Monday, 06 August 2018 14:42

Premier Inn - What next?

Written by Robin Bishop
Barnet Market – site of the proposed Premier Inn Barnet Market – site of the proposed Premier Inn
The controversial proposal to build a Premier Inn on the former Barnet Market site has been rejected by Barnet’s planning committee, against the planning officers’ advice.

The three grounds for rejection have just been published, and the planning committee has explained why they believe the proposal would be detrimental to existing Chipping Close residents.

To summarise:

  1. A three-storey hotel close to the existing dwellings would result in a harmful level of enclosure and overlooking from its third-floor bedroom windows.
  2. The pedestrian entrance on Chipping Close would result in an increased level of pedestrian activity and lead to unacceptable noise and disturbance.
  3. Inadequate access via Bruce Road (the proposed vehicle drop-off and disabled parking point) would encourage drivers to use the Chipping Close entrance.

Curiously, the hotel’s impact on local traffic and on-street parking – about which the Barnet Society had expressed concern – was not considered a reason for rejection.

Another key Society concern was that the future of the existing market must be guaranteed. This was met by the approval, last month, of a separate planning application by The Spires to relocate the market to their bandstand site.

Almost all of our other concerns were acknowledged by the planners and, had approval been granted, they would have imposed the following conditions (amongst others):

  • Premier Inn signage and branding to follow Conservation Area guidelines.
  • More planting such as window boxes to extend the greening of the town centre currently being promoted by the Council and Chipping Barnet Town Team.
  • Premier Inns to provide visitor information about the history of Chipping Barnet.
  • The empty triangle between the hotel and Dory’s café to be neatly secured.
  • Brick samples to be approved.

A further planning condition would have prevented music after 10:30pm from Sundays to Thursdays and after 11:00pm on Fridays. During prior consultation, Premier had given us to believe that would be their policy. We were therefore astonished to find that – before their application had even reached the planning committee – they had applied for a host of licensing relaxations. We wrote a strong letter of objection.

A number of our members are disappointed that the Society should have objected to Premier’s application.  I’d like to respond by making a couple of points.

Firstly, our decision to support it – subject to stringent conditions – was made after consulting the whole Committee plus two Vice Presidents and several members with planning, architectural and transport expertise.  None of them opposed the application.

Secondly, the Committee now recognises that we didn’t fully reflect the strength of local feeling on this issue. We’ve since reviewed how we deal with large and sensitive proposals like Premier Inn, and agreed that we could do more to consult members. We’ve recently upgraded our membership database and in future, when time permits, we’ll do what we can to consult members directly if they would be particularly affected by major developments.

What happens next? As I write, there are three possibilities:

  1. Premier may go to appeal. That could succeed, but would take many months.
  2. They may amend their current scheme. The three grounds for refusal could probably be addressed without major redesign.
  3. They may sell the site to another developer. In that case, a housing development is on the cards; and in such a central location, that’s very unlikely to be houses with gardens. Three-storey terraces – such as those which have been given planning permission in Moxon Street (see below) – are the likely outcome.

Proposed housing Moxon Street garage site                   Drawing by Alan Cox Associates

Proposed housing  commercial space Moxon Street Checkalows site Drawing by Capita Property  Infrastructure

There’s an alternative, more positive, view about a new hotel that is taken by people who’ve been striving for years to revive our failing local economy – including long-standing Barnet Society members – and is attracting widespread public support.

It’s that a hotel would help to generate new business and employment within our town centre, and a buzz that would extend way beyond Chipping Barnet.

If public interest in the Battle of Barnet continues to grow – as the recent highly successful Medieval Festival indicated – a hotel sympathetically designed for the Monken Hadley conservation area would be an additional attraction.


Apparently £3.5M from the sale of the present market site will largely be spent investing in further Spires shopping centre improvements.  Several major retailers are considering opening – but will only do so if a planning application for the hotel is successful, and soon.

