Now The Spires without the twin spires

Written by  Friday, 14 February 2014 16:05
The twin spires have gone in this proposal The twin spires have gone in this proposal
Two designs for a new High Street entrance to the Spires shopping centre – one of which would be without the two original spires of Barnet Methodist Church – are now on public display and open for consultation.

But Barnet residents have only a matter of days to give their reaction. Feedback was originally required by Monday 17 February but after local protests the deadline has now been extended until Wednesday 26 February.

Since we published our first story on the new design last Friday (14.2.2014) we have had a record number of responses on the website – 36 comments and still counting.

The Barnet Society, the Barnet Residents Association and other local groups hope to get answers to some of the points raised by local residents on Monday 24 February when the Barnet Town Team meets Charlotte Dunlop, an asset manager for the William Pears Group, who is responsible for the Spires.

The plans show that in place of the existing High Street frontage, which incorporates the original stone and brickwork of the twin spires, there would be a new open entrance offering a lane of shops leading straight off the High Street.

Images of the two designs and an explanation by the architectural practice of Leslie Jones are on display in the window of one of the empty units midway between Waitrose and WH Smith.

There is also a post box for completed feedback forms.  Alternatively comments can be emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

No explanation is given as to why the opportunity to comment is so limited. But the display says that once feedback has been received, the architects will be able to finalise a planning application to Barnet Council which will be submitted towards the end of February.

The Spires proposal with twin spiresThe Spires proposal with twin spiresIf planning permission is obtained the owners of the Spires, the William Pears Group, hope to start work towards the summer and have the new shopping centre entrance ready for 2015.

The display explains that the start of the Spires upgrade was the improvement and reopening of Barnet Market.  Long term the aim is to create new and improved retail units “which will allow existing shops to stay in Barnet while attracting new retailers and restaurants”.

The first phase in redeveloping the centre itself is a plan to “re-energise the entrance, opening it up so that it feels more like a street rather than an enclosed and uninviting shopping centre”.  The architects believe the two options for redeveloping the entrance, with or without retention of the twin spires, would present “a high-quality transition from the traditional high street to a modern shopping centre environment”.

Option 1 – spires retained: “Existing spires will be cleaned and renovated and set against a sympathetic background of natural stone cladding and elegantly proportioned, simple windows.” 

This proposal would involve removal of the existing rotunda at the entrance to create “a strong visual connection between the Spires and the High Street.”  The high-quality frontage would include a new cafe/bar/restaurant on the site of what was once WH Smith.

Option 2 – removes existing spires:  The architects consider the existing spires may be seen “as incongruous sited as they are in a retail shop front”.  In place of the spires there would be “an exciting contemporary facade clad in brass shingles with elegantly proportioned simple openings creating a dramatic modern building which remains sensitive to the historic context of the High Street”.

The second option would, in the view of Leslie Jones, increase the “visibility of the entrance and act as a catalyst for the regeneration of the area”.  Removal of the rotunda at the entrance, together with the “stepped massing of the facade”, would again create a strong visual connection between the Spires and the High Street".

A year ago, after the Spires was purchased by the William Pears Group, there were high hopes of rapid progress in giving the shopping centre a much-needed makeover.

Charlotte Dunlop told the annual meeting of Barnet Residents Association in July last year that her priority was to create a more “enticing” entrance from the High Street in order to attract more shoppers.

Radical improvements would be needed to both the layout and the configuration of the various shop units because she considered the centre “really is dying” and needed to be upgraded.

the centre “really is dying” and needed to be upgraded

Except for the much-welcomed and much-appreciated resurfacing of the site of Barnet Market – and the attraction of new tenants – the Barnet Society, like other local groups, has been disappointed at the slow progress in redeveloping the Spires.

Given the rate of shop closures along the high streets of many London suburbs, local residents will welcome the promise of new investment in the Spires by the Pears Group.

Publication at long last of the architect’s outline plans is to be welcomed but the lack of advance warning and a tight deadline for comments on the two proposed options is hardly what the Barnet Society expected.

