Tuesday, 06 November 2018 12:43

Premier Inn approved: will it help town centre? Featured

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The site of the new Premier Inn The site of the new Premier Inn
Plans for a 100-bed Premier Inn on the site of Barnet Market were approved by a clear majority at a meeting of Barnet Council’s planning committee despite the continued, forthright opposition of residents in the adjoining Chipping Close.

Criticism of the scheme, which the residents’ spokesman claimed would turn living in their road into “a nightmare”, was supported by the committee chair, Councillor Wendy Prentice, who is one of the three High Barnet councillors.

But when the application was put to the meeting (5.11.2018), she was heavily outvoted with seven votes in favour, three against and one abstention.

Councillor Prentice expressed her opposition from the start, challenging the evidence given in support of the hotel by Gordon Massey, former chair of the Barnet Residents Association, who spoke on behalf of Chipping Barnet Town Team and who had explained that all the town’s traders and community groups were in favour of the project.

“I don’t think a new hotel on the market site will improve the shopping centre,” declared Councillor Prentice when challenging Mr Massey.

“It’s my ward...I am not sure a majority of people are for this hotel...I want to know how it will regenerate the High Street...I am worried about congestion in the St Albans Road...There will be a tailback in Bruce Road...I think the parking will affect the High Street.”

Mr Massey – who earlier had argued that building a Premier Inn in the centre of High Barnet would create confidence in a shopping centre that faced decline – expressed sympathy for the residents of the ten houses in Chipping Close and commended their “very well-orchestrated campaign”.

I have talked to many people. They are for it.

“Notices were pinned on lamp posts, leaflets pushed through doors, a lot on social media, but it has given the impression of a disproportionate amount of opposition.

“I have talked to many people. They are for it. The Barnet Residents Association held three events in the Spires over the summer and we estimated over 80 per cent were either in support or neutral. There is not overwhelming opposition to it.”  

Posters appeared regularly around Barnet Market opposing the Premier InnPosters appeared regularly around Barnet Market opposing the Premier InnExcept for the ten houses in Chipping Close, there were only three objections from the 200 houses in the three nearby roads, and the Barnet Society, which had consulted the 23 members living nearest the site, found that of the 12 who replied, eight were in favour and four against.  

“We all know shops are leaving High Barnet...the current vacancy rate is around 10 per cent; the Spires shopping centre has a vacancy rate of over 20 per cent. “

“The wider issue is the future of the town and how we adapt to a primarily service-based economy.

“This is already happening with noticeably more hairdressers, health spas, coffee shops and restaurants.

A Premier Inn precisely fits this model, it will bring jobs and more important up to 100 people a day who will spend money in the local economy, especially evening food and drink,” said Mr Massey.

Richard Gardham, a Chipping Close resident who voiced the opposition of his neighbours, appealed to the committee to reject a plan for a three-to-four storey hotel that would have an irrevocable impact on their homes.

“It will be a nightmare 24/7 with additional cars turning our close into a noisy alleyway.

“All guests will do is eat breakfast. They won’t shop in local shops and the restaurant will under cut independent eateries.

“The vision of the Premier Inn as an economic saviour is an exaggeration. All those working in the hotel will be in low-paid, minimum-wage jobs.”

It will be a nightmare 24/7 with additional cars turning our close into a noisy alleyway.

When questioned by councillors, Mr Gardham said the residents accepted the site would be developed and he thought they might well be supportive of a smaller hotel with its own on-site car parking.

Chris Benham, planning consultant for Locate Developments, which purchased the site and will build the hotel for Premer Inn, outlined the steps that had been taken since the rejection of their previous application.

After consultation with the council and local groups, the room size of the hotel had been reduced from 120 to 100; the main entrance to the hotel had been removed from Chipping Close and relocated to a new access and exit in Bruce Road; the restaurant entrance would front directly on to St Albans Road, rather than the corner with Chipping Close; the Chipping Close pavement would be cushioned to reduce noise from wheeling suitcases; and the hotel windows glazed so as to reduce overlooking into the Chipping Close houses.  

