Monday, 17 September 2018 15:22

Premier Inn - Take Two

Written by Robin Bishop
Visualisation of proposed hotel from Bruce Road (by ica architects) Visualisation of proposed hotel from Bruce Road (by ica architects)
Premier Inns have submitted a new planning application. The design has been improved since  its first scheme, rejected in July, and the Barnet Society is minded to support it.

In August, Premier Inns held a public consultation on their redesign. It addressed the reasons for rejection of their first application (overlooking and disturbance to neighbours, and inadequate vehicle access via Bruce Road), and eliminated both hotel entrances on Chipping Close. But we still had a number of concerns, and wrote to them saying so.

Early this month, they responded with further assurances and design modifications:

  • Additional visualisations of the proposal would be provided.
  • The contractual and technical implications of 24-hour access to The Spires car park  have apparently been thoroughly tested, and a draft legal agreement agreed.
  • Licensing hours would be restricted to restaurant opening hours.
  • Signage would conform to Conservation Area guidelines.
  • The Chipping Close façade would be set a foot further away from the existing terrace opposite.
  • Etched and fixed room glazing would safeguard neighbours’ privacy.
  • For the Bruce Road cul-de-sac, tracking diagrams have been produced proving that vehicles could manoeuvre without risk to pedestrian and cyclist safety.
  • Coach drop-off and pick-up (if ever required) would be in The Spires yard.
  • The previous mediocre design of the Bruce Road hotel entrance has been improved (see visualisation below).

We remain concerned, about vehicles turning into and out of Bruce Road from/into St Albans Road, especially at peak times, particularly across traffic lanes.

We would also like to see more historically correct ‘shopfront’ details, adjustment of certain window proportions, no red brick on the south (Spires yard) façade, and a less busy array of planters on St Albans Road and Chipping Close.

Some aspects of the scheme, we were told, cannot be altered:

  • The capacity of the hotel, for financial reasons.
  • Guest access between the car park and hotel. We had suggested a route on the S-E (Spires yard) side of the hotel, and possibly a lift or bridge from the car park, but apparently these were impractical.

Proposed hotel entrance in Bruce Road entrance (by ica architects)Proposed hotel entrance in Bruce Road entrance (by ica architects)

On balance we are minded to support the application.  Premier Inns have gone further than most developers to design a building in keeping with the Conservation Area, and have taken our advice on several important matters.

We believe a hotel will bring  benefits to the town centre economy – for example, it could offer apprenticeships in hospitality and catering to young people in the next-door house in multiple occupation (HMO).

Another bonus could be a financial contribution by Premier Inns, as a condition of planning approval, to upgrading the Stapylton Road pocket park (opposite The Spires bandstand).

This was subject of our web feature dated 27 May, Barnet Market & Premier Inn - An opportunity slipping away. Better facilities there for bus travellers, bus drivers and shopper set-down and pick-up should be provided, together with landscape treatment to discourage anti-social use by vagrants and drinkers – as well as space to expand the market, should demand arise.

You can view the plans and supporting documents and submit your own comments at https://publicaccess.barnet.gov.uk/online-applications/ (application reference no. 18/5395/FUL).

The deadline for comments is Friday 2nd October.

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13 comments

  • Comment Link Monday, 17 September 2018 16:51 posted by Nick de Naeyer

    Why are we suckered in every time? The changes do not change anything of note.

    This is a 4 storey block on a heritage site, overlooking a terrace of traditional cottages in a conservation area. It is entirely inappropriate.

    To say it will bring economic benefits is grasping at straws. The majority of jobs created will be low paid and well below a living wage for Barnet. Will Barnet residents realistically take these jobs? As for apprenticeships? How many are likely to be offered, other than as a means of cheap employment and paying slave wages?

    The additional footfall in the High Street is likely to be minimal. It is a motel for one night stays in the majority of cases. Customers will turn up, plug their laptops in to charge and sleep in most cases. Some will go out for junk food or a quick pint for sure, but to a local restaurant? Unlikely. Shopping at the Spires? They will be gone by 8am latest without getting a litre of bleach from Savers!!

    The idea that paying to improve the car park opposite is just.....words fail. Its a car park. All we need is as many spaces as possible at a reasonable cost. What improvements are they going to make? Landscaping wont cure ASB in Barnet.

    The application depends on the NCP being open 24 hours for hotel guests. This will attract far more ASB in to the area and vehicle movements at all hours potentially.This will impact residents in Stapylton and Salisbury Roads both with noise and pollution.

