Newsletter June 2022

Celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee

Street party with gazebos but it's not raining
The Drive
Street party in the middle of the road with tables, chairs and tablecloths
Carnarvon Road

Litter pick a success

Two people smiling standing on front of a green sack of litterThe litter pick we organised in February, our first venture of this kind, was enthusiastically supported by members.  Over thirty bags of litter were collected – a resounding achievement.   We had very good support from the Council who supplied us with equipment and arranged to take the bags away.

Helpers included our MP Theresa Villiers and Councillor David Longstaff, pictured left with Wendy Marler, our Environment Officer who organised the event.  David has been a High Barnet councillor for many years but has now moved to the new Barnet Vale ward.  He has been a strong supporter of ours on numerous issues and we are grateful for his endeavours.

In January we had a meeting with Street Scene officers to discuss the unsatisfactory provision of litter bins along the High St and the dilapidated state of some of the existing ones.  We thought we had an outline plan of action agreed but have since heard nothing.  We have also been active on a related topic – graffiti.  At the beginning of April the frontages of several shops in the row near the station were disfigured by the attention of one individual.  We alerted the Street Scene Team and this time they came up trumps.  Within a week they had arranged for all the graffiti to be removed, including some from earlier daubings on shutters, where our efforts to persuade the shops occupiers to remove it had fallen on deaf ears.  The work was undertaken free of charge even though there is no obligation on the Council to remove graffiti on private property.

Restaurant with red rubbish bins outsideBoarded up shop with fly posters advertising music gigs

And still on the subject of litter, we have had success regarding our long-standing campaign to get something done about the refuse from L’Antica Pizzeria being left overnight in bags at the High St end of Church Passage.  By the following morning the bags had often been torn open by foxes with rubbish strewn around.  Following our request for the Council’s Street Scene Team to take enforcement action, proper waste bins have now appeared.  Unfortunately there is nowhere to store them except in front of the restaurant, and being coloured red they are distinctly more visible than we would have liked.

Another scourge is a recent upsurge of fly-posting of large posters to the frontage of closed shops (pictured above is one of the windows to the former Umi’s pizza parlour).  Being on private property, apart from the owners or volunteers scraping off the posters this is a difficult problem to deal with.  We have discussed the problem with the Street Scene Team and we hope to see some action soon.

Some progress at The Spires

We wrote to members on email with the news that Waitrose had committed to a further twenty years.  The continued presence of Waitrose, in many ways not just the anchor store for The Spires but for the town centre as a whole, has been widely welcomed.  NCP, who have operated the car park since the beginning of 2018, have terminated their lease, though for the moment they are continuing to run the car park until a new operator is found.  NCP is the third operator of the car park since it was contracted out in 2007 by previous owners of The Spires.   Following contracting-out charges rose substantially and have continues to be ratcheted up ever since, whilst Council car park charges, once significantly higher, have been much lower for many years.  Against this background it is no surprise that isolating the car park operation from the interests of the shops in The Spires has never worked well.  Neither the car park operator, tied to paying a fixed annual fee irrespective of usage, nor the shops in The Spires have found the arrangement satisfactory.  We have made the point to BYM Capital, the owners of The Spires, that parking charges and conditions of use should be set with the objective of attracting more visitors to the shops.  We hope they use the opportunity arising from NCP surrendering their lease to put a much more satisfactory regime in place.

Members may have seen the improvements to the market area, with the bandstand getting a makeover, the removal of railings, new lighting, extensive planting around the perimeter, and benches to follow (pictured below).  This is very encouraging, though shortly after BYM capital acquired the site just over a year ago we were given to understand that improvements to the courtyards should happen soon (to at least ameliorate the disastrous changes inflicted by the previous owners).  Nothing has materialised as yet but with the work now undertaken on the market site we remain hopeful.

The bandstand with union jacksShopping centre courtyard with seating area for cafe

A display of about 14 historic photosIn one of the unlet shops the Museum has a new display celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee (photo left or above).  Much of the space is devoted to the pubs in the area with names associated with Royalty.  Also on show are historic photos of the Hadley area, carried forward from the earlier display.  

