Monday, 19 June 2017 14:41

Make-over for historic Union Street

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Roger Newell is hoping to demolish a semi-derelict lock-up that has blighted Union Street for many years Roger Newell is hoping to demolish a semi-derelict lock-up that has blighted Union Street for many years
Plans to replace a semi-derelict vacant shop that has blighted Union Street for many years will go a long way towards finishing off a make-over for one of High Barnet’s historic thoroughfares.

If planning approval is given by Barnet Council, an empty lock-up shop at the corner of Union Street and Coe’s Alley, will be demolished to make way for a house, perhaps divided into two flats, that the owner says will be in keeping with the scale and brickwork of the adjoining Victorian terraced homes.

Union Street was originally the road that led from the High Street to the Barnet Union Workhouse, which was said to have given Charles Dickens the inspiration for Oliver Twist, and which was demolished in 2002 to provide space for a car park for Barnet Hospital.

In recent years Union Street, part of the Wood Street conservation area, has undergone a slow but steady transformation, and its appearance has been much enhanced by a series of new constructions and restorations.

The old Town Hall in Union StreetFinishing touches are currently being added to a 100-seat extension that has been constructed at the front of the Roman Catholic Church, due to re-open shortly.

Opposite the church, the former Barnet Town Hall, has been given a facelift following its conversion into flats.

Last month New Ground, the co-housing project for older women, was officially opened, providing 25 flats on what was previously the site of St Martha’s Convent.

Opposite the new flats complex, adding a touch of class to Union Street, is Room 89, a shop selling household fashions, gifts and accessories.

Roger Newell, owner of the vacant shop besides Coe’s Alley, is hoping to get permission to demolish what he accepts is an eyesore of no architectural merit.

Currently there is an ongoing discussion with planners at Barnet Council as to whether the shop should be replaced with a house or a dwelling divided into two one-bedroom flats.

There is not sufficient amenity space on the very limited site, which was why permission was originally refused for a house, but Mr Newell hopes the support of the Chipping Barnet MP, Theresa Villiers, might persuade the council to give the go-ahead for a house.

“Whatever is finally agreed, I am proposing to make sure that the new dwelling matches into the existing Victorian terrace, with the same yellow London brick and red strips of facing bricks.

I am also going to make sure that Coe’s Alley is made more inviting, and that hopefully I can put an end to what has become an eyesore.”

Mr Newell says he would like to live in the newly-constructed house, as his grandparents on one side of the family lived in Union Street, and the other nearby in Lee Croft.

The shop has been vacant for the last 12 years, after Mr Newell finally closed what had been a greengrocery and florist. “Unfortunately, the lock-up shop was broken into so many times, insurance became prohibitive.”

The lock-up shop was built in the 1930s by Bunny Rees, who then lived next door at 63 Union Street, and had an entrance in his hall to his greengrocer’s shop.

Union Street has changed considerably in recent years, losing many of its former businesses, including the Albion public house and Yadav’s grocery shops, both now converted into homes.


  • Comment Link Friday, 23 June 2017 10:31 posted by Marion Richings

    My husbands great grandad had a bakery here lomg time ago

  • Comment Link Friday, 23 June 2017 10:31 posted by Elizabeth Jay

    Time to put Barnet properly on the tourist map with all of its amazing literary history? It's in Oliver Twist and Bleak House to name but two.

  • Comment Link Friday, 23 June 2017 10:32 posted by Rachel Porter

    I had no idea of that connection - and I live almost next door to the site. What a shame it was wiped off the map.

  • Comment Link Friday, 23 June 2017 10:33 posted by Diane Burstein

    Barnet's dull High Street disguises what an interesting place it is. I've just added Barnet to my guided walks repertoire so am doing my bit!

  • Comment Link Friday, 23 June 2017 10:34 posted by Rebecca Hannon

    Finally doing something with that eyesore.
    When I lived on Union Street a few years back some neighbours/ locals used to leave notes on these shops begging them to be done up by the owners!

  • Comment Link Monday, 09 September 2019 15:23 posted by Helen Grogan

    I've just come across ancestors in 1841 living in Grays Cottages union street Barnet . I hoping you may be able to give me more details on these cottages
    Many Thanks
    Helen Grogan

  • Comment Link Monday, 08 June 2020 10:20 posted by Andrew Saunders

    Bunny Rees shop was a news agent sweet sop the now two cottages in Coe's alley the greengrocers shop was built owned and run by Mr Saunders who lived at 63 and later by his wife's sister Mona and husband Frank Johnstone . Hope that puts your info right.


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