The Society hasn’t taken a definitive view on this yet. If Premier Inns make a fresh planning application, we’ll scrutinise it forensically, and consult our members before doing so.


  • Comment Link Monday, 06 August 2018 23:06 posted by Emma Mattocks

    How will a Premier Inn improve the lives of people in the local community exactly??

    Answer: It won't!

    It will benefit this, Conservative lead, Barnet Council for the present by providing them with temporary financial gain. Will the said Barnet Council members even invest that money back in to the community?

    No. A selfish, short sited council that makes equally selfish, short sited proposals.

  • Comment Link Monday, 06 August 2018 23:07 posted by Ben Basson

    Fundamentally, this is a fine idea. Clearly this exact iteration of the planning application was not. I hope that plans are submitted to develop this site usefully and to the benefit of the local economy.

    All evidence says that what's really needed to revive high streets is housing. Hotels are second best. Either way, footfall increases are needed to support the local shops. This is the same _everywhere_ in the whole country.

    I look forward to seeing what is proposed next.

  • Comment Link Monday, 06 August 2018 23:08 posted by Richard Gardham

    "There’s an alternative, more positive, view about a new hotel that is taken by people who’ve been striving for years to revive our failing local economy – including long-standing Barnet Society members – and is attracting widespread public support.

    It’s that a hotel would help to generate new business and employment within our town centre, and a buzz that would extend way beyond Chipping Barnet."

    I've never heard of a Premier Inn bringing a 'buzz' to a town before. And is it really attracting widespread public support? There were an exceptional number of objections to this hotel. As a Chipping Close resident, I only found negative comments regarding a hotel of this size based around a number of issues.

    A hotel 'may' do some good for the local economy, but it's also likely to be used as a cheap stop off for people on their way to central London or attending weddings in and around Barnet/Hertfordshire. As for employment, a majority of jobs created at such hotels pay minimum wage (or little more than that). Given house/rent prices in High Barnet and surrounding areas, I'm not sure how many locals would be taking jobs there.

    That's not to say there would be no benefits. And I'd be open to 'a' hotel in that space, just not the monstrosity that was proposed by the developers/Premier Inn. 102 rooms was/is excessive for such a small area. I'd also appreciate it if any new plans were made and carried out in a transparent, honest way.

    As you note above, in the consultations we were promised no chance of any night-time noise. Then we get alcohol/music licence applications until 12.30am, seven days a week. We were promised that every effort would be made to avoid any disturbances to the residents of Chipping Close. Then we get a new set of plans - amended after any objections could officially be made - which put a main entrance/exit on Chipping Close; a doorway that would in all likelihood be used by taxis/late-night revellers. The conduct of the developers/Premier Inn was very poor during this whole saga, and I for one felt disappointed in the manner in which the Barnet Society/the BRA waved it through (initially, at least).

    If the developers come back with something set further back from the houses in Chipping Close, and with - as initially promised - no major entrances/exits on Chipping Close, my guess is they'd get much closer to this being pushed through (as long as they looked to do more to redress privacy concerns/parking issues, too).

    Whether they'd want something smaller - as it would hopefully be - remains to be seen. I just hope they are honest with local residents with whatever it is they are planning.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 07 August 2018 02:10 posted by Nick Saul

    Serious reality check needed here.

    We are not waiting for an appeal or a new application to build housing. Beyond reasonable doubt there will be a re-application to the council with modest changes which may end up meaning nothing at all.

    On the balance of probability this will be passed back through either the Chipping Barnet Planning Committee or borough Planning Committee with an unpredictable level of dissent. There may even be some mechanism for it to be rubber stamped by a planning officer under delegated powers. There is some chance the proposal will be refused again by a committee for new grounds. They have the power to do that, but it is unusual.

    Likely changes will be relabelling the Chipping Close main entrance as a fire escape, the Bruce Road entrance upgraded from a fire escape and relabelled as the main entrance and some token obscured glass on irrelevant second or third floor windows.