We had got a little disheartened that until recently not a single empty shop had been let by the new owners and the pizza takeaway DoDough had closed.  But there has been activity recently with DoDough’s about to be re-let.  We also believe a major retailer should also be moving into the two newly-built empty units originally intended to become restaurants (pictured above). 

Last year BYM Capital did bid to buy the adjacent former market site but another offer was accepted.  That deal fell through and we await a new buyer.  A proposals for redevelopment of this site is likely to be a major planning issue for us to consider over the coming year.   A similar proposal to add residential flats to parts of The Spires remains a distinct possibility but no proposals have emerged as yet.

A quiet spell for planning applications

Two shop fronts, 'Destination Skin' looking OK, the other one boarded up and rather tattyAn application to add two extra floors to Destination Skin at 52 High St (photo aside) was withdrawn, perhaps because of objections.  Building upwards should however benefit the appearance of this building so maybe the developer will now come back with something a little less ambitious.

We were particularly pleased that the application to build a modern mix of shops and flats on the Bentley garage site, a proposal we have previously featured, was dismissed on appeal.  Another proposal we disliked and have previously featured, the conversion of 13 St Albans Rd to a House in Multiple Occupation, similarly had an appeal dismissed.  We also previously reported on the refusal of planning permission to adapt the former Spizzico building to create flats upstairs.  The ground floor is being advertised as available to let, though achieving that will not be helped by squatters having recently moved in.  The application to rebuild part of the former print works in Tapster St was refused, though this was a proposal we did not mind.

Small shop with closed roller shutterWide view of charity shop and restaurant with very plain white upper storey and no visible roof

Following our complaint about the frontage to Balady the Council demanded a retrospective planning application and a decision is awaited.   We have always thought that a suitably designed additional floor to 1 Church Passage would significantly improve the visual appearance of this building (above right).   The previous owner applied to add an insensitively designed additional floor and that was refused.  The new owner recently applied for planning permission for an extra floor, but again with an inappropriate design.  As with the original proposal, we objected, and this latest proposal has similarly been refused. 

The owner of 1 Sunset View made a number of unauthorised alterations to this fine house in the conservation area.  A retrospective planning application demanded by the Council was refused and an appeal has similarly been dismissed.  A complaint we made to the Council concerned the unapproved advertising affixed to the front of the Red Lion.  The offending signs have now been removed.  

And no report on transgressions in the conservation areas would be complete without reference to our old friends at 70 High St (former After Office Hours).  Since losing their appeal against the demolition order the owners have twice submitted planning applications hoping to get away with making minor alterations to the frontage, so far without success.  They are also seeking a Judicial Review of the appeal decision.

The most significant approval in recent weeks was for the conversion of the former industrial building at 50 Moxon St to become Windmill School, catering for 90 children with learning difficulties.  There were a number of objections to the proposal but we decided to stay neutral.  The one recent application that we were disappointed to lose was the conversion of the large house at 36 Park Rd to four flats.

Following the abandonment of the most controversial proposals for changes to the planning system, watered down measures have been included in the Levelling-up Bill now before Parliament.  A brief appraisal of the proposed new measures is on our website.

Crime figures stay steady

Down the years we have kept a close eye on reported crime figures for our area.  Despite public perception often being that crime is increasing, the reality has been one of little change in the volume of offences, with around a thousand reported in High Barnet each year, somewhat fewer in Underhill.

For the whole of 2020 there were 1050 recorded crimes in High Barnet ward, with a small drop to 1034 in 2021.  For Underhill ward the 2021 figure was 876 (we do not have the comparable figure for 2020).

Around a third of the crimes were violence against the person, although nearly three-quarters of these offences did not result in injury.  Public order offences, about twice as high in High Barnet than Underhill, no doubt because many occur in the town centre, accounted for about 10% of the total.  Theft accounted for some 20% and vehicle crime 15%.  Most vehicle crime involves theft of cars and blue badges.  