    Barnet Society's support for the application is baffling to me. We should all be pushing for the site to be returned to its proper function as a market. The moment it was designated a car park it was discarded as nothing more than a development opportunity.

  • Comment Link Monday, 17 September 2018 17:58 posted by Handa McLean

    As far as I can see there will be absolutely no benefits for Chipping Barnet from letting this monstrosity be built. The traffic is awful as it is and will log jam with a 100 extra cars a day joining or turning off St Albans Road from or into Bruce Road. The Barnet Society even admit the traffic situation is a worry..... we must not allow this worry to become real. The infrastructure cannot sustain a massive hotel in a small site at an already congested junction. The knock on effects of people driving around will be awful from the pollution and noise. Car doors slamming all day and night, taxis waiting with engines running.... it all spells disaster. Think about it.... how can any traveller even get to the hotel? Not by foot from the tube if they have lots of luggage....buses struggle up the high street as it is due to congestion... so they will be in private cars or taxis. No thank you.
    Also cited is ‘offering employment or apprentices to nearby residents’...Absolute nonsense. The phrase ‘clutching at straws’ comes to mind.
    Oppose oppose oppose

  • Comment Link Monday, 17 September 2018 23:13 posted by Nick Saul

    1) It is increasingly apparent Premier Inn will be sold to an unknown international investor with unknown intentions probably even before the proposed hotel could be opened. Fears people are expressing for some unknown future reuse of the proposed hotel building should be fears for here and now.

    Reputable financial media coverage of Whitbread’s sale of Costa Coffee to Coca Cola reveals the company’s policy is being dictated by american billionaire asset stripper Paul Singer’s vulture hedge fund Elliot Advisors. Premier Inn and the staggering bank balance of its cash–rich parent Whitbread are said to be their next target.

    Despite comments by Whitbread management beyond reasonable doubt the current massive expansion of the Premier Inn portfolio is being used as a bait and switch operation by activist investors. The brand name is being used to obtain planning permission to build a huge number of new Premier Inns inevitably leading to the business being swallowed up by a larger international operator. Unlike Coca Cola, who were diversifying into a new market, the buyer will undoubtably be an existing overseas hotel operator who will wish to expand their own branded operation with its own operating policy and expectations of individual properties.

    The only pause between the Costa sale and Premier Inn’s will be seeing through outstanding planning applications and also splitting the property ownership and hotel operation portfolios through a leaseback facility to maximise the value of both assets. It is implied in the proposal that such a separation of ownership and operation is already in place for the Marketplace.

    Promises made by the applicant are core to a whole raft of planning considerations and completely vital to the hotel’s construction and operation as proposed. Any such promises made on the basis it is in the applicant’s interest to resolve issues such as impact on neighbours, traffic and parking are meaningless if the applicant will not be the operator. All they need is to tick three boxes – “hotel”, “100 plus rooms” “restaurant and bar”. Everything else that isn’t on a drawing in the application is just window dressing to get planning approval and can quietly melt away if it is obtained.

    Given ridiculous over expansion by many hotel operators the certain over provision of rooms will lead to many buildings being sold off or repurposed. We simply do not know what sort of management we will get or what anything built would be used for within the broad C1 use planning approval. What we would get in terms of a building are the bricks and mortar of an inner city hostel prefabricated for future urban degeneration.

    2) The reapplication has not taken the chance to overturn Grounds for Refusal. The procedure seems to have been to agree compromises with the planning department rather than either comply with the stipulations of the planning committee or abandon the proposal.

    Windows facing Chipping Close would only be part obscured glass offering no privacy for residents of the cottages despite yet more very dodgy graphics claiming it would. The lines of sight on the drawings are achieved by showing groups of people significantly shorter than the middle glazing bars on traditional sash windows, normally well below the eye line of adults of average height. The previous approved plans from which the obscured glass requirement was lifted was for fully opaque windows. Premier Inns have many rooms with no windows at all, insisting all rooms in this building must have a view is complete hubris.

    Similarly it is boasted the side elevation has been moved back to 11.33 metres from the facing properties in Chipping Close, but read the details and this will only be in two tiny recesses along the wall. The contention was whether the figure of 21 metres between frontages in planning policy applied or not. Sorry but an extra 0.3 metres although welcome doesn’t really show any grasp of the problem.

