decision maker on any planning application and also as freeholder of the site. As landlord they will have to grant or refuse permission for any substantial changes. From the moment we knew of the purchase we opened a dialogue with the Council urging that they update the extant planning framework for the site that was adopted in 2012, and that as landlord they establish a position taking into account the wider implications for the town of any potential redevelopment proposals. Senior officials have told us the Council is indeed considering its position from both of these perspectives, though as yet we have not detected any actual activity in this regard. We are continuing to press the matter. We believe the developer is likely to move quickly to work up a set of proposals, so it is vital that the Council gets on the front foot.
CCTV at last (hopefully anyway)
We have repeatedly reported on the problem of fly tipping on St Albans Rd, a major issue we have been working on with the Council for the best part of three years. Early on we asked them to explore the possibility of CCTV. Progress has been painfully slow but Cllr Longstaff, who has been supportive throughout, did eventually secure funding for an installation. But then the problem of finding a power supply was beginning to appear insurmountable. We may now have an innovative solution – solar powered cameras. Three cameras should be in place sometime this month. This is the first occasion the Council has used solar powered cameras so we do hope they work.
The Council does regularly have a clear up of the pavement, but rubbish thrown into the field behind continues to accumulate and as the photograph shows, is probably now the major problem We have suggested a high fence to the back of the footpath to make this more difficult. This remains a possibility, but the Council first wants to see what impact the cameras have.
Keeping up appearances
As well as the fly tipping issue, in recent weeks we have been especially focusing on a number of environmental matters.
It is depressing how much litter there seems to be around, and that is despite individuals and groups such as Green Beings regularly supplementing the Council’s efforts to clear it up. We reported in October last year that the Council was deploying extra resources by using the funds generated from charging for green bin collections. Around the town centre a designated ‘gold’ area should now have daily sweeping and bin emptying. As far as we can judge this is happening, though we are less sure that the mechanical sweeper is being used at weekends as intended. A peripheral ‘silver’ area should have a fortnightly clean.
Other improvements promised by the Council include spraying pavements and litter bins every eight weeks and extra teams of litter pickers where particular problems are identified. Part time rangers in parks are also being considered. Our suburban streets can expect little more than a twice a year deep clean, so here volunteer litter picking is the only realistic means to keep litter at bay.
We secured agreement for an extra deep clean to deal with the pigeon droppings in front of the former Lesstax2pay office. The residents to the upper floors of this building have taken to leaving their bins on the pavement in front of the closed office and we have additionally asked the council to do something about this, not least because the accumulation of pigeon dropping on the bins is a health hazard. As the photograph shows, despite the recent clean up the problem has started to build up again. We have asked the Council for ten additional ‘heritage’ litter bins, some to replace existing damaged ones and others as extras, and we have also pointed out that the bags being used were not large enough for the new bins that have been installed.
We also got agreement from the Council for further deep cleaning at spots in the town centre where the pavement had become badly stained by leakage from commercial waste sacks, where one restaurant in particular has been very remiss. We are exploring with the Council and St John’s Church Wardens the possibility of a long term solution to provide a bin store for these refuse bags. We have also drawn attention to excessive litter on Hadley Green because of bins overflowing and this is being addressed.
And yet more on litter. Some time ago we and our MP Theresa Villiers separately approached TfL regarding the excessive litter along the station ramp. There followed a major improvement but in recent months standards had noticeably slipped. We discussed this with our MP and she agreed to approach her contact at TfL. The litter disappeared within 24 hours! We are continuing to monitor the situation but it appears litter continues to be removed. Unfortunately the pavement beyond the top of the ramp is the responsibility of the Council and litter continues to collect there.
Sometimes it is just not possible to get others to deal with problems, so then the only solution is to deal with it yourself. And so it was that in April a group of volunteers from the Committees of The Barnet Society and ourselves set about cleaning the Churchyard bench. It was last cleaned some six years ago by a similar co-operative effort. The photograph shows some of the team in action: Derek Epstein of the Barnet Society and BRA committee members Ken Rowland (Chairman), Gordon Massey (your Editor) and Wendy Marler (Environment Officer). As a follow-up the Council contributed by using a jet wash to clean the legs of the bench and the surrounding pavement.