Burglary is always an area of public concern.  The number in High Barnet ward has been about a third higher than Underhill, but from 2021 to 2022 there was a decline from 116 to 87.  One individual can often account for a series of burglaries so the number of offences at any one time can reflect whether or not a prolific offender is active

Glory restored

Half-timbered three storey ex-pubIn our previous newsletter we reported on the neglected state of the former Crown and Anchor pub.  The new owners promised us they would renovate the frontage and they have done just that, with results that have exceeded our expectations.  Not only have they undertaken a thorough uplift to the façade, they have retained and restored the pub name. They have also taken steps to deal with the nuisance of pigeon droppings and bins being left out at the front by occupiers of the flats above.  In the light of these efforts we did feel some embarrassment in opposing their planning application to widen the entrance door.  The application was refused but an appeal has been lodged.

This building has always been something of an icon for us, as it was the shoddy alterations allowed to this building that prompted us back in 2008 to take the Council to task over their dismal oversight of our two conservation areas.  Ever since then we have scrutinised all planning applications for buildings in the conservation areas, with numerous objections lodged by us going our way.  We also maintain visual oversight of these areas and pursue unauthorised alterations which we consider are inappropriate.  Unfortunately too many shop fronts continue to be altered without the necessary planning permission.

Residents battle with major schemes

We put a lot of effort into scrutinising the proposal to redevelop High Barnet station car park with blocks of high rise flats, and played a significant role in negotiating with the developer to get the scheme reduced from 450 to 300 flats.   We kept silent on how we might have reacted to an eventual planning application, but in the event the developer Taylor Wimpey walked away from this and from a scheme to redevelop Finchley Central station.  We wait to see what TfL, the owners of both sites, might do next.

Elsewhere several mega-schemes are being pursued and all have been met with fierce resistance, with residents groups often going to extraordinary lengths to defeat the barristers, construction professionals and Council planning officers who recommend approval much more often than not.  The following is an update on the most significant recent schemes in the Borough and just over the border in Enfield.

 B&Q, Cricklewood:  An enormous scheme of 1049 flats in blocks up to 18 storeys.  These blocks would dominate the nearby Railway Terraces and the residents association there put up a strong fight. The scheme was however approved on the casting vote of the Planning Committee chairman.  It could be called in by the Secretary of State but that seems unlikely.

Homebase, North Finchley:  A proposal to build 307 flats in blocks up to nine storeys.  Rejected by the Planning Committee but then appealed.  The Finchley Society was very effective in taking the developer to task at the appeal hearing and the application was dismissed.  A further application has now been submitted reducing the number of flats to 250.

Cockfosters Station Car Park:  350 flats in blocks of 4-14 storeys.  It had over 3000 objections in response to an energetic campaign led by residents groups. After a very fractious Planning Committee meeting the proposal was approved on the casting vote of the chairman.  But the scheme was stopped on the intervention of the Secretary of State for Transport who would not sanction the loss of the parking spaces.  The developer is seeking a Judicial Review.

Arnos Grove Station Car Park:  162 flats.  A campaign similar to that for Cockfosters station.  The proposal was rejected by the Planning Committee but allowed on appeal.

Barnet House, Whetstone:  This has bounced back and forth with various proposals.  The most recent, to add two floors to this twelve storey building, considered by many to be a blot on the landscape as it is, was resoundingly refused by the Planning Committee.  An appeal is in progress.

North London Business Park:  Has approval for redevelopment including 652 flats and other facilities including a school.  Not content, the developer has submitted a further application that would double the number of flats to 2428 in blocks up 12 storeys.  Likely to go before the Planning Committee in the Autumn.

Victoria Quarter, New Barnet:  This is the major scheme closest to our patch, and another  that has been batted to and fro.  Approval was given in 2015 for 371 homes, a scheme developed in close consultation with the New Barnet Residents Association.  But the developer Fairview came back with a revised scheme for 651 homes which was rejected by the Planning Committee in 2020.  A “Save New Barnet” campaign run by the Residents Association fought this revised scheme tooth and nail.  But not to be discouraged, Fairview recently came back with another proposal for 539 homes.  Although the height of the tallest blocks of flats was reduced from ten to seven storeys, this scheme was still regarded as over-development and has yet again been rejected by the Planning Committee.  Next an appeal.

Finchley Memorial Hospital:  When the Hospital was built an assurance was given that the adjacent green space would not be developed.  The Community Health Partnerships, owned by the Dept. of Health, reneged on the agreement and last June was granted outline planning permission to build homes for NHS workers on the site.  With the backing of The Finchley Memorial Action Group, residents have applied for a Judicial Review.  If the case is lost legal costs could amount to £40,000, of which £13,000 has so far been raised through a crowdfunding campaign.