Gordon Massey with Gail Laser who co-ordinated the Chipping Barnet Town Team’s presentation in favour of Premier InnGordon Massey with Gail Laser who co-ordinated the Chipping Barnet Town Team’s presentation in favour of Premier InnCouncillor Prentice questioned the arrangement reached with the NCP car park in the Spires for Premier Inn guests to park at a charge of £3 a night. What would happen if there was no enough room for shoppers? “People will turn away and this will encourage people to park in local streets,” said Councillor Prentice.

Mr Benham insisted there was more than sufficient space in the car park to meet the hotel’s requirements. The current car park occupancy was 39 per cent in the week, and 55 per cent during the Saturday peak, but this was day-time parking and the guests would be there overnight.

He said the developers were ready to finance a review of the local controlled parking zone should this be required: £10,000 towards monitoring a travel plan; £10,000 for CPZ monitoring; £15,000 for consulting on any changes; and £10,000 for implementation.

The Spires had agreed to provide improved facilities for the market once it was moved permanently to the bandstand site for which approval had already been given.

Locate Developments estimated that 40 jobs would be created during construction of the hotel – due for completion in late 2019 – and there would be 50 full and part-time jobs in the hotel. To assist recruitment, the company would contribute £91,000 to apprenticeships and employment training.

Mr Benham was challenged by several councillors when he claimed the new hotel would generate £2.8 million a year in visitor expenditure in High Barnet.

This was based on a hotel occupancy rate of 86 per cent, but he struggled to convince councillors this spend equated to an average spend of £73 per person per night – a figure which Mr Benham said was supported by London tourist authorities, but which the councillors believed might apply in central London, but not the outer suburbs.

Before the vote, Councillor Stephen Sowerby explained that he would support the plan not least because the developers had met their concerns about the original application with “an extra-ordinary amount of mitigation.”

“This is a very sympathetic design that enhances the conservation area and the site is currently an abandoned car park from which the local economy gets no benefit.”

Gail Laser, founder of Love Barnet and a member of the Town Team, congratulated Gordon Massey on the effectiveness of his arguments in favour of the hotel.

“I am so pleased the hotel has got the go ahead. I am not saying that it will on its own turn round High Barnet’s fortunes, but it will help to encourage further investment in the Spires.”                                                                               

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18 comments

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 06 November 2018 17:03 posted by Nick Saul

    A textbook demonstration of successful post–2016 political operation. As with other incarnations of that weird phenomena it probably has the same 2020 expiry date. Seriously, some of the presentations were brilliant as were the unflinching faces when the most audacious claims for the hotel's miraculous virtues were deployed and flew with the grace of lead balloons.

    It seems a common theme in the new politics that the only thing meaner than a sore loser (guilty as charged!) are sore winners. Just to set the record straight this really is a controversial scheme with huge potential commercial and social costs. Concerns for these spoke for themselves, the benefits of the scheme needed what can only be charitably described as a blind eye turned to blatant manipulations with conscience conveniently left at home.

    The opposition clearly and demonstrably spread further than the residents of Chipping Close. It did not jump miraculously from them to Cllr Wendy Prentice missing out the rest of the ward she has served with dedication for so many years.

    I do not claim to know how many people in the area support the hotel and how many oppose it. I do know that the only "very well organised campaign" to oppose it I know of was two and very occasionally three guys meeting occasionally in a pub and at least one of High Barnet's several freelance fly–posters.

    Such an ad hoc "campaign" was followed by many more (and usually far more independently conceived) objections lodged with the council than comments in support. What does it say for the merits and public view of a scheme supported so forcefully and with so much lobbying by the leaders of many residents' and community groups? If they could possibly have dragged up any more public support they would have. It would be strange indeed if the judgement and opinions of High Barnet residents were very different from those of Watford, Bushey, Camden and Westminster where similar projects have all been recently opposed and refused. We live in strange times.

    People can get away with saying whatever they like about the future – until the future that they themselves have made actually arrives.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 07 November 2018 09:46 posted by Nick de Naeyer

    Another step backwards.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 07 November 2018 09:46 posted by Sonya McElarney

    Can’t wait for the parking issues can’t park in my street now let alone when a hotel is built!!!

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 07 November 2018 09:47 posted by Steve Abrahams

    Seems pointless having a Planning Department

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 07 November 2018 09:47 posted by Ray Meehan

    They need places like this for an afternoon shag

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 07 November 2018 09:48 posted by Roberta Cohen

    No surprise at the end of the day Barnet Council do what they want no thought for the people living here and the upheaval it will cause. Disgrace.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 07 November 2018 09:49 posted by Paul Meehan

    Am I missing something here ,surely a hotel will bring people into the high st ?