Please give us your comments below which we will pass on.  Alternatively if you prefer download the attachment and fill in the consutation form

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44 comments

  • Comment Link Saturday, 15 February 2014 08:37 posted by Jason Hollis

    Both versions are hideous. Why are modern architects so obsessed with making every town look like every other town?

    Yes, the centre needs larger units to draw in the bigger store names but the high street facade should reflect the Victorian neo-gothic architecture of the two spires, which should of course be retained.

    How about being one of the first towns to lead the way in lowering the ground rent? So many town centres are 'dying on their feet' because of this rather than the design of the place.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 15 February 2014 10:28 posted by Kate W

    It really is unbelievably ugly. Why not call The Spires Chavsville instead?

    I agree that big retailers won't come in it's current state but surely we need to lower the rents in HB until we do have something to draw people in? Annual rents of £40 - £80K are ridiculous, the fact that so many units are unoccupied reflects this.

    Back to the drawing board me thinks

  • Comment Link Saturday, 15 February 2014 11:50 posted by Jennie Lee Cobban

    Rather than preserving an attractive element/reminder of Barnet's past (in the form of the church spires), one of these options would introduce instead an extremely ugly eyesore to the town. At the same time this option would render the name of the shopping centre completely pointless.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 15 February 2014 13:06 posted by Jacquie

    Please keep the Spires - this is historic Barnet after all ! The end of the local shops on the High STreet began when they allowed Iceland to remove THe Salisbury form the area . Other retailers had submitted plans to move the original frontage forward however the wonderful Barnet town planners prefered the red plastic frontage .
    I think the planning department forgets that we are a town seeped in history and putting this awful yellow modern build ,option 2 ,just kills the ambience of the area. There are plenty of towns around this country that have fantastic retail areas and yet have maintened their original features .
    Keep the 2 spires please . Lower the rents - that will encourage retailers back to the area .

    I think when that the olympic torch bypassed this piece of historic Barnet ,alarm bells rang that our planning department have no concerns for future of High Barnet and do they even know it exists !!

  • Comment Link Saturday, 15 February 2014 13:20 posted by James Margates

    Such utter madness. A couple of very simple things would improve The Spires. Firstly lower the rents. Secondly get some signage directed to the shopping centre.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 15 February 2014 14:34 posted by John

    I would keep the spires.

    There need to be some sort of town square, to break up the extremely dull High Street, which is dominated by traffic.

    Open up the space around and behind the spires, for seats, temporary retail stalls, and coffee-shop outdoor seating. Turn this land over to be adopted by the council, but with extra maintenance and cleaning done by The Spires as a planning condition.

    In return for clearing the land back to the back-building-line of adjacent properties, let the developers have more space further into the development, with greater height and bulk if necessary.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 15 February 2014 14:44 posted by Roger

    The end of the local shops on the High Street began when they allowed Iceland to remove The Salisbury.

    Not really, it started when a very large free car park was built over to create the Spires in the first place.

    Free car park + independent shops + thriving market = good. Paid car park + generic shops + no market = bad.

    The yellow box, it appears, is covered with 'brass shingles' - http://www.bdonline.co.uk/tecu-brass-cladding-shingles/3108858.article - which could be interesting but I fail to see how it 'remains sensitive to the historic context of the high street', since The Spires themselves were retained as a frontage for just that reason, and they would have to go.

    The basic problem is the original spires development tried to cram too much in, so it's cramped and uninviting. Opening it up as a street could help, but the the old church spires themselves are very dull (but historic, for a certain value of historic).

    Why not cover them in brass shingles ?

  • Comment Link Saturday, 15 February 2014 15:38 posted by Emma fraser

    Option 2 is surely just a decoy to get the local community all supporting option 1.

    Whilst option one is more sensitive it does still pose the big question of why is the most important thing to change the entrance. This is a community shopping centre where the majority of people that use it all live in close proximity to the spires and know how to get in to it. The biggest issue is how do you get all the shops full. Changing the configuration of the units sounds sensible but surely reducing the rents rather than spending lots on a new entrance would surely be a better way to attract new tenants and also keep the ones that they already have.

