Newsletter February 2019

Planning matters continue to dominate our agenda with several major schemes to report on along with a foretaste of major changes to planning policy coming later this year. A lot of buildings around the town look decidedly shabby and we have started to put in extra effort to persuade owners to do better. Against a national picture of something of a meltdown our High St has held up better than we feared over recent months though there is little indication of the empty units being occupied. We have otherwise been busy on a range of issues affecting residents ranging from traffic congestion and rough sleepers through to street cleaning and fly tipping.

NEW SCHEMES SET TO PLEASE

We do expend a lot of energy opposing planning proposals, so it is gratifying that we can start our planning report by saying that we have found no reason to grumble about two major new schemes on the horizon.

artists impression of new care home, 3 floors of red brick with pitched roof

For the proposed care home on the former Marie Foster site in Wood St. the developer Signature Senior Lifestyle was meticulous in consulting local organisations such as ourselves and the immediate neighbours. A number of amendments were made to accommodate comments made, and when the planning application was submitted in October we felt able to post a comment indicating support – for us a decidedly rare event. By replacing the derelict former nurses home and disused care centre this scheme should remove a particularly dismal blot on the local landscape that has long been a source of complaint. We should end up with a building at a prominent location in the Wood St conservation area that residents can be proud of. A decision is expected soon. The plans can be viewed on the council planning website using reference 18/5926/FUL.

Rather more controversial is the scheme to develop the green space at Whalebones Park, formerly farmland located in the conservation area. There has been considerable opposition to the very idea of redevelopment. We came to the conclusion that some redevelopment was bound to happen, but a suitably sensitive scheme could have a positive outcome for the community. We have been very aware that as the site has not been open to public access its actual use to the community has been very limited. As part of the redevelopment scheme it is now intended to retain some 40% of the site as a park with public access including a children’s play area. This area will be under the ownership of the Land Trust, a well-resourced charity which owns and manages many green spaces around the country. The housing on the site, down from the 180 units originally proposed to just over 150, will almost all be located in the large field that runs alongside the recent Elmbank development. We would have liked to see fewer flats and more family houses but we have decided not to press on this. The farmyard, Guild of Artists and the beekeepers will all be relocated on the site to enable existing activities to continue. A planning application is expected very soon.

The consultation on the two schemes above was in stark contrast to the two other major redevelopment proposals in our area currently being progressed – Brake Shear House and Meadow Works. The developers chose not to engage in any community consultation, and when we saw the planning applications we concluded that we needed to oppose both. We have asked to speak at the Planning Committee on Brake Shear House.

The 100-bed Premier Inn scheme for the old market site did arouse a lot of controversy as we have previously reported. We had concluded that the scheme as proposed in the second planning application was acceptable. Our planning officer Gordon Massey spoke in favour at the Planning Committee meeting on behalf of a number of local residents groups, emphasising the potential economic benefits for our struggling town centre. The plans were passed by Councillors with seven for, three against and one abstention. We would have liked the building to be smaller, but after pressing that with the developer we duly concluded that this was one aspect on which we had to concede. The aim is to complete the building by spring 2020.

closed pub, two storey whitewashed house with shutters and slate roofA number of other significant schemes are also in the planning process. We previously reported a decidedly unattractive proposal for offices/residential on the former tyre depot site on St Albans Rd and were pleased to see the planning application rejected. There is now an application for a car hire facility embracing both the former tyre depot and the former White Lion pub. The initial proposal was to demolish both buildings and we were pleased when the owner insisted that the locally listed former pub building should remain. It now features in the planning application for use as the site office. Enterprise Car Hire is the firm involved and will occupy the site on a long lease.

dilapidated single storey buildingMajor changes are coming to Moxon St and Tapster St. Planning approval has been given for three blocks of flats to replace the derelict garage on Moxon St, the former school/British Legion on the corner of the two streets, and the former car wash site on Tapster St. We think all three schemes are ok, though the scheme to redevelop the school has taken three attempts to get approval. In due course these developments should have a major impact in uplifting this decidedly run down area of our town centre. Rather less welcome is news that there may be movement to proceed with the Council/Capita scheme approved in 2016 that will replace the tile shop on Moxon St. We opposed this scheme because we considered the modern design to be inappropriate, and still do. Nearby on the High St. work continues with the two floors of flats above the Village Food Centre, and opposite The Church scaffolding has enveloped nos 74-78 to facilitate the construction of an extra floor for – of course – yet more small flats.