    The main entrance has been moved from Chipping Close. However there will be no pedestrian access down the opposite side of the building, although that will allegedly be provided for coach passengers. These two statements are surely mutually exclusive. The fact remains almost all pedestrian access would still be down Chipping Close.

    The scheme would still inevitably cause dangerous congestion and obstruction in Bruce Road, Chipping Close, St Albans Road and its junction with the High Street. Can anyone familiar with Bruce Road seriously believe any assertion it is suitable for this use?

    The biggest threat to the town apart from likely change of use is still displacement parking in and out of shopping hours. It would be a blow to all local trade and residents and a stake through the heart of existing local evening jobs and business including five restaurants and two pubs. It seems improbable these could all survive competing with the new restaurant and bar offsetting its costs against those of the hotel. Hotel parking at the Spires carpark is just not a binding part of the planning application. Extension of CPZ hours (except in Chipping Close itself) would spread the problem.

    If the people that get planning permission aren’t the people that will operate the finished building there is no motivation to resolve any of these issues.

    3) The applicant still makes the ridiculous claim of £1,908,704 annual gain to local businesses. Clearly that uses a figure for “eating out or at the hotel” and says it is just for “eating out” which with other statistical nonsense completely invalidated their maths.

    I had genuinely expected to find valid research showing how much hotels benefit other businesses in their area, just not any that would apply to the transit hotel and tradespersons’ hostel this would be. Surprisingly the whole concept of hotels boosting economic activity in their immediate area seems purely to be the result of years of lobbying without any valid research backing it up. If such statistics were available they would be readily available, they do not seem to exist anywhere.

    A source tells me that while some businesses such as tourism obviously require hotel accommodation this need not be as local as would be assumed. It appears benefit from hotels to adjacent businesses has not been and can not be shown to be significant in anyway whatsoever. Unsubstantiated claims for such benefit are however being repeatedly used to leverage planning approval for new hotels in town centres.

    4) Are we still believing promises of arrangements for the hotel’s operation such as 3rd party offsite parking that are simply not physically part of the application? Can anyone seriously want or trust additional visualisations of the proposal having seen those previously provided?

    The inherent extremely negative issues for the immediate neighbours and the wider town centre remain. The impact on the residents of Chipping Close would still be appalling. I am so sorry but the benefits some see and want so much are a fantasy. It is simply all cost and on benefit.

    Hopefully after the Barnet Society has considered the full hard facts and residents’ opinions as promised it will be mindful to actually oppose the reapplication rather than say it is great idea and everyone is in favour of it.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 18 September 2018 14:24 posted by Patrick OReilly

    The Barnet Residential Design Guidelines mean nothing to the Barnet Society;

    5.5 proposals should respond positively to reinforcing or promoting local character
    6.13 New development should recognize the scale and massing of surrounding buildings and reflect these. Where uniform building heights form a distinctive character, major variations will not be permitted
    6.20 Where new development is detrimental to local character, planning permission will be refused
    7.1 Privacy is an important issue, and all residents should feel at ease within their home
    7.3 a minimum distance of 21 metres between properties with facing windows to habitable rooms to avoid over looking
    7.4 use of opaque glazing should be kept to a minimum
    7.5 where overlooking is a problem, a higher degree of privacy is required, nearby walls or buildings should not be overbearing or unduly dominant

    I can not grasp the ignorance it must actively take to believe these spurious claims of a significant improvement to the local economy. Also to want an employer who's work practices have been described by Unite as " practices you’d expect to find in a sweat shop not a leading hotel chain,” again highlights just how out of touch Barnet Society must be to support this. Employees have claimed “I was close to a mental breakdown so I left. I was a member of management. It is widespread throughout the company. They push you till you break then just find someone to replace you.” Other employees were offered no time off when they discovered dead bodies on premises and there is currently a petition online calling for them too clean up their act, these are not the people I want employing my local community, I'm shocked that the Barnet Scoiety does!

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 18 September 2018 16:46 posted by Richard Gardham

    Sadly the Barnet Society seems to want to promote a series pipe dreams over the legitimate concerns of a lot of residents living close to this development. The Society has been keen to give a voice to the Spires management (who have everything to gain from this project being given the green light) when they tell us that the centre has some major names lined up should the hotel be built. The Spires has provided no actual evidence for this (according to a conversation with a BS member I had at the consultation) and the Spires' record of making such claims and having nothing to show are there to be seen (similar claims were made in the aftermath of the opening of H&M - all we've seen since then has been the closure of New Look, the jewellers and the Victoria Bakery).