Hertsmere Local Plan:  Last year the Council put its draft Local Plan out to consultation, which included proposals suggesting building new homes, mainly high rise flats, on much of the Green Belt land in the area, including 900 homes on the fields between the M25 and Potters Bar.  An astonishing 20,000 responses were received, and almost all were hostile.  The draft Plan has been withdrawn for a re-think

Enfield Local Plan:  Also struggling with its controversial proposal to build homes over almost all of the Green Belt land between Cockfosters and Crews Hill.   Over 7,000 comments have been submitted, no doubt largely hostile to the Green belt proposals.

Hendon Hub:  An ambitious scheme promoted by Barnet Council and Middlesex University to create a dense campus development in the area around Hendon town hall.  There were over 1000 objections but the scheme has been approved by the Planning Committee.  A Residents group has been granted permission for a Judicial Review, but that is now on hold following an announcement by the Council’s new Labour administration that they will undertake a review.

The reaction to all of these proposals reflects the desire of residents to protect green spaces and the suburban character of their areas in the face of redevelopment that will forever change the character to ‘urban’.  Population and building density could reach Inner London levels, but without the accompanying facilities and public transport that Inner London enjoys.

More new shops open and few closures

Shop with blank name panel, photos of glasses of teaShop 'mooboo' with DRINK AND CHEW in large letters

The opening of two bubble tea outlets in the same week did seem an unfortunate co-incidence for such a speciality product.  We wish them both well but the portents may not be good.  The presentation of both is not exactly thrilling, with one yet to acquire a name, but maybe that will improve.  The offerings are necessarily limited.  Mooboo previously applied for permission to become a hot food outlet but that was refused, so both of these outlets can only offer drinks and cold snacks – or ‘chew’ as Mooboo boldly puts it.  Your editor did study their menus, but on seeing endless variations on the bubble tea theme he retired in confusion, alas probably never to return.  He has however learned that ‘cha wan jia’ is Vietnamese for bubble tea, which could come in useful sometime in the future.

Small shop with blue stall riser and door frame.  Art in the windowThe former beauty shop in Alston Rd has become an Art Club, mainly aimed at children but adults are welcome as well.  The former Hyde Institute is to become a nursery run by the CC Nursery Group, advertised as opening Summer 2022.  We previously reported that the former Arthur Murray Dance Studio was to become a soft play centre and indeed it is now open.  High Barnet is considered to be a location particularly attractive for families to live, so it is pleasing to see all these additional facilities for young children.       

Shop with Organic Foods Garden in large letters and a black awningThough seemingly taking for ever to open, the Organic Food Garden in the former Londis is finally with us (they also have an outlet in Potters Bar).  It is a well-presented store with an astonishing range of organic offerings, many of which are unusual specialist brands.  They also offer takeaway coffee.  It is operating in a niche market so we do hope they find a sound customer base.  In the February newsletter we reported the imminent opening of Nika, a café and pet shop in the former Statons office, where dogs are especially welcome with well-behaved owners.

Further anticipated openings are Gail’s Bakery in the former HSBC bank and Andrew Ward estate agents in the former art gallery shop (see below).  We believe the former TSB has also been let.  We are advised, though with some incredulity on our part, that the former Bentley garage, where planning consent for redevelopment was recently refused, has been let to a hot tub company.

Your average small Sainbury's local with a cash point outsideHarry's traditional butcher and fishmonger, now closed with the windows whitewashed

We have noted just three closures (possibly four) in recent months with two more expected.  Harry’s butchers has gone, as has the long-standing art gallery shop at the north end of the High St on the retirement of the owner.  Knonus and Rhea is expected to close next month, and Sainsbury’s is due to close in September.    Harry’s never found a strong customer base.  It is a shame Knonus and Rhea similarly never found sufficient support for their unusual offering.  Trade at Sainsbury’s has never sparkled, perhaps not least because of the presence of several other convenience stores around the town centre, all closer to the station which people on their way home from work are more likely to use.  A sudden closure was The Library Bar, but they say it is only temporary.  Apparently the closure is to do with a legal dispute, but we have no further information on that.  It would be a shame to permanently lose the unusual outlet.  

