A final date has yet to be agreed with Transport for London, but Barnet Council anticipates closing the High Street from Monday 24 August.
The aim is to get the closure and diversionary routes up and running before local schools go back in the first week of September and before students return to the nearby Barnet and Southgate College.
Diversionary routes for all traffic, including buses, will operate along Wood Street and then connect to St Albans Road via two one-way routes – via either Stapylton Road or The Avenue and Alston Road.
News of the High Street closure, without advance consultation or notice, has provoked a storm of criticism on social media with subscribers to the Next Door website predicting traffic chaos.
Barnet Council leader Daniel Thomas says the closure is necessary to ensure the safety of local residents and visitors to the town centre during the continuing social distancing required to counter the Covid-19 pandemic.
The closure will extend from 72 High Street, through the narrow section beside the parish church, and continue to 172 High Street and the junction with St Albans Road (taking in another pinch point of the narrow pavement outside the Paper Shop).
Businesses along the High Street will be encouraged to activate outdoor space in front of their premises for trading, by placing tables and chairs in front of shops.
Designated vehicles such as those for waste collection, delivery and street-cleaning will be allowed onto the High Street from 8pm each evening until 8.30am in the morning.
As a result of the closure, Salisbury Road and Union Street will be converted to two-way traffic while retaining spaces for disabled parking. Traffic calming will be introduced throughout the surrounding neighbourhood.
Twelve parking spaces along the High Street – from Boots to Iceland – have already been cordoned off to create a wider pavement.
High Street traders have been informed by letter of the traffic closure and members of the Barnet’s Town Centres Investment team have been visiting premises to inform the occupants.
In his letter, Councillor Thomas promised that additional information on the repercussions of the closure will be made available as soon as possible and in the meantime businesses are encouraged to contact their delivery and waste collection providers to alert them of the restricted entry times.
“To ensure an active High Street throughout the closure, the council will encourage and attract open air market trading and the organisation of community activities, as well as the installation of informal and safe play equipment on the High Street during the temporary road closure.
“These are challenging times for the whole community, but we are confident that the tenacity and strong enterprising spirit of Barnet’s businesses will help us come through this together.”
The Town Centres Team says its staff will be doing all they can to ensure that the High Street remains “lively and active” throughout the closure.
Gary Murphy, licensee of the Mitre public house – which is just before the start of the closed section – feared the closure would make High Street businesses less accessible especially for the elderly and disabled with longer distances to walk from bus stops.
“It could make it more dangerous in the evenings with young people congregating and no security from passing police patrol cars or other vehicles.”
Most of the criticism is directed towards the predicted traffic congestion with warnings that the small roundabout at the Black Horse public house will become a bottle neck for traffic diverted along either Stapylton Road or The Avenue.
Delays and disruption to ambulances travelling along Wood Street to and from Barnet Hospital is another matter of concern, as is the fear that more traffic will use Mays Lane adding to congestion at the road junctions by the Gate public house on Barnet Road.
Some comments refer to the congestion that occurs when the High Street is closed each December for the Barnet’s Sunday Christmas Fair, which already leads to “12 hours of chaos”.
Robin Bishop, chair of the Barnet Society, intends to consult the society’s membership to gauge reaction. He would have preferred weekend trials of the diversion before the full closure.
News of the closure comes hot on the heels of the completion of the widening of High Street pavements from the Post Office to the Spires shopping centre.