High Barnet cottage industries to go

Written by  Wednesday, 23 September 2015 15:56
Brake Shear House Brake Shear House
Almost 30 small businesses and workshops with premises on land behind Barnet High Street may have to relocate within months to make way for a massive redevelopment.

Plans by Wrenbridge, the new owners of the site, are said to be at an early stage, and the company says it is considering “all options for the site including redevelopment for commercial and residential purposes”.

Plans for the site are now in preparation and are due to be submitted to Barnet Council “towards the end of the year”.

Tenants of buildings and outhouses clustered around Brake Shear House have been warned they may have to vacate their premises by the summer of next year, or even earlier, depending on their leases.

Some of the firms have been trading in Barnet for decades, and their departure could mean the loss to the town centre of up to 120 jobs, many in highly-skilled trades such as printing, sound recording, plaster moulding, furniture making and vehicle repair.

A spokesman for Workman, managing agents for Wrenbridge, told the Barnet Society that they are still in discussion with the existing tenants regarding the future of the site and possible options beyond the summer of 2016.

Wrenbridge intends to have consultations with the local community and hopes to meet representatives of the Barnet Town Centre Forum and the Barnet Society. The company was committed to bringing forward a redevelopment that was appropriate for this town centre site”.

Chris Belsey, director of Sterling Printing, one of up to 30 businesses and workshops that is trying to find new premisesChris Belsey, director of Sterling Printing, one of up to 30 businesses and workshops that is trying to find new premises

The company insists that the redevelopment could include new commercial premises. “We think Barnet Council are likely to require any new development to continue an element of employment provision, and options are being looked at on how this can be delivered to suit small, local businesses.”

The redevelopment will transform a large area of land immediately behind shops such as Boots, Sainsbury’s and Ryman, as the site extends from the rear of the Flairline shop at Bath Place to the access road beside the HSBC bank.

Largely unseen behind the shops along this stretch of the High Street are numerous small factories and workshops in a variety of buildings that adjoin Brake Shear House, a Victorian building that once housed public baths.

When interviewed by the Barnet Society, firms likely to be displaced said that they were all told in early September that their landlord had sold the site for housing redevelopment.

Up to 28 of the tenants say they are on six-month-break leases, and they were warned that they might have to vacate their premises by the summer of next year.

The news has surprised and shocked some of the companies as they had continued to install new equipment, and are now faced with what they say is the daunting task of finding new premises at a time when empty commercial properties are scarce in outer London boroughs like Barnet because they are increasingly being converted for residential use.

Two printing companies will face the considerable expense of having to move heavy equipment. Chris Belsey, director of Sterling Printing, at Brake Shear House, said his firm installed a new £30,000 printing press six weeks ago.

“We had no idea these premises were going to be sold for housing. Now we have only months to find somewhere to go, and judging by the lack of commercial premises, we will have to move out of Barnet.”

Stephen Page, director of Acculith 76 Ltd, was equally perplexed by the suddenness of the notice to quit.

Stephen Page will have to find a new home for a 40-ton litho pressStephen Page will have to find a new home for a 40-ton litho press

“We have been here at Brake Shear House since 1976 and have now been told we must be out by the summer of next year.

It is a real shock, and it is very likely we will have to move out of Barnet as well.”

Mr Page says any move will be hideously expensive as it will mean removing and transporting a 25-foot-long litho press that weighs 40 tons.

Notice to quit is a terrible blow for the owner of the latest music studio to have acquired premises at Brake Shear House. His is the fourth music business on the site, but his studio for producing records, which cost £25,000 to install, was only opened five months ago.

“I am a sub-tenant and had no inkling that the site was about to be sold. What so concerns me is that we don’t know whether there really will be plans to provide replacement work spaces if the site is redeveloped for flats?”

We share the tenants’ concern about the impact of the redevelopment on existing and future businesses.

The tenants say that they hope Barnet Council will intervene to ensure that new industrial units are provided, because otherwise the town will lose some of the cottage industries for which Barnet is well known.

They believe that there is unlikely to be sufficient space available for relocating the Brake Shear House business at either the Alston Works premises or the Queens Road industrial estate.

“We have been told that the developers would like to build flats on the site, yet this will require a new access road to the High Street and considerable improvements in the local infrastructure.”

Robin Bishop, chair of the Barnet Society’s planning and environment group, says great care will have to be taken if planning permission is given for what could be the biggest housing development in Chipping Barnet for many years.

“We share the tenants’ concern about the impact of the redevelopment on existing and future businesses. While we don’t object to well-designed residential or other new developments, the economic viability of the town centre is crucial.”

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6 comments

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 23 September 2015 21:19 posted by Ken Rowland

    This is a very badly thought though plan. High Barnet's local economy and what's left of its identity will be permanently impacted. Barnet this is a massive threat to our community.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 24 September 2015 09:01 posted by MT Sheet Metal Ltd

    When we first heard this devastating news we approached
    Barnet council with a request please find us another similar factory located in the Barnet area in order that we could retain our staff and continue manufacturing our fine limit metal products.
    Come on Barnet time to put your heads above the parapet.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 24 September 2015 13:09 posted by Nat Dawbarn

    It's hard to overstate the importance of getting the response to this right. There will have to be flats (and that can be positive for Barnet), butBarnet isn't a dormitory suburb and it is not in the interest of its inhabitants, its businesses or the local and London economy and environment that it becomes one.

    The Council has a fantastic opportunity to dust off its moribund town centre strategy and demand a response from the developers that reflects everything contemparay urbanists (sorry if people don't like the term - but they exist and they know stuff) can tell us about getting this sort of thing right.

    The site is as significant in Barnet's urban fabric as the Spires. We should demand at least the same level of public consultation. But the architectural challenge is more complex and calls for a more sophisticated response.

    What we don't need is an off the peg design that gets tweaked a bit to get the Council of the develpoer's back.

    It would be good to see three alternative proposals, each meeting three (challenging) requirements:

    - a high proportion of affordable housing;
    - no change to buiness type/floorspace;
    - application of the highest envirionmental standards.

    I'm a realist, but I'm sure everyone in the Barnet planning department would like to have the chance to apply best contemporary practice in a really interesting location. Aim high!
    Let's bring the Stirling Prize to Barnet.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 24 September 2015 14:31 posted by Ken Rowland

    Hi MT. Who's leading/galvanising the 30 affected businesses? Assume you're going to fight this?

  • Comment Link Thursday, 24 September 2015 14:44 posted by Tony Allan

    This is going to be a great loss to Barnet if the developers have their way. Where else in the area do you have such a diverse group of skilled small industrial companies. Same on Barnet Council if they allow this to go through.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 24 September 2015 15:29 posted by Tim Webster

    How exactly are these 'cottage industries'? These are small businesses in light industrial premises. The work they do supplies countless other local businesses who rely on them, as do local cafés and shops. These are valuable enterprises who can't be quietly shut-down or moved-on without the impact to the local economy being felt.

    If Barnet council really does want to support small businesses, then looking into this issue and finding a solution which saves these important jobs and skills would be a good place to start.

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