Nearly 20 years ago our Vice President, David Lee, sketched out how the whole area between The Spires and St Albans Road could be rationalised to the benefit of traders, shoppers, cars and buses.
This and other Society initiatives to improve the town centre led to the idea of a Town Team in 2009, and the Council’s adoption of the Chipping Barnet Town Centre Strategy in 2013.
The current proposal to widen the High Street pavement, plant trees, add seating, improve signage and other measures is driven by the Town Team’s desire to provide a safer, more inclusive, more enjoyable – and thereby more prosperous – town centre.
At the far end of The Spires, we have another chance to change public perceptions of Chipping Barnet.
The sale of the market site on St Albans Road, The Spires management’s willingness to think creatively about the use of its land and the promising start made by the Teenage Market have opened up an opportunity to improve a neglected area next to the bandstand: the Stapylton Road pocket park and its adjoining hard and soft surfaces.
For years bus passengers have put up with a narrow pavement often littered and obstructed by shopping trolleys, and been forced to step into the road to board buses because of competitive drivers.
Grass has been scruffy or non-existent. Cars and minicabs block The Spires’ access road to set down and pick up shoppers.
And despite the admirable efforts of Christ Church’s Saturday refreshment stall, the area has attracted anti-social behaviour.
The re-opening of the library, and the arrival of fast food vans and the Teenage Market, have already cheered up the place.
With the move of Barnet Market, footfall will increase – but there will be even more wear and tear. If successful, the Market will have to expand beyond the constricted bandstand site.
This is a great opportunity to plan for an expanded market, and at the same time improve the existing ad hoc and unsatisfactory pedestrian routes, set-down and pick-up arrangements.
We know The Spires management have been talking with Council planners about this.
Why is that not mentioned in the planning application? Why haven’t the Town Team or local groups been involved?
There’s still time for that to happen, and it needn’t cost much. We have a new Council with – we hope – a better understanding of the value of consulting the community and co-ordinating sensible planning improvements. Let’s work together on this.
Below are the Society’s responses to the two planning applications.
Barnet Market relocation (ref. 18/2483/FUL)
The Barnet Society supports the proposal to relocate Barnet Market to The Spires bandstand site, but has several comments:
- We regret that the opportunity has not been taken to master-plan this and adjoining green and hard spaces with a view to future expansion of the market and improving the existing ad hoc and unsatisfactory pedestrian routes, bus and car/taxi set-down and pick-up arrangements.
- The proposed market stall layout makes no allowance for the vans used by present Saturday traders.
- The Market Strategy promises (under Future Changes & Provisions) ‘upgraded branding’ of new stalls to improve image. Since the Teenage Market only recently invested in some 20 new and attractive gazebos, why is this necessary? Any ’upgrade’ should be subject to a planning condition.
- The Market Strategy says (under Future Changes & Provisions) that subject to trader needs ‘a new tap and gulley/drainage will be installed’, but gives no indication of where this would be done on this constricted site without inconveniencing traders and/or passers-by.
- The Planning Statement (para 2.6) states that ‘10 small boundary trees …will be retained’ – but three have already been felled.
- A new bike stand would be fine – but not at the expense of the sole existing litter bin. More bins should be provided.
Premier Inn (ref. 18/2591/FUL)
The Barnet Society supports the proposed Premier Inn, but only on these conditions:
- The application (18/2483/FUL) to relocate the market to The Spires bandstand site must be approved.
- The Inn’s impact on traffic and on-street parking must be reviewed and acceptable solutions agreed. We are especially concerned that:
- Even with bespoke signage, some arriving cars/cabs will confuse the three hotel entrances.
- Turning within Bruce Road & Chipping Close will be awkward at peak times.
- Right turns into St Albans Road will be difficult and sometimes dangerous.
- Drop-off/pick-up in Stapylton Road will obstruct existing buses and deliveries.
- Premier Inns’ policy of discouraging coach parties may change.
- While we welcome use of The Spires car park for hotel customers, incentives – e.g. a subsidy from Premier Inns – are essential to guarantee 24-hour opening and deter parking in the High Street or residential roads. The time restriction in this part of the CPZ may need to be extended to 8:00pm.
3. Premier Inn signage and branding must follow Conservation Area guidelines.
4. More planting such as window boxes is needed, to extend the greening of the town centre
currently being promoted by the Council and Chipping Barnet Town Team.
5. Premier Inns should be required to contribute to visitor information about the
history of Chipping Barnet. This should comprise public information boards (freestanding or
wall-mounted) and signposts outside the hotel, in the style of other street furniture currently
planned for the High Street, in agreed locations.
Their locations and information they convey must be agreed with the CBTT and Council.
Pictorial and written material inside the hotel would also be welcome.
6. The empty triangle between hotel and Dory’s café must be neatly secured
7. On elevations: the St Albans Road 1st floor window spacing is uncomfortable; the ‘shopfronts’
terminate non-traditionally; and the Bruce Road red brick is unnecessary.
Brick samples must be approved.