The Barnet Society supports the general intention of the latest Council proposals. We and the Town Team have striven for years to revive the High Street area, economically, environmentally and visually, and to complete the ‘green chain’ of trees from Barnet Hill to Hadley Green.
Selective pavement build-outs, sustainable new trees and some upgrading of pedestrian realm would do much to assist this.
The Society’s Committee has become aware, however, that certain details of the latest plan do not seem to have the support of the majority our members, or possibly the general public.
We greatly regret that the Council consultation has not been widely advertised, properly presented or exhibited to everyone in or around Chipping Barnet who stands to benefit from the proposal.
Public explanation of its key features might have mollified residents’ and traders’ doubts, and reassured them that limited resources would be spent to optimal effect.
As things stand, though, we must record reservations about the necessity or effectiveness of aspects of the proposals:
1. Complete continuity of pavement build-out along the west side of the High Street is not essential. We note the Town Team’s recommendation that Barnet Council should “look again” at the option of moving loading bays to adjacent streets. We agree: loading bays should be in the High Street, not side streets. Some parking spaces for very short-term shoppers would also be desirable.
2. The build-outs should be primarily to widen footways for pedestrian convenience and safety and trees, not urban infrastructure like advertising boards or (except in the most favourable locations) seating.
3. The wider pavement spaces, e.g. in front of KFC and Boots, should be investigated for additional trees, whether in the ground or in containers. A Council survey a few years ago showed little available space between buried utilities, but this should be re-examined.
4. Trees should be planted directly into the ground. Containers should only be used as a last resort, because they would require watering and ongoing maintenance that the Council may not be able to provide in future. Any containers must be of robust enough design to resist natural deterioration over decades, vandalism and vehicle impact, and enable them to be moved if necessary.
5. The choice of tree species is critical. We have the expertise to offer advice, and would be pleased to do so (subject to agreed budget, timing and process).
6. Some build-out space could be designated shared ‘off-street’ parking space (as in the earlier option dated 21/04/2016), allowing pedestrian use when not occupied by very short-term parking, e.g. outside the Post Office and immediately north of Union Street.
7. It might be advisable to erect well designed bollards on build-outs for safety purposes.
8. The relative widths of build-outs and carriageway should be reconsidered, especially where larger vehicles turn from Salisbury Road into the High Street.
9. Cyclist safety is an important issue. The present High Street layout provides flexibility for evasive manoeuvres by both cyclists and motorists, but the current proposal would reduce this. It could also encourage cyclists onto the pavement, to the detriment of pedestrians.
10. The balance between short and longer-term parking tariffs and payment methods in the centre is worth re-examining to encourage displaced motorists to park away from the High Street. Current regeneration of The Spires and the new H&M store makes this timely.
We would also like:
- A clearer decision-making process to be agreed and properly publicised.
- Information on the timescale for developing the design and specification and carrying out the works.
- Consultation on other key details of the designs, e.g. paving and street furniture – early enough for discussion to take place without jeopardising the programme.