    Unless many people completely misheard what was said the committee judged the proposed hotel should have been set further back from the cottages in Chipping Close and its windows facing them should all have had obscured glass as in the previous proposal approved for the site.

    At the time I thought the applicant is not going to do either. The proposal should have been dead and buried. I wasn't foolish enough to think it was. Between what was heard in committee and the publishing of the Refusal of Planning Permission things seemed to have changed and the proposal is back on track. It now reads:

    "The proposed development by reason of its three-storey scale and close relationship to residential dwellings along Chipping Close, would result in a harmful level of enclosure and overlooking from the third floor clear glazed hotel bedroom windows detrimental to the amenities of neighbouring occupiers on Chipping Close".

    Nope, I can't see how you get from one to the other either. But I can see what it means. Apart, obviously, from where the blazes are the "third floor" windows overlooking Chipping Close? Surely this must be leading to discussion among committee members, possibly impacting how this proceeds?

    As the article says concerns at parking from the hotel have been totally discounted in this refusal. The applicant made it clear to the committee that the proposed adaption of the Spires for 24 hour use by hotel residents was limited to keypad operation of the entrance. The required complete, expensive and far reaching re-engineering of vehicle and pedestrian access of the car park and the Spires itself is completely off the applicant's radar. It clearly wasn't going to happen.

    Beside all that, people will simply not pay to park somewhere when there are more convenient free alternatives for the hours they require. 80 to 100 vehicles would swamp evening and overnight parking in the Stapylton Road car park and surrounding streets.

    This would be a stake through the heart of existing evening businesses the most serious inconvenience and noisy disruption for local residents 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The problems would be compounded if CPZ hours are increased as being widely proposed.

    Meanwhile the Barnet Society is still promoting the hotel to the public and its members using the applicant’s assertions of benefits to the town. These wholly discreditable claims are now joined suddenly by promises of "major retailers" queuing to take units in the Spires on condition the hotel is built, a claim strangely few if any were hearing before the application hit the buffers.

    Now we hear Barnet is to be a tourist attraction and the hotel will be needed to accommodate visitors to the battlefield. No wonder this article can claim people the Society canvases think the hotel would be a good idea as the Barnet Society is still so committed to telling them it is. But come on – widespread support? Not from many people that live anywhere near the Marketplace.

    Get real. This is a transit hotel offering hostel–sized rooms for motorists breaking their journey as briefly as possible and tradespeople working on local projects in need of somewhere to crash out between shifts.

    Time and time again the Society has raged at being deceived about aspect after aspect of this proposed development. The old saying fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me has never been more applicable.

    If this goes through even if revised as the committee actually intended this would still be an appalling imposition on the residents of Chipping Close and a grievous and permanent wound to the town centre. I am sorry, but the conditions the Society says it had won may be worthy but just seem totally inadequate to the point of irrelevance.

    I should be encouraged by the Society's promise to scrutinise forensically any fresh application. However why wasn't this done on the refused proposal, it was not by the residents' groups, it was not by the planning department. The applicant made a claim and GULP, it was swallowed hook line and sinker without any technical appraisal whatsoever. It must be said hardly a single claim in the application withstood any critical scrutiny at all.

    Scrutinise the next application, see this cheap motel without a carpark for the blight it is and then fight like fury to protect your residents and the town centre – it is what the Society exists to do.

    Then, but only then, by all means talk about suitable housing on this site. And then perhaps an hotel with decent sized rooms all on columns over an extended station carpark, with proper bus and shuttle facilities to the town centre as part of the project.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 07 August 2018 08:45 posted by AK57

    "harmful level of enclosure and overlooking...........!! " shame that wasn't a consideration for the residents of Elmbank Avenue where the new development towers over existing homes and gardens.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 08 August 2018 18:15 posted by Paul Green

    "Apparently £3.5M from the sale of the present market site will largely be spent investing in further Spires shopping centre improvements. Several major retailers are considering opening – but will only do so if a planning application for the hotel is successful, and soon."