An approach we made to McDonalds got a positive response. As well as just outside their restaurant, they agreed staff would also clear up litter over a wider area including the opposite side of the road.
We have also kept an eye out for other problems. For example in recent weeks we have reported no fewer that eleven potholes along the High St. Though it can take some time, reporting problems usually gets results in the end. Fly-tipping, graffiti, potholes, broken streetlights, overflowing bins, blocked drains, etc on Council property can be reported to the Council by going to:
We can often help as well, especially if the problem is on private property e.g. a shop or office building.
Email Ken Rowland via the email address given on the Contact page.
Litter etc. will feature at our AGM where we have invited as guest speaker Mark Hunt, Street Scene Operations Manager for the Council (See AGM notice at the end of this newsletter).
Not quite so grim down south
We have long despaired of the poor presentation of the shops at the southern end of town. This is the row on the right just before the Meadway turning. As the first shops seen by anyone emerging from the station or driving up from Barnet Hill they have not exactly presented a positive image of our town centre. But at last we seem to have some improvements to report.
The most important change has been to the former Curry Cottage (left in the photograph), which we reckon had been sitting empty and visibly deteriorating for some 15 years, not helped by more recently being occupied by squatters. We tried currying favour with the family of the elderly owners to at least get the building tidied up, but to no avail. As there continued to be an extant lease we also tried contacting the leaseholder, but again with no response. But following the sale of the building at auction in March (which included the adjacent building occupied by Subway) the new owner quickly set about making changes. The ground floor was boarded up and the first floor window frames were given a quick repaint. The shop is now being advertised as available to rent. Subway appears to have closed so we anticipate changes are also afoot for this outlet.
On the corner of Normandy Avenue the rather fine building occupied on the ground floor by Archers estate agent has had an extensive uplift to the frontage (to the right in the photograph above). The owners responded positively to our request for the removal of a redundant letting agent’s board and battens from other earlier boards, some of which has been there for many years. In this block the decidedly tired frontage to Rapunzel hairdressers has had an excellent make-over including a name change to ‘Raw’.
There is still much more to do. The frontages of a number of the shops need a good clean and many of the shutters have been defaced with graffiti. We have now turned our efforts to try to to get these frontages smartened up.
Above Simply Local the windows are in a dismal condition. Further up the High St the windows above ground level in the building occupied by Millets are similarly in a terrible state. We have approached both owners asking that they deal with this neglect.
New businesses on the up
It was a long battle seeing off an unwelcome office/housing development on the White Lion site and, because of the Council’s pub protection policy, it took the owner even longer to demonstrate the pub had no future and secure agreement that an alternative use should be allowed. But at last we have got there and Enterprise Car Hire is now up and running. This should be an asset for the town, particularly for those residents living in new properties around the town centre where car ownership is essentially banned as the Council will not allow CPZ permits.
Home Solution has opened at 152A High St (the former Quality Jewellers). Mantrella Jewellers, in the former charity shop alongside The Spires, is expected to open in the Autumn. The long closed Antong Thai restaurant is now Tokai (Sushi) and has been doing deliveries for some months, but has yet to open as a restaurant. The nearby long-closed former Umi’s has been let, but as yet we have no information on the new occupier. La Vista has now become Pizza Triangle, a small chain. Another intriguing re-opening expected soon is a ‘library bar’ in the former Velofit at the junction of the High St and St Albans Rd. It sounds like it should appeal to all those people who like to drink and read at the same time.