A disappointment is the appeal against the rejection of the planning application to build a block of flats on the site of the Fern Room in Salisbury Rd which we dubbed ‘a pile of boxes’. This was another where we spoke in opposition at the Planning Committee. It was rejected by Councillors but that was in contradiction to an officer recommendation for approval, so we await the Planning Inspector’s decision with some trepidation.

Other planning decisions include the rejection of an application to extend the Black Horse, which we objected to, not on the principle, but because of an inappropriate design in the conservation area. We objected to a proposal to build an industrial shed on Green Belt behind the car wash site at 127 Barnet Rd and it was no surprise that the planners were quick to quash this one. We opposed yet another application for offices/flats behind 141 High St (the carpet shop) and that too was rejected by the planners.

Homes in Multiple Occupation, which we featured at length in our previous newsletter, have been having a hard time of it. The planning application for an HMO in Bruce Rd was withdrawn following public protests and some very negative publicity in ‘The Guardian’ from information provided by one of our members. A retrospective application for 81 Quinta Drive, which we opposed, was rejected by the Planning Committee despite a recommendation for approval by officers, but has now gone to appeal. The planning application to convert to four flats the unregulated HMO in Bells Hill which we also opposed was thankfully rejected. We did not oppose the part flats/part HMO proposal for Cotswold House in Stapylton Rd as the scheme featured significant improvements to the existing building, and we were somewhat disappointed to see this rejected.

It is just over a year since we complained about the modern new frontage to 50 High St (Phone And Vape) installed without planning approval and were pleased that the Council enforcement team pursued this. A planning application has now been submitted for a replacement frontage which, though not perfect, does look significantly more appropriate for a listed building in the conservation area. Two similar instances we complained about rumble on. We are very pleased that the appeal against the Council enforcement notice requiring the removal of the UPVC windows at 189/191 High St and reinstatement of wooden windows has been dismissed. We wait to see what will now happen at 230 High St following refusal of the planning application to retain the shop frontage that was installed without applying for planning permission. Meanwhile Foster & Co., the occupants of no 230, have now also occupied the shop next door relinquished by Estate Agents Shaun Heaney who have halved the size of their premises.

old house with car showroom extension on the front, white paintedlarge house with scaffolding

Three planning applications have been submitted for changes to buildings in the conservation areas. A proposal to add two floors above Hopscotch at no 88 High St looks to be a sympathetic design that should have a positive impact by blending in well with adjacent buildings. At 151-153 High St (pictured left) it is proposed to rebuild the rear with extra housing, which we do not mind, and the intention to demolish the modern car display extension at the front is a positive. But we are less impressed with the intention to demolish no.153 and replace it with a building very similar to no 151 which will result in a significant loss of character. We also have doubts about the proposed modern replacement shop fronts, and indeed we would have liked to see consideration given to converting these to residential. No 159, pictured with scaffolding, has approval for a major rebuild to provide additional housing that will involve modifications to the frontage. This did not thrill us, but we decided not to object.

On the domestic front we did oppose an unsympathetic modern extension in Puller Rd, and also in Puller Rd we opposed a proposed dwelling in a back garden. Pleasingly both were rejected by the planners. Most welcome were approved applications to change flat conversions in Bulwer Rd and Fitzjohn Ave back to single dwellings. We would like to see more of these.

MAJOR CHANGES TO PLANNING POLICIES

2019 will see changes to planning rules with the emphasis on delivering vastly more housing. The revision of the London Plan is now being examined in public with the expectation that it will be adopted in the Autumn. Boroughs will be obliged to follow the London Plan and to this end their Local Plans are also being revised. Barnet should be sharing their first draft with us in the spring. We will be looking very closely at the housing numbers where initial indications suggest a target of up to 76,500 new homes by 2041, which we reckon would correlate with close to a 50% increase in the Borough’s population. We consider this to be unrealistic, especially when the necessary associated infrastructure is considered. We hope to have much more on this in time for our June newsletter. As an indication of what we might be faced with, Hertsmere has done an initial survey of potential housing development sites and identified four around Potters Bar which could deliver 2620 homes. Three of these sites are in the Green Belt between the existing built up area and the M25. There are reservations about the suitability of these sites, not least because of air pollution.

A measure introduced by the Government a couple of years ago was to allow office and industrial premises to be converted to residential use without planning permission. There has been little impact on our patch but in many areas this planning relaxation has been seen as a retrograde measure. Across London many conversions have taken place, leading to the loss of employment and substandard accommodation. Barnet has decided to call a halt to this planning relaxation through a directive that will come into force in July, which we heartily endorse. The Council has also become more active in trying to bring empty properties back into use. If you know of one near you the council can be advised on empty.properties@barnet.gov.uk .