    The article above also makes reference to the redevelopment of the pop-up park. First, why does this have to be tied to the building of a hotel? Second, again, there appears to be little evidence of this having any grounding in reality. It's just a nice idea that someone at the Barnet Society has had that has never even got into a formative stage, yet the BS mentions it in such stories knowing that it could help shape public opinion. Hugely disappointing behaviour from a society claiming to represent local opinion.

    At least Premier Inn have spoken to the BS. They've not bothered turning up to any of the consultations I've been to, leaving everything to developers GL Hearn. (Did you know that GL Hearn is owned by Capita, by the way? Did you also know that Capita and the Barnet Council have embarked on a number of lucrative joint ventures? It's something that raises alarm bells for me, and many others of social media...) I was saddened by how little the GL Hearn representatives seemed to know about the area too. At one point in discussion during the consultation, one of the GL Hearn manager pointed from the market site roughly in the direction of the hospital and said "There are no pubs in that direction". Anyone with a vague knowledge of the area would know that the Black Horse, Sebright and Lord Nelson were in the direction he was pointing. These people obviously care little about the local area, and as long as they can fund studies that show what they want them to show regarding parking or traffic, they've ticked all the boxes they need and they can sit back and count their money. What a shame that the local associations that claim to represent the people living in Barnet are so taken in by these people.

    The hotel that Premier Inn want is too bag - far too big - for that area. The surrounding infrastructure simply won't support it. The potential for a traffic snarl up around Bruce Road is big. The potential for noise from stag, hen and wedding parties (who WILL use the hotel - in spite of GL Hearn's claims at the consultation that they won't) is worrying. Based on other hotels in similar areas, this one will primarily be used for people wanting to drive to London but wanting somewhere to stay on the outskirts with easy access to the centre of London (as a northerner, this is what all of my friends and family do, staying in Watford, Stanmore, Borehamwood, etc... barely using their local surrounds in that time as they want to spend all their time in the tourist areas). I'd be surprised if Barnet sees anything other than minimal economic advantages from this, all for a whole lot of upheaval. The Barnet Society has lost all credibility in my eyes based on their response to this development.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 19 September 2018 10:29 posted by Richard Gardham

    I see that a Barnet Society committee member has written to officially support the hotel, giving this gem: "Without this investment The Spires too will not survive".

    However, the Barnet Society reported in April that "Footfall in the Spires shopping centre is up by over 50 per cent in the first three months of this year". That "The Spires’ landlords have invested millions in the centre and all the indicators are positive". That "the Spires’ major tenants are meeting their sales targets". This is all without the hotel being built.

    So which one is it? Is the Spires not going to survive without the hotel, or was the Barnet Society's report of April 2018 not true? It can't be both. I'm going to guess that this is yet another example of scaremongering emanating from the direction of the Barnet Society with regards to this hotel being built. Shameful.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 19 September 2018 22:10 posted by Steven

    It seems those reacting to your post whom are supporting the 100 room hotel build on the historic marketplace give two reasons; the unfounded economic benefit to the high street and that it would provide a place for relatives to stay when they come to visit.

    I would ask as a resident of Chipping Close, as someone whose life will be impacted permanently, that you consider the consequences of your actions on others and don’t make decisions on blind faith.

    Firstly the scale, mass and proximity of the proposed hotel contradicts Barnet’s own planning guidelines and past refusals.
    Duke Bowls (next to the marketplace), was flatly refused planning permission to build a fourth storey in a similar manor as the hotel is proposing because; “… its size, bulk, siting and design would be an obtrusive and overly dominant form of development that would be out of scale and keeping with the character and appearance of the surrounding area detrimental to the street scene, general locality and neighbouring Conservation Area”

    And this will result in loss of privacy, loss of light, increased nuisance due to over 100 daily guests on foot and in vehicles traveling past my window, and overlooking by 50 windows (partially glazed) only 10.55m away. Again the minimum guideline is 21m.

    The consultants for the application, GL Hearn have been questionable from the get go; the CGI renditions from day one did not show the true nature of the hotel scale or proximity, on initial consultations they said that the restaurant would be for guests only, in fact the restaurant will compete with the high street, then there is the application for maxi-licencing to sell alcohol until 12:30 every evening, 24hours a day to guests.