At No 52 High St (former Cover outdoor clothing) there has been an application for change of use from retail to a takeaway run by a chain called Mooboo offering bubble tea. For those who don’t know, bubble tea was invented in Taiwan in the 1980s and consists of adding tapioca starch to milk tea, usually served iced. Its appeal has spread around the world so it should have something going for it, though clearly it’s not exactly a cosy cup of PG Tips (nor indeed your Editor’s preference - Rwandan black leaf tea from Hopscotch) However the Council rejected the planning application, partly because the frontage would have been unsympathetic to this listed building and the conservation area, partly because loss of retail had not been justified, but also because hot food takeaways within 400 metres of a school will no longer be allowed. This is a new provision in the London Plan adopted in March. Some catering equipment and a large extractor at the rear had already been installed at no 52, so more a case of boohoo than Mooboo.
Because of the presence of QE Girls and the College, this new planning rule means that new hot food takeaways should no longer be allowed anywhere in the town centre, which is no bad thing.
Soon to open at the former Londis (48 High St) is Organic Beings, which should be interesting. Next door at no 50 also expected to open soon is a hot food takeaway Hot Wings (former Phone and Vape). For reasons we explain above, Hot Wings has been lucky to get approval having applied for planning permission before the introduction of the new London Plan.
Brothers Kitchen has had a refurbishment including a new frontage. We had a tussle over the previous frontage which was installed by a previous occupier without seeking planning permission. This new frontage has similarly been installed without planning permission, but as we consider it to be ok we have decided not to press the issue with the Council. But failure to apply for planning consent for new frontages in the conservation areas is a constant problem. In some instances the frontage is so awful we have no option but to intervene.
Nearby, perhaps the most amazing and unexpected transformation is the frontage to KFC. Your editor has only once succumbed to KFC’s finger-lickin’ slick marketing and still winces at the memory, but acknowledges that many people really like the offerings. So, accepting that KFC is unlikely to go out of business, it is pleasing that the decidedly brash frontage has been replaced with something much more reserved – tasteful even. Maybe time to show appreciation by giving KFC another go - or maybe not.
Although we should not gloat at someone else’s misfortune, the announcement by Santander that their North Finchley branch is to close does boost the chances of our branch remaining open. This is a reversal of the trend in the recent past where we have lost branches of chains that have remained open in North Finchley, e.g Shoe Zone and Superdrug. Losing a third bank shortly after the announced closure of HSBC in September and TSB closing last late year would have been a major blow. The TSB building is now up for sale.
Bearing in mind that nationally one in seven shops are empty we are doing remarkably well here, especially as there are so many prospective new outlets in the pipeline.
Planning madness continues
In the Queen’s Speech in Parliament the Government announced its intention to introduce a Planning Bill in the current session. As far as we can tell all the proposals in the Planning White Paper which was put out for consultation last Autumn will feature in the Bill. There was enormous opposition to the proposals that included all the recognised authoritative organisations concerned with planning. A submission strongly opposing the proposals, written by your Editor on behalf of the Federation of Residents Associations in Barnet, can be viewed on our website. Our MP Theresa Villiers has been particularly vocal in condemning that part of the proposals which would curtail the democratic right of residents to oppose planning applications and a housing needs formula that will place obligations on Councils across London and the south-east to build vast numbers of new homes. A major battle lies ahead.
Meantime things are bad enough anyway, with numerous proposals in the pipeline that will continue to blight the Borough with vast numbers of high rise blocks of flats. In Hendon, a major development is in progress on the site of the former police college. We recently learned that of the first tranche of 380 flats released for private sale more than half were sold to overseas buyers, mainly from Hong Kong, Singapore and China. This follows the trend in central London where many new flats sold to foreign investors are lying empty. To put it mildly, many people must be bewildered that we are told there needs to be a massive building programme to meet a shortage of homes for London residents, yet they cannot occupy many of the properties being built.
Barnet has been at the forefront of Boroughs building tower blocks, though most have been concentrated in specific areas, notably Colindale. Here the latest scheme to emerge has been the rebuilding of the Douglas Bader estate. The existing 271 social homes are to be re-provided, which is fine, but to cover the cost a further 481 flats for private sale will be provided in blocks up to 9 storeys high. At Colindale station there is a proposal to build up to 313 flats in blocks 6-29 storeys high.