A HEARTFELT INITIATIVE

small yellow cabinet with rounded top and bottom and a green doorAs many of our members will be aware, we are contributing £500 to the provision of a defibrillator in the Spires. This initiative, proposed by our committee member Janet Littlewood, was enthusiastically supported by the management there. It is now in place and there is a small plaque above recognising this joint initiative. Several Spires staff and shopkeepers have now been trained in its use though anyone should be able to use it by following the instructions. It is located by the lift recess between Carluccio’s and Waterstones. There is a defibrillator in the gym in the Spires and we believe they are provided in dentists, but as far as we know this is the first publicly available machine in our town centre.

FIGHTING THE YELLOW PERIL

suburban street with single yellow lines paited on the roadYellow lines are the lifeblood of traffic enforcement officers and most of us have fallen victim to their zealous vigilance at some time or other. In residential streets, especially in CPZs where parking space is usually very tight, the situation is even worse with no-one allowed to park on the prolific yellow lines during controlled hours. In many instances these lines have been painted with little thought given to whether the restrictions were really necessary. We have previously commented on this, pointing out that in some roads residents have been able to get stretches of yellow lines converted to parking bays. We would like to think that publicising this stimulated more residents into action, with the Council now considering major changes to the arrangements in Normandy Ave, Fitzjohn Ave and Union St. The proposals are quite extensive and could result in additional parking bays in the three roads totalling 21, 20 and 12 respectively. A number of these extra bays will be created by simply shortening the extent of the yellow lines in front of dropped kerbs. The proposed changes in Normandy have been advertised publicly and should soon be in place. The other two are still in the consultation process.

A LOAD OF RUBBISH

No – this is not about the bin collection service. Enough has been said about that all across the Borough so we have not thought that we need to repeat what many others have been saying. We have instead been looking at more long term problems that affect us locally. Our Chairman Ken Rowland tabled questions at the January Residents Forum regarding street cleaning and fly-tipping. We reckon our town centre street sweeper Dougie is very conscientious and does a good job, but we know he is largely operating alone these days working five days Monday to Friday, and it is impossible for him to regularly clean the roads off the High Street. So it came as a surprise when the Council told us that his title is ‘Town Keeper’ with a brief that includes dealing with graffiti and other problems such as damage to street furniture. When we told him this, it came as a surprise to Dougie as well. We have pressed for the various machines the Council owns to be used here, such as the pavement washing machine and the chewing gum machine, and there is a possibility we might see some movement on these. Our requests for more staff time to ensure side streets are regularly swept and for the weekend task force that operates across the Borough to do better with street sweeping and bin emptying is making little progress. And getting better co-ordination between the times that litter bins are emptied and when the bags are removed from the pavement edge may prove to be too difficult. So we continue with the prospect of piles of bags lying around all day after the bins are emptied in the mornings. We have greater hopes of progress on one matter - - replacing the many scruffy and damaged litter bins in the central section of the High St, which we have been told will be considered as part of the pavement build-outs should that go ahead. But such is the reality of savage cuts to the Street Scene budget that improvement on any of these matters faces an uphill struggle.

rubbish and a refrigerator dumped at the side of the roadconcrete block wall with spray-painted graffiti in red

The Council has been more positive in clearing the fly-tipping on St Albans Rd, with a number of clear-ups undertaken in recent weeks. Fridges, builder’s rubble, a three piece suite and even a caravan have featured amongst the items dumped. Following our intervention at the Residents Forum dumped material had been cleared twice, including removal of the vast quantity of litter - cans and plastic bottles which in many instances have been thrown from car windows. We know the litter was cleared away by volunteers a couple of years ago but the council has since been somewhat negligent, which has reflected poorly given the comparatively clean Hertsmere stretch of the road where their Council regularly picks up the litter. We have pressed our Council for thought to be given to something more pro-active than just keep cleaning up the mess, and we have been told that CCTV is now being considered.

Still on the subject of mess, there has recently been an upsurge in graffiti, with most of it probably down to one individual as the ‘tag’ is consistently the same as shown in the photograph above. It would be helpful if the individual(s) could be identified and stopped rather than us having to wait until they grow up.