    Further to this GL Hearn is owned by Capita and in the past this has been, “recorded (this) on RE’s conflict of interest register.
    http://www.hamhigh.co.uk/news/shock-and-scandal-as-barnet-council-approves-east-finchley-development-1-5126568

    Take in to consideration the new application now openly acknowledges that, “The implementation of the new market is dependent on the hotel application being approved.”
    This is virtually the same as bribery; if you don't support the hotel the Spires won't relocate the market. Is this enough for Residents' Associations to support commercial interests, ignore planning faults and throw the people they are supposed to protect under the bus?

    The new entrance on Bruce Rd just doesn’t work, its not visible from the street. On one side it is congested and on the other cars speed around the bend. And what of the obvious parking problems?

    You might think that this will not affect you, but if you support this you are setting a precedent for other builds to blatantly disregard planning guidelines.

    We are a street of nurses, doctors, retirees, first time home buyers and people that have lived their entire lives on this street, much like your street; I ask you would you want to live across the road from hotel of this size and scale? Would you want our relatives looking into your house a few strides away? Its not the idea of a hotel in Barnet, it’s that the plan is not right for this site.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 22 September 2018 12:33 posted by Steven

    It is clear that people that don't and won't fell the impact of this hotel build are supporting commercial interest over local residents. I don't own a shop or live in a big house, I live across the road from Chipping Barnet Market... or that is what I did say.
    https://www.notfitforsite.com/

  • Comment Link Sunday, 23 September 2018 23:33 posted by Chris

    'Barnet Society is minded to support it'? Look around the town. There are many more issues of cleanliness, anti-social behaviour, homeless sleeping by the Library, high street shop closures and unimaginative development that need contesting. Yes, oppose this extraordinary proposal that will blight the residents of Chipping Close and cause traffic congestion. Oppose the plans to create high occupancy blocks of miserable tenancy and the ridiculous idea that a hotel will give the occupants job training. We are in danger of becoming an outer suburb dumping ground yet we are also in possession of excellent access routes, historic building stock, tube straight into town and the potential to be extremely attractive to incomers. Why not support the growing designers and artist population in Brake Shear House and Alston Works? Creative energy is gold and young, innovative industries can be supported here as tech hubs or artisan quarters. This in turn draws people in and develops all other retail choices. Surely we can do better than being on the merry go round of a dreadful, quick buck development plan that offers no actual benefit and has been presented in such a superficial manner?

  • Comment Link Saturday, 29 September 2018 22:31 posted by James

    Premier Inn on the high street sounds good, high barnet needs some business that are going to be viable. It would actually be a nice place to stay there aren't any other hotels apart from the very small one round the corner.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 30 September 2018 19:17 posted by Mary

    Am I the only one to think that with Premier Inn having a restaurant, do you really think people will dine in town?? I think this is nonsense, Premier Inn will have preferential packages for their clients with breakfast and dinner included. I do not see how this can be beneficial for the town. Without the restaurant, maybe, it could be, but at the moment, i would like someone to give me concrete arguments: how can this be beneficial for the town???

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 02 October 2018 12:50 posted by Andy

    Mary,
    I have used Premier Inns quite a lot and I can say that i often ask the receptionist where the good restaurants are in town for dinner. They have always been more than happy to give me recommendations and this despite the fact that a lot of these Premier Inns were 'attached' to their own restaurant / pub (Beefeater branded pubs and the like that Whitbread own).
    I hear that the High Barnet hotel will have an inhouse restaurant where no doubt some of the residents will eat but a lot will venture the short walkable distance into town.
    I am neutral on whether this hotel is a good idea but i do believe there will be some benefit to local restaurants / night time economy.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 03 October 2018 23:05 posted by Steven

    The auxiliary bar/restaurant sits predominately on a residential street; its clear glass walls take up roughly a third of Chipping Close and provide the dinner with a clear view in to our windows 10.55m away.

    The license they have applied for is to sell alcohol for consumption on and OFF premises between 10:00 to 23:00hr and to non-guests, and 24 HOURS a day, 7 days a week to guests. During this period the bar will remain open to guests as the hotel sees fit.

    Further to this they have applied for two GAMING MACHINES.

    And although the Premier Inn discourages Coach bookings in the new plans they have added a Coach drop off point via the Spires service yard.

    The Premier Inn would argue that their policy of ‘A Good Nights Sleep' is enough guarantee and that is fine for guests who can claim their money back should they not get ‘A Good Nights Sleep’ but what about local residents in the vicinity.
    And who is to say it will always be operated as a Premier Inn.

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