Twin spires to stay

Written by  Monday, 24 February 2014 23:05
The twin Spires will stay The twin Spires will stay
A controversial plan to demolish the twin spires to provide a new entrance to the Spires shopping centre has been dropped after overwhelming opposition from Barnet residents and shoppers.

Architects for the William Pears property group have been instructed to draw up a detailed planning application that would retain the twin spires of the former Methodist church while still opening up the entrance from the High Street.

The Pears group have also announced that Carluccio’s intend to open a cafe and restaurant in a unit to be created in the shop that fronts on to the High Street and was formerly WH Smith.

Charlotte Dunlop, Pears’ asset manager for the Spires, told a meeting of the Barnet Town Team (24.2.2014) that there had been an “extremely encouraging response” to the consultation process which began on Friday 14 February when shoppers were asked to comment on alternative drawings and images which proposed a new entrance either with or without the twin spires.

Over 1,000 completed questionnaires had been returned and more were expected before the consultation officially closed on Wednesday 26 February.

“But the overwhelming response from the public was towards retaining the spires which is what we intend to do, having listened to the feedback,” said Ms Dunlop.

A detailed planning application will be prepared in the coming weeks and should be submitted to Barnet Council by the end of March.

If a decision was made within three months, as the Pears group hoped, work on the new entrance and preparatory work for the Carluccio’s cafe and restaurant should start in early 2015.

Magnus Wills, of the architectural practice Leslie Jones, said a new open entrance to the Spires would improve “connectivity” between the High Street and the shopping centre. 

The intention was to remove the existing brick piers between the two spires and the entrance would be opened up to daylight by removing the rotunda over the entrance.

“We would create a simple, large opening setting the twin spires in a sympathetic elevation, replacing the brickwork with natural stone.”

Other improvements would include the removal of slippery surfaces, renovation of the paving to the first courtyard and the installation of external seating in the first courtyard.

Mr Wills said the shopping centre needed a new entrance because it was “not very welcoming or enticing”. While local people knew that it led to a shopping  centre, that was not the case with visitors. Waitrose was High Barnet’s largest retailer but visitors walking along the High Street did not know it even existed.

While Waitrose was a key strength, popular with the community and family friendly, the weaknesses of the Spires shopping centre were its lack of footfall; the fact that it was trading poorly; that it was under-occupied; and that it had units that were too small and lacked signage.

In replying to questions from members of the Town Team, Mr Mills and the Pears’ group representatives confirmed that Waitrose had expressed an interest in expanding their store in the Spires and this was being discussed.

The hope was that now that Carluccio’s had signed up for a unit in the Spires, it might be possible to attract other high-profile high street names.

Carluccio’s has signed up for The Spires

Mr Mills said there could be further development in and around the Spires site if trade improved.

At the conclusion of the Town Team meeting its chairman Councillor David Longstaff said William Pears’ decision to go ahead with its plans for a new entrance to the Spires, together with signing up Carluccio’s, was highly positive news for the town.

If planning approval was obtained and the work went ahead, the improvements would be welcomed by High Street traders and residents alike. 

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7 comments

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 25 February 2014 10:23 posted by James Margates

    This is a good outcome. Keep the iconic twin spires and improve the access. Re do the floor so people don't slip in the wet. And Carluccio’s - at last a real Italian restaurant in High Barnet!
    Now just lower the shop rents to something reasonable and we may have the start of a revival.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 25 February 2014 12:31 posted by Caz

    Excellent news!!! Good to know they are listening to what the local residents want. I cant wait to start seeing the new and improved renovations get underway!

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 25 February 2014 14:04 posted by Sally Gray

    I like the entrance just as it is, the spires sitting on their own will look silly and do we really need yet another Italian restaurant in the High street, a little imagination is need here with more variety of shops and restaurants. How about a nice little cafe serving home made cakes and good quality home made food instead of all this pre-prepared Italian style food which is nice for a change but not all the time.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 27 February 2014 16:27 posted by Barnet_lady

    This is a really good result. I like the new plans for the Spires, they really open it up and I think the renovation will attract high-end shops and restaurants. Carluccio's is a good choice for restaurant at the shopping entrance - all their restaurants look smart and attractive. Take Carluccio's in St Albans or Muswell Hill - very stylish. Hopefully High Barnet will follow in the footsteps of areas like these as it shares some of their quaintness but has yet to reach it's peak! Very excited about these new developments - well done to William Pears so far! :)

  • Comment Link Friday, 21 March 2014 16:36 posted by Pina Griffin

    Could we attract a good ladies' boutique please?
    We have so many ladies who would welcome
    the opportunity to pop to their High street to buy
    'Something for the weekend'. We are sure that if
    the quality was good enough it would be a hit
    The kind of clothes required would be smart, casual
    but of good guality material and keeping up with
    fashion.

    Could rates be lowered to attract shop keepers
    (at least allowing the shop owner time to ascertain
    profit ???)

    A good quality gift store, can we attract a John
    Lewis home store dept? They are looking to
    expand it's dept store, albeit smaller in size to its
    original ones. What about the Terratorial Army
    site , can't they be developed for JL ??!!
    What a break through that would be for Barnet's
    revival!!! The cadets could be offered a site less
    high profile in the area.

    We are sure the above all make good sense and
    we have people ready to return to local shopping
    with the right shops. We have an amazing catchment
    area but these people want quality goods not charity
    shops and opticians which have taken over the
    retail community.

    Kind Regards and good luck to Barnet.

  • Comment Link Monday, 24 March 2014 12:19 posted by Tanya

    I think it would be a real shame to lose the "Spires Entrance" and risk becoming another shopping centre in any town any where. High Barnet does not have the capacity to compete (even with an extended Spires) with the usual model that's needed for high footfall retailing. It cannot compete directly with the likes of Enfield, Brent Cross. Loosing it's character is not going to help it attract different retailing mix.

    Upgrading it's character sensitively and perhaps proactively find a key niche to attract particular type of retailers (perhaps good quality local designers and producers for one). This would include working in partnership with the suppliers and perhaps coming up with more innovative and appropriate rental schemes there are no doubt being offered currently. Might be one sensible way to go making High Barnet a Destination with a Difference, rather than any town anywhere or a struggling high street with Estate Agents, Cafe's and Charity Shops galore. Just a thought and really not meant as criticism of all the hard work that has no doubt gone into keeping it going and improving the high street to date during a very difficult economic period.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 22 April 2014 18:42 posted by Admin

    Update on the Spires redevelopment: The Spires has submitted proposals for the first phase of its facelift. The proposals include new, natural stone paving within The Spires shopping centre between the High Street entrance and the first open courtyard. We are also delighted to announce that Carluccio's will be the operator for the new restaurant on the High Street. The design will retain the towers of the former Barnet Methodist Church as a direct result of feedback from the local community. The application will be available to view on Barnet Council's website shortly.
    If you have any questions or would like to receive updates, please contact Jessica Stewart at Comm Comm UK on 020 7125 0421 or jessias@commcommuk.com.

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