The aim of a wider pavement is to improve the High Street shopping experience by making it easier for pedestrians, to attract new shops and encourage “an outdoor restaurant and café culture”.
However, discussion on the impact of the proposed built-out pavement is continuing within local organisations that make up the Town Team.
The Barnet Society is the among groups considering its reaction and intends to publish its response shortly.
Nonetheless the Town Team hopes that members of local organisations who do agree that a wider pavement would be an improvement do express their support before the consultation period ends on 20 April.
In a statement endorsing the case for a wider pavement, Gordon Massey, chairman of the Barnet Residents Association, urges his association’s members to give the scheme their backing:
The Town Team is led by the Chipping Barnet MP Theresa Villiers and Councillor David Longstaff, and includes representatives of the Barnet Society, Barnet Residents Association, SPACES (Sebright, Puller, Alston, Calvert), Love Barnet, Friends of Barnet Market, Churches Together and the disabled community.
In their joint statement, the Town Team sets out the arguments for and against pavement build-outs in the High Street.
“Many similar schemes have been implemented across London and beyond.
They show that wider pavements improve the shopping experience and benefit local shops and businesses.
The key objective is to change the balance from primarily catering for the needs of motorists to addressing the needs of pedestrians.
This is particularly pertinent in High Barnet where some 65% of journeys into the town are on foot or by public transport.
As well as making pedestrian movement easier the benefits include environmental improvements, especially the planting of trees, and encouraging an outdoor restaurant and café culture.
Narrowing the pedestrian crossings and removing car parking will improve traffic flow which in turn will reduce pollution caused by vehicle congestion.
“We have already seen some improvements in the High Street, in particular at the entrance to the Spires.
The Spires is the subject of a bold redevelopment scheme including a brand new major store, but we are concerned that if the new outlets fail, the consequences for our town centre would be dire.
Changes to Church Passage, a Town Team initiative, led to a great improvement on the gloomy tunnel of a few years ago.
Meanwhile the central section of the High Street remains unchanged and unloved.
Past surveys have identified a high level of resident dissatisfaction with the High St shopping experience.
One third of the shops along the section proposed for improvement are charity shops, a testament to the continued decline of what should be our prime retail area.
We now need to “grab the moment” by making real changes to the High Street to support The Spires initiative.
The prize could be a transformation of the shopping experience in our town centre.
“There are those who will oppose the loss of car parking spaces (7 on the High Street, out of 700 in the town centre area).
Our assessment of those who park in these spaces is that many of them head for The Spires or elsewhere rather than using the nearby High Street outlets.
We confidently expect that the benefits from improving the shopping experience in the High Street will far outweigh the loss of these spaces.
“The Council proposals include changes to loading bays including placing some on adjacent side streets.
We do have reservations with this aspect of the scheme and will be asking the council to look again at the options.”
Gail Laser, founder of Love Barnet – and vice chair of the Barnet Society – says she believes that much-needed improvements to the High Street could be a huge boost to the economy of the town centre.
Currently the High Street is unattractive because of unsightly shop fronts and the existing pavement design does not encourage anything better. Widening the pavement should help to change all of this.
“We will be able to situate trees and floral planters on the nibs of the pavement build-outs that will help add some style, add some green and help with the traffic pollution.”