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 07 November 2018 09:49 posted by Siobhan Wilkins

    Absolutely terrible news. A travesty for Chipping Barnet

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 07 November 2018 09:50 posted by Genevieve Abranson

    What is upsetting people? That its on the market or it exists at all? I am very sad to see the market built on, but in reality the market is a shadow of its former self from 20+ years ago. Hopefully it will have its own parking under the building?? But besides the parking issue, I think it will bring some business to local pubs & restaurants, which is much needed. No one will visit Barnet as a tourist, especially as theres no football now, maybe during the medieval festival it might get visitors. So this hotel is going to be made up of business trips & hook ups, but some of those people we still wine & dine

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 07 November 2018 09:50 posted by Colin Johnson

    The one in Southgate is generating business for the high st
    I did not think it would at first but guests don’t sit in their rooms all day
    Especially saw it with tourists this summer

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 07 November 2018 11:04 posted by Richard Gardham

    "Except for the ten houses in Chipping Close, there were only three objections from the 200 houses in the three nearby roads"

    This was untrue when Gordon Massey made the claim on Monday night and it's untrue now. Mr Massey ignored the many objections from St Albans Road. There were also seven objections from six households on Strafford Road and one more from Carnarvon Road. For those of you who objected, you may also be interested to know that Mr Massey claimed that a number of the objections were 'ill-informed'. That's what the representative of the Barnet Residents Association thinks of many of its residents. He made no mention - of course - of the number of people supporting the development who'd done so because of Gail Laser's campaign on Love Barnet, several of whom copied and pasted in what Gail had told them to do, or just left the comments section blank. Are we to assume they were well informed?

    I found Gordon Massey's speaking somewhat disconcerting. He claimed to be speaking on behalf of the Chipping Barnet Town Team yet did little other than discuss what he had 'found out' through his role at the Barnet Residents Association. In my opinion, his talk was from the perspective of the BRA. He certainly mentioned them enough times. Pretty much all of his evidence in the support he had unearthed for the hotel was anecdotal.

    The hotel will be built now, as those of us who campaigned against it thought it would. What has left me concerned, however, is the influence that the Barnet Society, the Barnet Residents Association and, to a lesser extent, the Love Barnet group have on the general running of Barnet. Their membership numbers represent a tiny percentage of the population of the area, and their demographic seems very heavily weighted towards the retired and semi-retired residents (who should, of course, have a voice, just not a disproportionate one). When you get involved in a process such as this you realise just how huge their influence is. They have the ear of the council, and both sides seem to work on the assumption that these unelected people speak for the people of Barnet, when they do nothing of the sort. For anyone entering into this sort of thing in the future, be aware that the BS and the BRA invariably seem to get what they want. Not necessarily what the residents want (on this matter, Mr Massey conveniently skated over the fact that the objections to this development vastly outnumbered the 'supports' - save for his patronising 'ill-informed' comment - and also failed to mention that some of the support drummed up by Gail Laser came from as far away as New Barnet and Arkley). One councillor told one of our party before the meeting on Monday that to be successful we'd really have needed the residents associations on our side. Is it right that so much power is help by such a tiny, non-representative group? The whole process has been an eye-opener, and not in a good way.

    In spite of my opposition, I genuinely hope that the hotel does bring the benefits to the High Street that those in support have claimed. I have my doubts - lots of them - and the ludicrous average "£73 per person per night" (after accommodation) local expenditure claim from the developers was rightly laughed at by those who cross-examined them. If, however, in five years' time the High Street and the Spires are no better off, local restaurants and bars have found themselves undercut by the restaurant/bar at the Premier Inn, the hotel is being used for emergency social housing (as happens in many Premier Inns around the country), and the traffic problems we fear have been realised, I hope that those who did so much to support this venture will still be as vocal and getting these issues resolved...