And so the onward march of vast numbers of tiny one and two bedroom flats, supposedly for sale to London’s young professionals, continues. The problems come when these people acquire families and aspire to a house with a garden, just as generations before them have done. Not only are we not building houses in London, we are reducing the supply through conversions and demolition to make way for flats. None of this makes sense, except that is to a Government obsessed with achieving a target of 300,000 homes a year, of which 66,000 are expected to be in London. Never mind the quality, feel the width.
This apparent need for so much new housing is based on the experience of London’s population growing by 2.2million over the 20 years since 2000, with the number of jobs in the capital growing from 4.5 million to 6 million. Estimates of future growth have anticipated this trend continuing. But following the impact of leaving the EU, Covid and the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda which includes plans to disperse public sector jobs to the regions, predictions for future population growth are now in disarray. It is known that many people left London in 2020, including many European nationals, but actual numbers are hard to come by. Even more uncertain is how many will come back.
Meanwhile on our patch all remains quiet regarding the proposed 300 flats at High Barnet station. But we understand a planning application is imminent for flats on the site of Cockfosters station car park, so we may not be far behind.
Salisbury Rd completed
We fought a long battle to see off a contemporary design on this site which we described as a ‘pile of boxes’. It might have looked ok in a modern setting but in our view was utterly discordant in a street dominated by Victorian terraces. After admitting defeat the developer came to us to ask what we thought should be appropriate. So we did have influence of the design of what has now been built. What we sought was something that reflected the transition from the Halifax building at one end of the site to the Victorian houses at the other, without upstaging the existing properties. Members can judge for themselves whether we got it right. What is disappointing though is the quality of some of the workmanship, particularly the brickwork. It appears the developer did not have much of a grip on the contractors.
Last year new Permitted Development Regulations allowed an extra floor to be built on houses and up to two extra floors on flats. Needless to say, applications soon followed, but the Council has not just rolled over. Of 20 applications for extra floors on houses 14 have been refused, 2 approved, 1 withdrawn and 3 are under consideration. The one application in our area has been refused. Of 24 applications for extra floors on flats 16 have been refused, 4 approved, 1 withdrawn and 3 are under consideration. We consider the Council has done brilliantly here in resisting these intrusive applications, though the crunch will come when inevitably some of these applications go to appeal.
An application to add two extra floors to these flats in Park Rd was understandably not well received by residents, both occupiers of the flats and people living in the road. The potential impact on the street and the immediate neighbours is evident from the photograph.. Pleasingly the council did find grounds for refusal. And if such developments do go ahead there will be untold misery for existing residents during construction, and the media has reported shoddy workmanship causing problems for flats below.
In the February Newsletter we reported on the proposal to build a large shops/residential development on the site of the former Bentley showroom (at the rear in photograph above). The Council rightly rejected the application, essentially because the building was way too large, which was the basis of our objection. Even worse was the application to redevelop the former Statons office next door (drawing to the right/second above). Yet again they were seeking to maximise use of the site with an unduly modern building out of proportion to the surroundings. We of course objected and the application was refused with a range of reasons that rightly hammered the proposal. The developer had hired a heritage consultant who explained why the proposal was ok in this conservation area. So much for independent experts hired by developers.
On the subject of Conservation Areas, Richard Peart has retired as secretary of the Conservation Area Advisory Committee, a post he has held for 38 years. He remains on the committee for now pending the appointment of a new representative for Hadley Residents Association. Our own Janet Littlewood has taken over as CAAC Secretary.
A number of other nasties are still around. The application using permitted development legislation to create 24 tiny flats at 17 Park Rd is awaiting a decision. The appeal against the order to demolish the new building at 70 High St (former After Office Hours), a saga on which we have reported at length, has still to be heard. We have of course submitted our views to the Planning Inspectorate. Meanwhile the owners are now advertising the new flats to let, so evidently they are confident of winning the appeal or just intend to brazen it out even if they lose. Though the Planning Committee refused demolition of a house in Prospect Rd to make way for six flats, one we considered to be an important win, the owners have appealed. Again we have submitted comments to the Planning Inspectorate.