Recent figures we have seen indicate that 73% of the outlets in High Barnet town centre are classified as independents, a figure much higher than the national average.  It is no surprise.  Down the years we have reported the erosion of retail chains, interspersed with the occasional new arrival, notably H&M, JD Sports and Millets.  Along with retail, other sectors dominated by nationals such as banks, chain restaurants and even charity shops have all been in decline.  The major growth area has of course been hospitality; cafes and coffee shops are now abundant, with many of them evidently doing well.  The independents have often brought with them some usual and innovative offerings, making the town centre a much more interesting place to visit and linger.

Imaginative use for empty shop

Whitewashed shop boarded up with black boardsThe Government is concerned about High St shops staying empty for long periods and is looking for ways to ensure they are let.  The former Foxton’s outlet on the corner of Moxon St has been empty for over two years, with the hoardings a frequent target for fly-posting.  The ownership changed hands last year and the new owner has ambitions to extend the building upwards to provide an extra floor for flats.  

Meantime, following an approach from the Chipping Barnet Town Team the owner has agreed a short lease for a community run venture encompassing a number of activities.  The prime purpose will be to provide space for fledgling businesses, but there should also be a beer garden on four days week run by local micro-brewery Urban Alchemy, and perhaps a West Indian food stall and ice cream.  As a member of the Town Team we have played a major part in getting this initiative off the ground and look forward to seeing it develop.

A Signature Building

Newly built red brick care home with part of the roof sloping down to first floor levelCommunal room with upright comfy chairs and sofas, small tables, french windows and lots of lighting

The Signature Care Home on Wood St invited local residents to a preview on 11 May with a reception and tour of the building.  We were consulted on the design, and consider it is a fitting replacement for the derelict Marie Foster building at this prominent location in the Wood St conservation area.  Your editor joined in the event, though he hastens to add not as a potential resident.  The rooms and indeed other facilities are sumptuously appointed, including a bar and bistro, cinema, art room and health spa.  There is capacity for 100 residents including couples, with support ranging from assisted living through to full nursing care, including a separate Alzheimer’s unit.  When full the home may offer up to 180 full or part-time jobs, which should be good for the local economy.  Answers to questions regarding fees were however sidestepped.  We did hear a figure whispered, but will not repeat it as we do not wish to be responsible for any of our members having a cardiac arrest.  A formal opening by new Mayor Councillor Alison Moore took place shortly afterwards.

And briefly….

Following the Council elections on May 5th the administration changed from Conservative to Labour, who have stated that they remain committed to weekly waste collections.  This should please many residents.  They have also declared a “Climate Emergency” in Barnet, which follows what many other councils have done, and we look forward to seeing what initiatives follow from this.  Housing will no doubt be a taxing issue.  Labour has previously opposed a number of high rise schemes but recognise the need for far more social housing.  These are matters which can be discussed at our AGM (see below).

In our local wards the number of councillors has been reduced from three to two as a consequence of boundary changes making the wards somewhat smaller.  In High Barnet the Conservatives lost both their seats and we now have Labour councillors Emma Whysall and Paul Edwards (Paul was previously in Underhill).  In Underhill Labour’s Tim Roberts has retained his seat alongside new councillor Zahra Parveen.  Support from councillors can be invaluable when it comes to issues concerning the Council or opposing unwelcome planning applications.  We look forward to working with them all.

View along the road from the middle with black patches of new tarmacWe have previously reported on the state of the surface of Salisbury Rd, claimed by residents to be a result of the 384 bus being re-routed along their street.  An extensive campaign finally bore fruit when the Council and TfL agreed to a site meeting with residents, and indeed shortly afterwards the road was closed to enable repairs to be undertaken.  Only the seriously damages sections have been patched.  Residents fear the problems may just re-appear unless a full reconstruction is undertaken.