    Is that so? Completely unrelated, I have some magic beans for sale if you're interested in them?

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 08 August 2018 19:14 posted by Gordon Massey

    Though we (Barnet Residents Association) supported the scheme in principle, in our submission on the planning application we objected to the fourth floor and to the entrance in Chipping Close. We subsequently acknowledged that we missed the overlooking issue and at our AGM gave a commitment to residents in Chipping Close that we would pursue that,which indeed we did. Planning committee members did not question the fourth floor but their reasons for rejection mirrored the arguments we made on the two other issues.

    Residents against the scheme have run a very energetic campaign and those who spoke at the planning meeting made excellent presentations. That said, the councillors did not go along with the many other issues put forward regarding parking, daylight, economic impact, bulk etc. Indeed in summing up the committee chairman indicated his support for the scheme. The position taken by the planning committee accorded with our view. Despite the opposition all contact we have had around the town indicates that residents are overwhelmingly in favour. That said, Chipping Close does deserve a better deal and we now await how Premier will deal with that.

  • Comment Link Friday, 10 August 2018 23:28 posted by Mary

    Am I the only one to think that we could use the former « Spa Centre» next to « The Red Lion », on the High Street for Premier Inn? This could regenerate that part of the town? Why can’t we look at empty buildings before ? Looking forward to hearing your view on the Spa location.

  • Comment Link Monday, 13 August 2018 11:40 posted by Nick Saul

    Hi Mary, replying as no one else seems to be and it is a very good question worth addressing.

    You are quite right there are alternative locations for hotels in High Barnet and existing buildings have frequently been converted into Premier Inns. The building you refer to would probably physically fit the bill and is in itself a clever suggestion. Thanks for it. The location doesn't have the immediate neighbours issue but would still have negative commercial impact through the amount of parking it would both swallow and displace, and simply being the sort of motel intended. The restaurant operation would also clash with the Red Lion.

    The upper two floors of the Red Lion itself were a fully functioning hotel (complete with a full size ballroom). I was shown around in the 1980's and to my knowledge it is all still there. It is probably the sort of community–friendly modest sized hotel serving visitors to the town people are thinking of when they say they would support an hotel in principal and would indeed help regenerate the area. It is the complete opposite of the 101 room hostel–style motel planned for the Marketplace. However the space has been left vacant for many decades so presumably successive owners actually both in possession of the building and in the hospitality trade have all felt there is simply no commercial justification for it.

    Land adjacent to the tube station has been talked about for a potential large hotel for years but has a whole chain on financing and permission issue with a number of separate businesses and public bodies involved. It would still probably be the best site for a large hotel in the area. However it just doesn't seem to fit Whitbread's very specific ambitions.

    A location needs to be available and fit in with the operator's business plan. Whitbread appears to be committed to a massive increase in the number of rooms it operates by 2020. This is in itself likely to cause problems in areas surrounding new hotels if the market is oversupplied and premises sold on or repurposed. However the Marketplace will have ticked all the boxes to contribute to this deadline. It had a land owner that was prepared to sell at a good price as the project requires a chain of change of use for two sites. Contact between the applicant's agent, local community groups and the Planning Department also seem to to have delivered the promise of a smooth path to planning approval for all this. It is also a brownfield site needing very little clearing, which has previously had planning permission (and even an archaeology report) for a similar sized building, although with obviously much less impact on its neighbours. It is usually much easier, quicker and cheaper to build from scratch rather than convert an existing building, particularly with the huge number of tiny rooms the applicant wishes to squeeze in.

    Sadly if you get into the detail rather than the principle (which no one seems to have done before the application) this is just a bad site in terms of impact on its immediate neighbours and those in the surrounding area, both residents and businesses.