MIXED FORTUNES FOR PUBS

grey painted pubThe Arkley had a makeover in the autumn. We have had positive comments about the interior and the fare on offer, but we do have doubts about the exterior colour scheme. It is possible they could have found something that would make the place look even more dreary, but they would have needed to try very hard to achieve that. The Sebright Arms has had a change of tenancy, having had several over recent years and alas all have struggled to make a go of it. We believe McMullens may be viewing this latest change of tenant as a last throw of the dice.

We did participate in having the pub registered as an Asset of Community Value. This would give the community an opportunity to buy the building, but it would mean paying the market price by successfully bidding against any other open market offers. We also understand that the Hadley Hotel is being put up for sale, so yet another pub is under threat.

NOT MUCH CHANGE FOR OUR SHOPS.

Since our October newsletter it has been a very quiet time for shop openings and closures. We did get confirmation of what we had long suspected – that Wilton’s Patisserie will not be coming to the shop currently occupied by Living Furniture on a temporary lease. Minnie’s coffee shop down near the station opened but appears to have had a very short life as it is now closed. Bogatti Zagora at the Hadley Green end of the High St closed on lease expiry. Another closure at the top end of the High St was Vape HQ. Fortunately we have not had any more closures in recent months but we know the leases are on offer for the shops currently occupied by Honey Bee café, Lux Lighting and Inspired Frames. The only new opening has been the dentist in the centre of the High St at no. 85. The former Flairline is in the process of being kitted out as a kitchen shop.

two shop units. People playing table tennis in the right hand oneIn The Spires two of the seven vacant shops have been imaginatively turned over to temporary community use, with one featuring a display by Barnet Museum on the Battle of Barnet and the other offering free table tennis, which has been very popular. The long expected move of the market to the bandstand site behind Waitrose has finally happened, though we would like to see it busier and with more stalls. Whilst all the indications are that trading around the town centre has at best been marking time, NCP tell us that occupancy in The Spires car park has increased 25% year on year, and we reported last time that The Spires was claiming an increase in footfall. So there are some hopeful signs amid the gloom. It might be even better if NCP would sort out their tendency to incorrectly issue fines to people who have legitimately paid to park in The Spires car park, and better still if they change to a system of pay on exit .

TACKLING NEGLECT

From time to time we have made efforts to try get the Council and property owners to take more pride in the town by making more effort to smarten up buildings and the street scene, though often finding we are met with indifference. We have recently stepped up our efforts in this area.

two shops, more scaffoldingshop with boarded up entrance alcove

We have been in contact with TSB for some time regarding the state of their listed building. They promised action in 2019 and indeed have kept their word with scaffolding now in place. The owner of the other half of the listed building which has Maison on the ground floor has so far proved immune to our approaches. Once TSB is renovated and the new flats on the other side of Maison are completed this building is going to be a major eyesore unless something is done. We are in contact with Foxtons regarding the shop next door which has been empty for many years. They are willing to talk but finding a way to get this shop occupied is a challenge. We are asking the owners of the former Superdrug to paint the boarded up entrance as this has a particularly negative impact on the High St. There have been recent positives. We are pleased that Tesco did move quickly to repair broken glass in the two lightwells to the front. The smashed redundant BT cabinet at the end of Church passage has at last been removed. We anticipate that the long running saga of the collapsed lightwell in front of Paddy Power will soon be resolved with approval for the hole to be concreted over.

We have surveyed the half of the town centre south of The Spires, coming up with a list of some 30 properties that are showing some signs of neglect. The most prolific problems are a dozen properties in the conservation area where wooden windows in the upper parts are showing signs of deterioration, graffiti, poorly fixed cabling and a few serious concerns with crumbling parapets and other features. We have started approaching owners asking them to put these matters right. We have also pursued redundant estate agents signs that have been left in place – in some instances running into years – and 13 of the 17 we identified have been removed.

PROTECTING OUR FOOTPATHS

The Definitive Map is the official record of Public Rights of Way in an area. However the Government has decreed that any path which came into existence before 1949 and has not been recorded on the map by 1st January 2026 will be lost forever as a right of way.

Barnet has a Definitive Map which is available to view at their offices and from inspection of that it has been established that it does not record all the urban footpaths in the Borough. Even a ‘footpath’ signpost on the ground does not necessarily mean that the route is recorded as a Right of Way. It is surprising that some of the main recreational footpaths such as a large part of the Dollis Valley Green Walk and the path from Hadley Green to Cockfosters have not been recorded as public rights of way.