Pub with union jacks and red white and blue buntingThe transfer of Ye Olde Mitre to direct management by Greene King has not resulted in changes to the interior as was feared, but as anticipated their own beers now feature more prominently.  Pub regulars have been active in submitting to the Council renewal applications for designating the Monken Holt and the Sebright Arms as Assets of Community Value (ACV), along with an application to get the Lord Nelson similarly designated for the first time (photo showing it in splendid Platinum Jubilee mode).  An ACV is an obstacle to any owner just selling off a property without giving the community an opportunity to raise money to buy the building.  We are considering the merits of possible ACVs applications for the Library building and The Bull theatre.

Upper storey has attractive asymmetrical sash windows, with the upper sash not as tall as the lowerShop front in black on white 'The art of hair colour and design' with mock coat of arms

We have long campaigned to get the row of shops near the station uplifted from their generally rather shoddy appearance and have had some success.  In 2018 we wrote to the owners of the building occupied by Simply Local drawing attention to the decrepit state of the particularly attractive windows to the first floor.  We have continued to press the matter and at last they have been repainted.  They were in such a sorry state we feared they might have to be replaced, which inevitably would have been rather bland UPC.  We do battle with many small issues such as this as well as more high profile ones.  As with this one, they can demand a lot of time and effort but cumulatively they can make a difference to how the town is presented, which in turn can improve the economic well-being of the shops.  Unfortunately too many owners fail to appreciate this.  On the other hand Visible Changes recently undertook a facelift without any prompting.  We thought Valentino did such a good job the result warranted a photo. 

Despite the many protests the 84 bus between Barnet and Potters Bar has been withdrawn.  A replacement service has been instituted between Potters Bar and St Albans, but that is of no help to those who used the missing link

The ambitious proposal to redevelop much of North Finchley town centre stutters along.  In November a “Strategic Partnership Board” of 27 members, most representing local businesses and other local interests, met for the first time.  The Council is aiming to transfer property to a developer including car parks and the Arts Depot.  The first initiative is likely to be a planning application to redevelop Lodge Lane car park. 

The Edmonton Incinerator run by the North London Waste authority, in which Barnet is a participant, has been given approval to expand.  We do wonder how much of the material we put in our recycling bins ends up here.

The former Quinta Youth Club on Mays Lane has been a derelict eyesore for many years, so it is pleasing that a use has been found.  The building is to become a learning institution, with a library and meeting rooms.

A fond farewell …

Having run out of puns for headings and caustic asides, your Editor has decided that after seventeen years at the helm, interspersed by doubling up with lengthy spells as Chairman, Highways Officer and Planning Officer, the time has come to move on.   It has always been a pleasure to report on the many changes that have occurred in our area over the years, and working in various capacities I like to think that my efforts have at least in some small way had an influence in making High Barnet a better place to live.  The Association has been a significant part of my life and I will miss it.        

Invitation to Annual General Meeting

Tuesday 5th July 2022, 7.30pm, The Bull Theatre, 68 High Street, EN5 5SJ

GUEST SPEAKERS

COUNCILLORS  BARRY RAWLINGS (Leader of the Council),  EMMA WHYSALL (High Barnet issues),  PAUL EDWARDS (Social Care)

Our three speakers are members of the new Labour Council administration and we are delighted they have all agreed to come along to our meeting.  We hope to hear what changes we might expect, and it will be an opportunity to quiz them on matter both Borough-wide and those concerning our immediate locality.

Following our guest speakers the formal meeting will open with a report from the Chairman, presentation of the annual accounts and election of officers.  We need to elect Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer and Committee members.  Gordon Massey is standing down, but all other committee members are offering themselves for re-election.

Following completion of the formal business there should be time for members to raise any other matters.

Members may wish to join the committee for drinks and nibbles before and after the meeting.

We aim to close the proceedings by 9.30pm

Joining Barnet Residents Association

Having a large and engaged membership gives us the necessary authority in speaking for the area when dealing with the Council, property developers and other organisations.  We issue three newsletters a year plus occasional emails.  Our website provides detailed information on our activities.  Though we do not engage with domestic planning applications we can sometimes help with advice on the planning process.

To support recruitment please share this newsletter with friends and neighbours and encourage them to join.  The annual subscription is £7 per household.  For those wishing to join, a cheque through the post to our Membership Secretary with their name(s) and address on the back is sufficient, or for full details visit our website address at: http://www.barnetresidentsassociation.org.uk/membership.