    The claims of benefit to the Spires and the town centre in general may have helped leverage the purchase of the land but are really window dressing. The calculation misquotes its source document which in any event averages very disparate operations and simply could not be used to work backwards to resident spend surrounding an individual hotel. This is primarily a transit motel and workers' hostel in which residents arrive late and leave early – it could be in the middle of a field for all they care, they simply don't need other local facilities.

    Realistically the issue is not about the idea of a hotel somewhere in town in principle or that can be achieved by residents' groups or the council waving some magic wand to change the proposal. It is simply whether this hotel as proposed on this site in this application and any re-application is built or not built.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 14 August 2018 00:08 posted by Steven

    The Premier in is back for a second run giving short notice for it’s public consultation which will be held;
    This Saturday 18th of August from 10.30 to 1pm in a gazebo on the market car park site and on Monday 3rd of Sept 6pm – 8pm.

    As a resident of Chipping Close I urge everybody who has made a comment on or has an interest in what happens in the centre of High Barnet to have a look at the plans, ask questions and comment.

    The new plans have apparently moved the entrance from Chipping Close to Bruce Rd this should mean there is no door on Chipping Close that can directly accesses the reception.

    I am very interested to see how they have made Bruce Rd work as the main entrance, as I question the validity of an entrance that is not visible from the street.
    Bruce Rd is also to be the pick up/ drop off area for guests and taxi’s (so that cars do not use Chipping Close), is there adequate space for this, as it will also be providing disabled parking and power for electric cars.
    Is it safe for cars to be turning out and into Bruce Rd?
    Will the hotel have a Bruce Rd postcode?

    The parking and traffic concerns remain the same with the only consideration being a financial contribution for the council to review the local CPZ.

    The scale and proximity of the build remains the same. It would still have a fourth floor (even though Duke Bowl’s was refused planning permission as it was seen as domineering and an overdevelopment) and is still only 10m away from Chipping Close residents, which means that all houses on Chipping fail to comply with the BRE sunlight/light standard.

    As mentioned in this post, why build when there are empty
    buildings on the high street (such as the Spa Collage building and the Red Lion) that would be better suited without having a massive
    detrimental affect on its neighbours.

    And what is the real financial impact of the hotel?
    Will it really save the Spires and the declining high street as
    RA’s suggest?

    And if a hotel is not built there it is more than likely to be homes.
    Wouldn’t people that live in the area that form a community be more beneficial to the high street economy rather than a transient population that will predominately only serve the food trade (that is if guests don’t eat in the Premier Inn’s auxiliary restaurant that will in fact compete with the high street).

    Ask yourself would you want to live across the street from it?
    Is the plan a good fit for the site?
    Is this the best option that can be built there because once it built its very hard to go back.

    If you can’t make it or if you have any question you can apparently contact a member of the planning team, Az Choudhury on 07939291562 or email

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 14 August 2018 16:23 posted by Nick de Naeyer

    We got a letter from Locate Developments this morning saying they have made some changes in light of residents concerns and are consulting on them on 18th August and 3rd September.

    Both dates are in the school holidays, just like they did with the Ark Academy, so that a significant number of residents are away. How very convenient!

    One of the concessions is "a financial contribution towards the councils review of the local CPZ". So they are prepared to bung the council just for a review, not for any actual works. It smells bad to me.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 14 August 2018 17:27 posted by Nick Saul

    Hello Nick, As you probably guessed works to change CPZ's and any resultant additional costs are paid for by the CPZ's actual users through permit charges and parking fees. The additional costs from extra hours can be considerable as the time covered by Civil Enforcement Officers (parking wardens in old english) must be increased. A secondary cost is lost footfall and trade to local business during the extra hours. Collateral losses include free parking for community and youth groups meeting in the town centre during the early evening, for people attending training sessions at the Army Centre or indeed for friends or relatives just wanting to visit local residents.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 14 August 2018 21:04 posted by Mark

    The hotel will be 'under 45 minutes' from central London or marketed as not too far from Luton Airport. Some local employment, more people in the evenings travelling on the Northern line, but I cannot see it being a major catalyst to revive the Town Centre.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 14 August 2018 21:50 posted by Steven

