Union Street residents annoyed

Written by  Thursday, 09 July 2015 14:06
Work is well underway on 25 new flats for older women in Union Street Work is well underway on 25 new flats for older women in Union Street
Two new housing developments are changing still further the appearance of Union Street in High Barnet, which in recent years has lost shops, offices, a school and even its public house.

Government encouragement for the conversion of commercial premises into new homes is transforming many town centres, and Union Street illustrates the rapid expansion in residential use.

Union Street blocked by cement mixers - photo Nicola TurnerUnion Street blocked by cement mixers - photo Nicola TurnerBut the pace of redevelopment, and the disruption caused by building contractors, has alarmed local residents who are worried as to whether there will be sufficient space for numerous rubbish bins and extra car parking in what is already a narrow and crowded street.

Work is well under way on the two latest projects: 25 flats are being constructed on the site of former St Martha’s Convent School; and Barnet’s original town hall, built in 1889, is being converted into five flats.

Nicola Turner, whose house is opposite the entrance to the site of the 25 new flats that will become a co-housing scheme for older women, says she has been seriously inconvenienced by the arrival as early as 7 am of heavy plant and equipment being used by the contractors.

“Union Street is in a conservation area, and it is one-way, very small and not built for such heavy traffic. I have regularly had to object about lorries mounting the pavement to reverse into the site.”

Ms Turner says that her small house, built in 1815, has been severely impacted by the noise and reverberations from heavy lorries; a crack has appeared where there were none before. She has taken photographs of cement lorries and a mobile crane struggling to gain access.

When approached by the Barnet Society, the site manager for the main contractor, Quinn, insisted every effort had been made to work with local residents.

Union Street is in a conservation area, and it is one-way, very small and not built for such heavy traffic

This redevelopment will eventually be to their advantage. The new flats are very attractive, and will blend in well with the rest of the houses on either side of the road.”

Further along Union Street there have been similar complaints about the disruption caused by conversion of the old town hall into five flats.

The building, used previously by a firm of printers, has been enclosed completely in tarpaulins, and local residents are concerned about changes that might be made to the appearance of the original exterior.

Barnet old town hall is being converted into five flatsBarnet old town hall is being converted into five flats

Final approval for the conversion was only given in the first week of July, after work had already commenced, and the occupants of nearby premises say there were still many unanswered questions about the project.

Simon Smith, clerk to the trustees of the Jesus Hospital Charity, which administers local almshouses, fears that no adequate provision has been made for either rubbish bins or car parking. His office is two doors away from the old town hall.

“Union Street’s character is being altered quite dramatically by these conversions, and while some buildings are being converted there are quite a few empty shops that seem to have been abandoned and have become quite an eyesore.”

A grocery and convenience store at the junction of Union Street and Stapylton Road was converted into a row of terrace houses some years ago, followed more recently by the closure of the Albion public house and its conversion into a terrace of three houses.

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5 comments

  • Comment Link Thursday, 09 July 2015 18:59 posted by Tim Webster

    Nimby moaners. Build more houses. For the record, Union Street has no character. It's an anonymous street with some boarded-up shops at one end

  • Comment Link Friday, 10 July 2015 12:36 posted by Maria Brenton

    I understand Union St residents' discomfort at the construction work going on in the street - and sympathise. However, it is temporary. - this time next year it will seem like a bad dream and locals will have an attractive building to look at rather than the ugly 15ft wall and gate that disfigured the local streetscape for years. They will also have friendly new neighbours. No part of London can stand still; older people need to be able to move to smaller, more convenient homes and free up accommodation for families. See the current developments as the beginning of a fresh new look to a street that has come to look pretty down at heel in recent years, as Tim Webster notes. Also, see incomers as new local spenders, helping to keep shops and cafes going in the town centre. Life will get better!

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 14 July 2015 11:05 posted by Simon

    Re the 2 comments above. Firstly, totally agree that more people moving into the area can only be a good thing for our wonderful, local high street.

    My point is that ugly, derelict shop units in Union St have laid empty for years. They are an absolute eyesore and priority should have been made to ensure these are constructed into housing units. (or shops)
    I'd like to see the council either force the owners to do something or make them subject to a compulsory purchase order.

    There is no greater example of this absurdity than the former NHS building in Wood street which has been derelict for years. Its only inhabitants being pigeons and rats!

    Anyway, despite the original comments, Union St is an attractive road-be it constrained by its narrowness, hence valid concerns being expressed by local residents.!

  • Comment Link Friday, 17 July 2015 23:10 posted by William

    Pretty Union Street should be appreciated for its unusually wide variety of Victorian and Edwardian architecture and its narrow curved layout greatly adds to its attractiion. Like too many streets it has some awful, unsympathetic 20th century developments (the poor window and door treatment of the Albion conversion should never have been allowed in a conservation area) but the good vastly outweighs the bad. Let's hope that the removal of the prison-like featureless wall and the current residential developments help kick start a sadly needed improvement in the retail/light industrial buildings too. Some of the shop owners should really be ashamed of themselves - Victoria Bakery to name an obvious one.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 07 January 2016 08:48 posted by Helen Reddington

    Union Street isn't an anonymous street. It has a variety of small cottages and church buildings; if it was anonymous it wouldn't be a conservation area. The new buildings on the OWCH estate have considerably exceeded the height limit in the plans, and they will now be completely out of proportion with the rest of the street. At least five people have been driven out of the houses opposite the development. It's not a conversion, it's been a very noisy and dirty demolition. I have no objection to the site being built on, but I do greatly resent the fact that my small house will now be dark and gloomy. On the OWCH website there is a slogan about being good neighbours- I'd say more likely, no neighbours. If you drive people out of an area by building an out of proportion estate (yes, its an estate), that's not neighbourliness.

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