The house in Multiple Occupation at 2 Bruce Rd (behind Dory’s café) has been completed. A number of members objected to the tiny rooms being provided, but they do conform to the rules on minimum space standards. The planning approval included two small shops with traditional frontages down the side of the building, but only one has appeared. The land behind the building has been converted to a courtyard for the benefit of the property though we have doubts regarding ownership. This area was designated for the footpath to access to the Premier Inn, but it appears increasingly unlikely that the hotel will ever be built.
We did support an application to build houses to the rear of the Meadow works site on the great North Rd. We have spoken to the owner regrading plans to refurbish the workshops on the remainder of the site. This is good news as we feared another employment site may be lost to housing. The earlier scheme to build a six storey block of flats on the site has been consigned to history.
Projects emerge from Community Plan
A number of members engaged with the consultation on the development of the Community Plan for High Barnet. Five projects are now proposed for adoption:
- Wayfinding: signage providing guidance on getting around the town centre and nearby green spaces.
- Investing in the public realm, including making the High St/Wood St junction safer and more greening around the town centre.
- Better play facilities for Courthouse Gardens, including better accessibility and reducing anti-social behaviour.
- A co-working space to be established in the town centre.
- Boost employment including finding a site for an employment hub.
Following approval by the Council these schemes will be implemented once funding can be found.
Back in January the Police undertook a ‘Safer Neighbourhoods’ survey of over 100 residents in High Barnet. An extensive range of questions was put to residents. 85% of respondents considered the area very safe or safe, with just 15% saying it was unsafe. No-one said the area was very unsafe. Burglary was by far the major concern, with the other significant concerns being speeding, theft from motor vehicles, especially catalytic converters, and anti-social behaviour. Fly-tipping was by far the main concern in the anti-social behaviour category, with dog fouling second.
For many years the number of reported crimes in the major categories has been running at around 80 a month, and this remained the case for 2020. Overall the situation with crime appears to be getting neither better nor worse, though over time certain types of crime can be seen to recede or increase.
Events commemorating the 550th anniversary of the Battle of Barnet were curtailed last year because of Covid, but efforts are being made to catch up. The Warwick Memorial at Hadley Highstone has been renovated by the Council. The Memorial is a Grade II listed obelisk, erected around 1740 as a commemoration of the battle. A small commemoration service was held there on 14 April, the date of the battle in 1471. Banners representing nobles who were present at the battle have again appeared on lampposts in the High St and will remain in place throughout the summer. Barnet Museum has put on a battle display in a vacant shop in The Spires. Less certain is whether the intended Medieval Festival scheduled for 11/12 September will be able to go ahead because of difficulties with funding and obtaining suitable insurance. You can support the festival by pledging a donation, which can be as little as £2: go to: https://www.spacehive.com/battle-barnet-550
And Briefly …..
TfL has entered into a joint venture with Tarmac/Kier to ‘maintain and improve’ 189km of TfL roads. Barnet Council has signed up on the back of this venture for its roads to be similarly managed by this consortium. We are especially interested to see how the ‘improve’ bit turns out, but given the onward advance of potholes just keeping up with maintenance will be welcome.
In the October newsletter we reported that Wood St and Cedar Lawn Avenue were the only significant roads in our area that were in the Council’s 21/22 road re-surfacing programme. The council has been told that Salisbury Rd has been in a terrible state since the 384 bus was routed there and it is evident that a much tougher surface is needed. The Council is repeatedly patching up the numerous potholes, but more just keep reappearing. We have said this road should be added to the resurfacing programme as a priority, if necessary at the expense of other roads in the programme.
We also reported in the October newsletter that a proposal to allow solar panels and battery stores in parks has not been well received by the public. The council has dropped the idea.