    Premier Inn are targeting to build 6 new hotels in North London alone with one in Finchley Central, Brent Cross, Cricklewod etc... A total of 49 new hotel across London to meet there expansion plans of 85,000 rooms before 2020. And that is how they measure thier expansion by rooms! Apparently they must have a restraunt and no less than a 100 rooms on the market site for it to be economically viable.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 15 August 2018 09:57 posted by Richard Gardham

    "Several major retailers are considering opening – but will only do so if a planning application for the hotel is successful, and soon."

    I know that the Barnet Society don't respond to comment on here - why I don't know - but I'll ask anyway.

    Did the manager of the Spires offer any proof of these 'major retailers' considering opening in the centre? A letter of intent, perhaps? An email? Because given that the Spires is, I believe, the one selling the land, this smacks of shameless propaganda - from the Barnet Society and the Spires - to try to sway public opinion behind the hotel without any real evidence.

    The Spires have been 'close' to a few developments over the years. All we've got since H&M opened is Victoria Bakery, New Look and the jewellers closing, and three new table tennis tables. My guess is that should the hotel be approved, 'and soon', we'll see no more than a fourth table tennis table as a consequence.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 16 August 2018 17:16 posted by Gordon Massey

    Mention has been made of the former spa next to the Red Lion as an alternative site for a hotel - that has been acquired by the NHS and has planning approval for offices and nurses accommodation. TfL have started working on a scheme for the construction of homes on the station car park site, so no prospect there either.
    Yes - the market site would indeed be suitable for housing and there was a previous approval for flats. But with existing approvals and schemes in the pipeline we have the prospect of some 600+ additional homes in the High Barnet/Underhill area in the next couple of years, and that does not include what may turn out to be an enormous scheme for the station car park and other potential schemes. . Two of the schemes = Meadow Works and Brake Shear House involve the loss of important employment sites. So maybe we have more than enough housing in the pipeline, and something other than flats with the potential to bring employment and trade to the town is no bad idea.

  • Comment Link Friday, 17 August 2018 00:23 posted by Steven

    This seems crazy to me, the former Spa Collage on the High Street, Meadow Works, Brake Shear House and the station car park were surely more suited sites for a hotel as they have (for the most part) no immediate residential neighbours.

    Instead they are getting homes and nurse's accommodation and the one place that is a residential street is getting a 4-storey hotel 10m away.

    Is it only me that thinks this is planning maddness?

  • Comment Link Friday, 17 August 2018 16:47 posted by Nick Saul

    I agree it would be be bad planning to say the Marketplace is a suitable site for this hotel and not housing because other housing is being built in the area. Some of the other larger potential sites could perhaps have been redeveloped or repurposed for an hotel. Perhaps the market site would have been a good location for nurses accommodation. All the owners have other plans.

    But it is the plans being considered for the Marketplace that are those that will or will not be built on it. If it isn't I suspect everyone agrees it will be used for housing.

    It is impossible there will be over provision of new homes in the country, London and the Borough of Barnet for the imaginable future. However given the massive expansion plans of all the major hotel operators (with the biggest Premier Inn trying to nearly double its room count) it is absolutely certain there will be a massive over provision of hotels by 2020.

    On the jobs front If there are to be 600 new homes in the area upwards of 1,200 new residents will increase footfall and hence employment in the town centre far more than this contentious hotel. There is plenty of vacant property in the town centre that will generate all sorts employment as part of the inevitable diversification of High Streets – business abhors a vacuum even more than nature.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 28 August 2018 21:42 posted by Caroline Lever

    The site which housed the former Marie Foster Home could have been used as accommodation for Barnet General nurses and offices. In addition ,the hospital sends patients to a private hospital in Barnet for diagnostic tests, when their Ultrasound department gets fully booked. Perhaps some departments could have been moved to the Marie Foster Home site.


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