    Is the new entrance to still to shut at night?

  • Comment Link Saturday, 15 February 2014 18:48 posted by A Jenkins

    Barnet does not need any more Restaurants. Lower the rent for the Shops in the Spires and maybe retailers would be interested in opening here.

    The modern brass shingle effect is ugly and out of character for the area. Barnet Planning have already allowed development of ugly facades it is time this was stopped. Barnet has a history that should be enjoyed and not buried behind the latest craze of shopping outlets of bland frontage and inappropriate additional resturants

  • Comment Link Saturday, 15 February 2014 19:40 posted by pam

    I agree with most of the comments above.
    I already know how to get into the Spires Shopping Centre. Its called that because of its spires!
    Under the laws of supply and demand it surely stands to reason that lower rents equals more uptake of shop spaces.
    Get some interesting local artisan shops in. I'm really not interested in more chain stores making Barnet shopping experience exactly the same as anywhere else.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 15 February 2014 20:01 posted by John

    All credit to the architect for inventing a new style though I can't believe someone portakabin-chic was the people of High Barnet were hoping for.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 16 February 2014 13:33 posted by Anne Sheen

    The new design looks hideous.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 16 February 2014 17:43 posted by Tim Webster

    Option 2 looks like a wonderfully light, airy and modern design compared to what's there now. Who wants a pair of ugly and decrepit church spires poking out of the front of their shopping center? It was a dumb idea 25 years ago and this is a good opportunity to correct that mistake by removing the spires and opening the space up nicely. The layout would be improved with fewer, bigger shops rather than the mishmash we have now.

    High Barnet does need more places to eat. Currently they're all rubbish except for a couple of chain Italian restaurants. I don't know what people see when they look at the High Street, but it really is a dump full of decaying abandoned shops. A real mess. A nice new development like Option 2 might brighten the place up a bit.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 16 February 2014 18:36 posted by Victoria Oatway

    Hmm...Option 2 – removes existing spires: The architects consider the existing spires may be seen “as incongruous sited as they are in a retail shop front”. In place of the spires there would be “an exciting contemporary facade clad in brass shingles with elegantly proportioned simple openings creating a dramatic modern building which remains sensitive to the historic context of the High Street”. Yeah god forbid you keep those incongruous spires and can you really describe brass shingles as exciting?

  • Comment Link Sunday, 16 February 2014 22:14 posted by Ian Cornish

    The Spires certainly needs redeveloping. I have always thought that the natural stone of the spires sits badly with the modern brick of the rotunda whilst the hideous 'stained glass' of the latter is just tasteless. It would be great to retain the spires but I think that the more modern design more suggestive of a shopping centre and, after all, the original planners had no qualms about demolishing the rest of the Methodist church...
    Of course there might be a need to re-think the name of the centre if the spires go and that could offer the opportunity to give it a name from Barnet's long history to replace the 'heritage' aspect of two Victorian stone turrets.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 16 February 2014 22:19 posted by Jamie Maserati

    Mother of God, look at that monstrosity

  • Comment Link Sunday, 16 February 2014 22:20 posted by Tim Webster

    No, it's a pretty decent design. Gets rid of those stupid church bits.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 16 February 2014 22:22 posted by Jamie Maserati

    I've always hated old church buildings. I went to Canterbury cathedral the other day and thought "nice, but it'd be so much better with a contemporary façade to make it more of a dramatic modern building". All this xxxxxx HISTORY - it's everywhere. Can't we bulldose everything old. I mean, it's not 1899 now, is it?