Local resident Oliver Britton has written a history of cricket on Hadley Common entitled “Common Pursuits’. He traces the evolution of 200 years of surprisingly tumultuous and often amusing events surrounding this supposedly most gentlemanly of games.. The book can be purchased direct from the author, price £12.99. See the instructions on the page https://monkenhadley.play-cricket.com/website/web_pages/122782 or email the BRA webmaster if you are stuck (I don't want to publish Oliver's email address).
Finally, we were saddened to learn in February of the passing of former Barnet Residents Association Chairman John Drysdale. John was very active in the 1990s and notably led opposition to unwelcome planning applications. In 2005 he was instrumental in supporting the transfer of the then dormant Association to the new committee. Our condolences go to Susan and family.
Invitation to Annual General Meeting
Update 29 June 2021: This meeting will take place on Zoom. See the note at the top of the page.
*** Not meeting in person after all, see above *** Monday 5 July 2021, 7.30pm, The Bull Theatre, 68 High Street, EN5 5SJ
Guest Speaker: Mark Hunt, Barnet Council Operations Manager, Street Cleansing and Street Scene
Mark will speak about his role dealing with issues such as litter, graffiti and fly-tipping, followed by an opportunity for members to ask questions on these matters.
Following our guest speaker the formal meeting will open with a report from the Chairman, followed by the presentation of annual accounts and elections of officers. We need to elect Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer and Committee members. All serving Officers and Committee members are offering themselves for re-election.
The Committee are also proposing a number of resolutions concerning the area served by the Association, changes to membership categories and a modest increase in subscriptions.
Resolution 1: Amend Clause 1 of the Constitution - delete “for the High Barnet and Underhill Wards (formerly Hadley and Arkley Wards)”.
Resolution 2: Amend clause 2 of the Constitution - delete “of the High Barnet and Underhill Wards of the London Borough of Barnet (“The Designated Area”),” and substitute “in High Barnet and the surrounding area”.
These two resolutions are proposed as a consequence of ward changes that will come into effect in May 2022. The eastern portion of High Barnet ward and the northern half of Oakleigh ward will be merged to form a new ward called Barnet Vale. The Committee proposes that rather than adjust the constitution to fit the new wards we cease to define our operational area by rigid ward boundaries and instead adopt a more flexible approach, whilst identifying High Barnet as the focal point of our activities.
Resolution 3: Amend Clause 6 of the Constitution - delete “Individual” and insert “Household”, delete “the designated area” and insert “High Barnet town centre or the surrounding area”.
We currently operate three forms of membership – Individual charging £4, a family concession charging £6, and Corporate charging £6. But the cost of servicing all addresses is exactly the same. To simplify matters and to reflect the reality of servicing costs, the Committee proposes that in future a single form of membership irrespective of how many people are in a household should apply. Corporate membership will be retained.
Resolution 4: Delete Clause 7 of the Constitution.
A consequence of abandoning a designated area as proposed by Resolutions 1 and 2, any member will be able to vote at General Meetings irrespective of where they live.
Resolution 5: The Committee proposes that for all new members the annual subscription shall be £7 from 1 August 2021.
Resolution 6: For existing members paying £6 the subscription shall be increased to £7 on first renewal after 30 September 2021.
Resolution 7: Existing members paying £4 will be allowed a concessionary rate with the subscription increased to £5 on first renewal after 30 September 2021.
Resolutions 5,6 and 7 propose to increase subscription rates. We have not increased subscriptions since 2011, whilst printing and postage costs have continued to rise, so we are also proposing that the subscription should be increased. For new members joining from 1st August the subscription will be £7 for all households. For existing family members £7 will apply on first renewal after 30 September. For existing individual members currently paying £4 the concessionary subscription of £5 will apply on first renewal after 30 September. Thus the increase for all existing members will be £1.
The Constitution can be viewed on our website.
Following the completion of formal business there should be time for members to raise any other matters.
We aim to close the meeting by 9.30pm.