Our representative Diane Nightingale is working with other Societies and the local Ramblers Group to ensure local footpaths are identified and recorded to protect their status. The current effort is focused on footpaths and alleys across the Borough that have historic significance. Although 2026 seems a long time away, the amount of work needed, especially by Local Authorities who have to deal with all the legal implications, has led to questions in some circles whether all the work can be done in time. Any suggestions for historic ways or other local links that might be considered should be sent to hnmdontloseyourway@gmail.com

TRAFFIC SNARLS

narrow road closed off with signs 'no HGVs past this point', 'road closed' and 'danger weak chamber'The closure of Hadley Green Rd to facilitate sewer repairs has resulted in major problems with traffic congestion in roads around the town centre. The agony was prolonged when the December target completion date for the work came and went after the discovery of further issues with the sewer. When we learned of this, we contacted the Council pointing out that the partial closure of Wood St to facilitate underground works planned to commence on 7 January would in all probability end up with the town in gridlock. Fortunately the Council took the point and the Wood St works have been delayed. As we went to press we were still awaiting a completion date for the sewer works. Meantime we are continuing our dialogue with the Council asking for a thorough review of traffic around the town centre.

We are still awaiting a decision from the Council on the proposed pavement build-outs on the High St which we have featured at length in previous newsletters. Although indications were that the scheme was set to proceed there has been a late hitch regarding the provision of disabled parking. This needs to be resolved before the scheme can go ahead.

ROUGH SLEEPERS

There has been no shortage of sympathy for the people sleeping in the alcoves around the library with many residents providing bedding, food and sometimes money. But as we reported in our October newsletter the downside of anti-social behaviour, including nearby residents regularly disturbed during the night by alcohol- related incidents, has been a continuing problem, if anything getting worse as time has gone on. Matters came to head at the Residents Forum on 9 January when many people living nearby turned up to demand action to resolve the problem. The Police and the Council did get together, with the Police issuing a Dispersal Order running for 48 hours from 23 January designed to force the rough sleepers away from the area. They duly disappeared, and we believe two of the five individuals took up offers of accommodation. The Council followed up by clearing up the mess and disinfecting the area around the library. We wait to see if this action proves to be effective. The Council is considering measures that should provide a long term solution that would prevent the alcove in Carnarvon Rd continuing to be used for rough sleeping.

With the onset of dark evenings burglaries have been an ever-present threat, with two reported in the Hadley area just before we went to press. Do follow the simple advice that you should ensure you have good security locks on doors and windows, and leave lights on if you are out when it is dark. Smart doorbells and CCTV surveillance are more modern devices that can be used including the ability to send alerts to your smartphones whenever they detect an intruder.

Fraudsters are constantly thinking of new wheezes to cheat the unwary out of their savings. Emails and phone calls can apparently be from your Bank, BT, the Tax Office, Water Company or one of many other ‘official’ organisations alerting you to something on which you should take immediate action. Treat all such unsolicited contact with suspicion. Bogus internet sites pretending to be the contact point for official agencies such as the tax office provide a costly routing system if you are tricked into using their 08 or 09 numbers, whilst others charge for a service which is free via the official website. There are various ways you can report bogus phone calls and emails:

If any issues related to crime are concerning you, consider visiting our local police surgeries which are held in the library on Tuesdays 11-12 and Wednesdays 3-4.

THE COUNCIL CAPITA CONTRACTS

The Council’s involvement with Capita in the delivery of services has been a constant source of controversy and is being reviewed. The Council is seeking the views of residents by means of an on-line survey. There are two contracts, one for the delivery of back-office functions including finance, human resources, customer services and information technology. The second contract, which is a joint enterprise known as Re (Regional Enterprise Ltd) deals with planning, regeneration, highways, environmental health and cemeteries/crematorium.

Both contracts are due to run for ten years from 2013 but the Council says that the outcome of the review may result in future services being run by the Council, Capita, or some other provider. The consultation ends on Friday 15th February. To see and comment go to: https://engage.barnet.gov.uk/strategic-contract-review

MEMBERSHIP MATTERS

We should like to thank those members who have recently set up recurring payments such as through PayPal or the use of standing orders (S/O's) to settle their annual subscription. This makes our task of running the Association much less time-consuming. For information on how to do this, please see our membership page.

Our Treasurer Sue Russell has retired after a long stint and we have been very grateful for all her work over the years. We are pleased to welcome Russell Brooks as her replacement. We are always pleased to hear from members on local issues and any members of the committee can be contacted via the Contact page.