  • Comment Link Monday, 17 February 2014 00:31 posted by Neil

    I live in Barnet but I would much rather shop anywhere else. I used to shop there all the time! Lets face it less people are shopping in the high street these days, and with the parking situation in barnet, already high rents and many empty shops, why is this seen as the way to go? Why not try to attract a more independant, and a more varied shopping experience by lowering the rents, rather than doubling them? What's the point of a newly designed shopping centre with empty shop units? This is the wrong way to go. And the designs are both hideous. Once you change a unique historical building like that into a horrible 'modern' building-that looks dated already i might add-theres no going back. Put pressure on the council to sort out the parking situation, and work with the traders, help them to promote their businesses so that they thrive. I walk through the spires every day and it is depressing-but if this is your solution I think it will be even more so. More empty shops, and an ugly building to boot. I really hope this isn't being funded by our council tax! Please rethink this whole proposal! It will.not.work. I bet some people will do very well out of this, unfortunately it is not likely to be the residents of high Barnet.

  • Comment Link Monday, 17 February 2014 08:59 posted by Dave

    I would prefer keeping the spires, otherwise all we have is an identikit small town shopping centre. got to have some individuality. I do agree that the spires is looking tired and needs a facelift and that the unit size is too small.

  • Comment Link Monday, 17 February 2014 10:11 posted by Chris Kassoumeri

    Good God ! That exciting contemporary façade makes the existing structure look like the Sagrada Familia by comparison. I'm starting work on a banner, "Down With This Sort Of Thing". The council will have to listen then

  • Comment Link Monday, 17 February 2014 12:28 posted by Libby

    Its not the building that stops shops / business being there and it is not the reason why more people don't shop there. This just seems like a waste of money and destruction of a beautiful historic building.

    You need to work on encouraging business back to the spires, lower the rents, sort out the parking and work with local businesses. Changing how the building looks (especially to something that will stick out like a swore thumb against Barnet's beautiful historic buildings) will not do this.

    Please re-think this and spend the money elsewhere.

  • Comment Link Monday, 17 February 2014 13:52 posted by Rebecca

    We need bigger shops to come to the area to attract people to shop in Barnet once more, then if we have larger retailers like Next, Mango, Topshop etc, there will be enough custom to allow smaller retailers to have shops here too. What is there to attract people to shop in Barnet over say, Finchley at the minute? A good butcher? Waitrose? Finchley has that.
    I live a stones throw from the high street and it's decline is just so sad. We need more shops like The Present and less charity shops, 'cash for gold' and empty boarded up shops.

  • Comment Link Monday, 17 February 2014 14:19 posted by Derek

    I think the two spires look kinda ridiculous in Option 1. They destroy two key sections of retail frontage to no good effect.
    What is needed to open up the entrance to the shopping centre in way that is fresh and inviting. It is unfortunate the suggested architectural treatment leaves much to be desired. In what possible way can diamond-shaped brass shingles be said to be "sensitive to the historic context of the High Street”??!!! The facade material needs to be either brick (to meld in) or glass (to be totally fresh and unassertive)

  • Comment Link Monday, 17 February 2014 14:33 posted by Caz

    Option one - restoring the spires is far more appealing in my honest opinion. Option two is too similiar to the shopping centre in Angel and Barnet really should have its own unique identity.

    More importantly it is about getting the right shops/restaurants inside the vicinity for the residents of Barnet and keeping them open!

    If only the upstairs gym that once was, could still be open! There is a real lack of fitness centres in High Barnet which is a real shame.

  • Comment Link Monday, 17 February 2014 15:01 posted by Annabelle

    Both options are hideous. Undoubtedly, the spires should remain, the current frontage with the spires is the only redeeming feature of the shopping centre at present. Parking is one of the biggest issues; too expensive and not enough of it. The ground rent needs to be lowered to encourage retailers also.
    A massive shake up is definitely needed but the options being suggested are not it! Try again!