    PS) You've misquoted me in the above. I did not say "All those working in the hotel will be in low-paid, minimum-wage jobs"; I said 'Many' not 'all'.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 07 November 2018 13:14 posted by Jacqui Jones

    It will be used by the council for homeless applicants they have a duty of care to house but can't because they have regenerated the borough so much there is not enough social housing left. Helps massage their homesless figures but not the high street.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 08 November 2018 20:08 posted by Mark

    I haven’t lived in Barnet long, but long enough to realise it has the bentest council I’ve ever encountered.
    They can’t say no to money, no matter how ridiculous the proposal (see also the new school in Underhill).

  • Comment Link Friday, 09 November 2018 16:20 posted by Dennis Bird

    Lies damned lies and statistics followed by spurious claims by so called local residents groups re the monstrosity to be built on the market site.I'm sure the butchers,bakers,fishmongers,and greengrocers can't wait for the extra trade from the hotel residents who of course will all go out for breakfast and their evening meal and to buy their papers on their way to retail therapy in our plethora of charity shops.
    They will park their cars in the Spires,no benefit to the local economy or on the streets,chaos!
    Flats on the site,with parking would add to our community and our economy,sadly not to be.

    PS All you people reading this have you ever stayed in one of these places for business a wedding ,a liaison?Surely not for pleasure.....Did you spend loads of dosh locally or go ASAP?
    Where was the voice of the Barnet Society ?

  • Comment Link Saturday, 10 November 2018 19:24 posted by Dr A Gardham

    As a Chipping Close resident I am devastated by the decision to build a large hotel on our tiny cul-de-sac. There is simply not the space or infrastructure to support the hotel. Traffic and parking will be chaotic and the residents of the road will be disturbed day and night by cars turning into the road and hotel residents coming in and out the hotel.
    I am particularly horrified at the influence Mr Massey and Ms Laser had over the council's decision. Neither is elected to represent Barnet residents and neither lives on Chipping Close.
    Mr Massey was either ill informed or lying -77 residents posted opposition to the hotel development on the Barnet Council website -many lived in surrounding roads. In addition, the information events run by the developers were inundated with unhappy local residents.
    The residents of Chipping Close would be happy for re-development to occur on the car park but it needed to be a much smaller hotel with its own car park. The developers are totally naïve (or don't really care I suspect) if they think hotel guests will pay to park in the Spires instead of park for free in nearby streets.
    The people staying at the hotel will be businessmen on their way to meetings in London or hen/stag parties on their way into town for a night out. Neither will spend any money in Barnet.
    I really hope I am wrong and that the hotel turn is well- used a benefits the local area. However, if it bring negative affects to the area, I will be happy to remind the residents of Barnet that it was the likes of Mr Massey and Ms Laser that persuaded the council that Barnet wanted the hotel.
    Finally I would like to express my gratitude to Cl Prentice and the residents of Chipping Close that campaigned to strongly against the hotel. Thank you for trying. It is such a shame that the council were so influenced by residents associations that hold way too much influence and are not elected to represent us.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 11 November 2018 20:06 posted by Carole Read

    I totally agree with all the criticisms of the decision to go ahead with the hotel. I have objected to it since I first heard about it. ( I do not live in Chipping Close as is the case with many objectors,). I have resigned from the Residents Association. I cannot understand why the Council accept evidence from such a group. How can they be said to represent residents' interests when they are a self selecting, undemocratic organisation who, as I realised when I spoke to them about my objections to the hotel, have no wish to be democratic and simply push the views of the minority leading the group. And like Barnet's partnership with Capita, where an employee has stolen £2million pounds from the Council, it is the residents and local businesses which will suffer and pay the costs.

  • Comment Link Monday, 12 November 2018 20:42 posted by Andy

    I have every sympathy for the residents of Chipping Close, I really do, but I do believe that the building of this hotel is a good thing for the wider area.

    As a customer of hotels like this I can tell you that yes, I have left the hotel and ventured into the local area. This has mainly been to eat out as hotel restaurants are normally pretty dire. The fact that this hotel is so central and close to the spires and high street means it’s far more likely that hotel patrons will venture out.

    I also think that having investment like this does send out a positive message and encourages further investment. The economy in High Barnet needs to evolve or it will die.

  • Comment Link Monday, 12 November 2018 23:29 posted by Amanda H

    To all those that say the Barnet Society or the Barnet Residents Association are not representative of their view. Either join these organisations and have your voice heard, create your own organisation or stop your incessant whining.

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