  • Comment Link Monday, 17 February 2014 15:24 posted by Steven Goodwin

    I'd go with the option that lowers the rent and fills every shop unit. Obviously though there aren't enough charity shops, estate agents and coffee shops and we only have a tesco and Sainsbury express so I would expect a Morrisons, Asda and an Aldi soon

  • Comment Link Monday, 17 February 2014 18:23 posted by Sarah

    There is nothing wrong with the actual spires building. It actually makes the high street look difference to other high streets *shock horror*
    It will never be brent cross, it is a local shopping centre for the local people of barnet.
    Instead of trying to fool people with a grand gesture why not focus on the actual truths:

    There are too many empty/useless shops in the spires. Why not lower the rents and get a decent mix of shops in. Surely a lower rent is better than no rent. You can also have pop up shops, fairs, short term rents for local start up businesses to drum up excitement for shoppers.
    Parking prices are now ridiculous. People are more likely to shop for longer if the prices are fair.

    Charlotte Dunlop said "Radical improvements would be needed to both the layout and the configuration of the various shop units because she considered the centre really was “dying” on its feet and needed to be upgraded."

    If the centre is "dying" it is because of the limited variety of stores, due to the extortionate rents and expensive parking that people just don't want to pay.
    It is the quality of the shops and accessibility of the centre that will make it a success. Not an unnecessary change to the only 3D facade on an otherwise bland faceless high street.

    Update the website too, all that red is depressing! Have a more engaging website and invest in your social media presence to connect with your shoppers.

    It is the simple changes that are often the best. Otherwise it will just be like putting lipstick on a pig. Forgo the lipstick and focus on the pig!

    On another note, I think opening up the courtyards was ill advised, especially the one nearest the high street. It is useless dead space with too much paving, was far nicer when it had plant beds and benches.
    That layout was better for businesses, as people had to walk around the perimeter near the shop entrances, so they would be more likely to be enticed by a window display. Now people just walk straight through the middle, so there's little to no chance of a window inspired sale, you've made it an uninspired cut through. The coffee bean utilise their courtyard very well and give it character and purpose, especially during summer months.

  • Comment Link Monday, 17 February 2014 20:12 posted by Karl

    These plans are lunacy, no one has a problem with what the Spires looks like that I've ever encountered and no one wants bigger units for chain shops, small independents are what people like to see.

    Why are there so few in Barnet High Street? Well, that would be the ludicrous rent and business rates!

  • Comment Link Monday, 17 February 2014 21:24 posted by troy

    1 lower rents, 2 realise that there are too many retail units along the high street to be filled, these need a change of use into residential, leisure, restaurants, bars. 3 lower rents. 4 look at crouch end - thriving independents , family friendly! Restaurants, a night time destination. 5 lower rents. 6 open the spires up to the high street and surrounding area it all focuses inwards. 7 lower rents. 8 premium retail Hugh end aswell as charity - have you seen the house prices! 9 lower rents. 10 be bold retailing is moving online, but! People will need click collect, advice be sold too but in a new way - what will spires need to be in 2024? 11 do it now, and do it quickly

  • Comment Link Monday, 17 February 2014 23:33 posted by Elizabeth Burling

    The spires are part of our heritage in Barnet. The version without them is hideous - no character at all.

    Shops have disappeared from the Spires due to the rents being too high.

    People are disappearing from shopping in Barnet High Street due to the lack of interesting shops and the fact that the parking is only payable by phone nearly everywhere.

    For the forseeable future I shall continue shopping in Enfield instead - a vibrant centre which encourages the shopper.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 18 February 2014 04:17 posted by Carolyn Flett-Jones

    Please dont remove the Spires! We want their individuality, history and character.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 18 February 2014 07:45 posted by juluet

    I prefer the one with the spires the other looks really ugly

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 18 February 2014 11:42 posted by Peter Willingale

    All these great ideas about town centres, how about by starting with getting rid of excessive parking charges and stop handing out parking tickets like confetti! And you never know people might start returning to town centres

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 18 February 2014 12:52 posted by Keith Doe

    It's time we got to the route cause behind the decline of Barnet High Street. It should be a shopping and visiting attraction along the lines of St Albans or Chester. It's a historic town with plenty of character. Sadly most of it is hidden or in a bad way. Restrictive parking rules and regs, high shop rental prices and the allowance of so many "discount" stores has meant that big retailers are turned off from what they see.

    Time to address the image of all the shops, starting with signage and exterior decorating. Uniform it and make it look classy.

    Remove the parking charges and encourage people to come to Barnet.

    Offer discounted rates to all retailers and vet them to ensure that their shop will help improve the image of the town centre and compliment other business and retailers.

    Leave the Spires alone, it's the least of the problems at the mo.

    By improving the image of the high st to reflect the area it is in will do so much for local companies.

    We are lucky to be in a very prosperous part of the country, let's use this to our advantage and put some pride back!

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 18 February 2014 13:38 posted by Louise Rolfe

    I'm just not too keen on the ultra modem look. Barnet is an historic town. Shouldn't we play to our strengths? It can still be contemporary and that frontage needs to change but surely there's a way of keeping the history?
    I agree too that the High Street is the main problem (I add opticians to the list of over used businesses!) but I also think that until The Spires sorts itself out - the High Street won't.
    Louise (Owner of The Present - High Street)

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 18 February 2014 14:24 posted by Aran Wood

    Ultra modern? It looks like something from 1970s Hemel Hempstead! It's enough to make you leave the country.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 19 February 2014 15:15 posted by Derek Sagar

    To retain the Spires requires much more sensitive handling of the surrounding elements at first floor than is indicated in the mock-up.
    I prefer the clean sweep approach of Option 2 but the scale, detailing and proposed materials will not sit well in the High Street, the design could be modern without being coarse and brash.
    The treatment of the entrance should only be considered in the context of the developer's plans for the centre as a whole, and that should include a scheme for all the back land between the High Street, Stapylton Road and the Market.
    Barnet's planners must engage with the developer to ensure that the town centre will work better.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 22 February 2014 09:10 posted by James Hill

    We need bigger better shops.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 23 February 2014 15:22 posted by Dave W

    Retaining & cleaning the towers seems to make more sense and gives the high street frontage something more unique rather than the usual urban concrete look so often used; after all Barnet is a historical town! Business rents should be reduced to entice more shops to stay and car park fees reduced or even free for the first hour to encourage shoppers. The flooring should definitely be changed to something non-slip when wet.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 25 February 2014 19:33 posted by Steve Swords

    The Spires entrance from the High St definitely needs to be improved and made more welcoming. However, I'm just amazed that an organisation like the Pears Group have managed to find some design value in the 2 proposals.

    Retain the Spires, but please can we have a more imaginative approach. And frankly the architect must have been on crack to think that the “stepped massing of the facade”, would again create a strong visual connection between the Spires and the High Street".

    Architects train for 7 years and the Pears Group have been in property management for donkey's years and these options are the best they could come up with???

    Please, let's have a competition amongst the primary schools pupils of Barnet to come up with a more inspiring and deserving design...

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 05 March 2014 12:45 posted by Julie

    How have Crouch End and Muswell Hill managed to create buzzy lively busy and varied high streets? Demographically they are similar to Barnet yet they support local businesses as well as High Street stores. Barnet has money - house prices constantly rising (otherwise why would Foxtons and the like spend money to open up new offices). Spend the "redevelopment" money on sorting out parking, lowering rents and entice Barnet residents to spend their money locally. I for one live close enough to walk to the high street - when I get there tho I have nothing to spend money on unless I want to get my eyes checked I can see the price label in any one of the charity shops

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 17 June 2014 12:04 posted by Hannah Sealey

    The Spires is called the Spires because of the two Spires, which are part of Barnet's history and our history should be retained. Barnet High Street was much better when we had a selection of little shops. We don't need another street in the Spires. Much better to have a place in which people can meander and sit. We don't need a Carluccio's, there are ample restaurants in the High Street. Coffee shops like Costa, Oasis and Coffee Bean are quite sufficient. Go back to the drawing board and lower the rents of the retail outlets. Time .time they close because rents are too high. Regarding clothing also, please cater for the more mature

  • Comment Link Sunday, 13 July 2014 17:17 posted by karl

    Regeneration is by definition a way of preserving what is most valuable. Keeping these historical icons for the local area is an imperative not an option.

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