Sunday, 03 January 2016 10:49

What future for café gardens?

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The Spires’ upgrade could result in the loss of the Coffee Bean’s garden seating area The Spires’ upgrade could result in the loss of the Coffee Bean’s garden seating area
A guarded welcome has been given by the Barnet Society to plans for a £7 million upgrade for the Spires shopping centre. Barnet Council is to be asked to give planning permission for a two-storey fashion store and three new restaurants.

Hunter Real Estate, who manage the centre on behalf of a Canadian pension fund, have been told by the Society that a greater design effort is needed because the current proposals do not meet the high standard achieved by the reconstruction of the Spires’ High Street frontage.

“Barnet does not want a bland precinct like so many others across the country,” says Robin Bishop, chair of the Society’s planning and environment group.

“In design terms the proposals would be a step backwards, both from the high standard of the recent reconstruction of the High Street entrance, and the existing quirky, but characterful courtyards.”

Among the existing tenants of the Spires, there is considerable concern about Hunter’s proposals for new landscaping and tree planting in the two courtyards.

Cafes in the Spires, including the Coffee Bean, fear they might lose their garden seating areas.

The Coffee Bean’s proprietors say they were shocked and dismayed to find that their café is to lose its garden seating area. “No one consulted us before this went public.

The garden is essential to our business and we know that in the spring and summer local residents love to sit out in the sunshine to enjoy a coffee or a snack.”

In a statement welcoming Hunter’s announcement of an upgrade for the Spires, Mr Bishop says the Society supports the proposed mix of a 24,000-square-foot new fashion store and three new restaurants, and hopes it will help revive trade in the Spires and High Street shops.

But he thinks it is a pity the opportunity wasn’t taken either to produce a master-plan for the whole site, including the service yard and adjoining access area, or to clarify the future of the market and additional car park.

Any intention to remove the bandstand would be opposed by the Society, and a better use of the surrounding paved area would be as a possible new site for the market.

The Society considers the façade for the new fashion store, replacing four shop units, is “an architectural mess”. A more restrained palette of materials and colour would be preferable, along with greater simplicity and elegance.

“Removing all the courtyard canopies would be a mistake. Because of them, people like using the Spires in inclement weather.

“The existing courtyard landscaping is a successful feature of the Spires. Their trees, surfaces and pavement furniture create semi-enclosed nooks and bays for people to chat and snack and children to play without getting in the way.

Removing all the courtyard canopies would be a mistake

“Unifying the stone of the paving of the main circulation route would be welcome, but stripping out every other feature in favour of half a dozen trees in planters is unnecessary and would deprive the courtyards of their character.

“We favour retaining the existing trees, but if they have to be replaced the planters must provide comfortable seating.”

Hunter revealed their plans at a three-day exhibition in the Spires last month. Forms requesting public reaction to the development proposals had to be returned by 20 December.

The intention is to apply for planning permission in mid to late January, and if approval is obtained construction work would begin in the spring. The three new restaurants, to be built in the second courtyard, nearer to

Waitrose, should be finished by the end of 2016, and the new fashion store in the first courtyard should be ready to open by the summer of 2017.


  • Comment Link Sunday, 03 January 2016 16:42 posted by Elizabeth Burling

    I think they should keep the cafe gardens, however I won't be shopping in Barnet until I can pay for my parking with cash - I go to Enfield instead.

  • Comment Link Sunday, 03 January 2016 17:11 posted by Kim Pakan

    Keep them....they're great. ....why does everything have to be walls and bricks?

  • Comment Link Sunday, 03 January 2016 18:57 posted by Anissa Connor

    Extremely disappointed to hear that the coffee bean might be losing their garden and how disgraceful that they only found out at the public consultation. Im a faithful coffee bean customer and have been for year. It's awful that they are treating an independent, local rent paying business with such disregard in favour of new restaurant businesses which are highly likely to be bland chain restaurants. There's no dispute that Barnet needs more retail units. Let's hope these new plans respect current business and don't lose the charm and character The Spires has today.

  • Comment Link Monday, 04 January 2016 08:15 posted by Chris

    Oh no, this would be disastrous - there just aren't enough cafes/restaurants with outside seating in Barnet, and to lose just about the only spot for lunch in the sun would be terrible. I love sitting outside Coffee Bean for lunch with the kids, it's great.

    I missed the opportunity to respond to the plans - is it too late to register dissatisfaction with this?

  • Comment Link Monday, 04 January 2016 12:35 posted by Tim Webster

    Some sort of crocodile swamp. It'd be a talking point, and also stop people dawdling on their way to Waitrose

  • Comment Link Monday, 04 January 2016 12:36 posted by Debbie Bowden

    I think they should be kept... It's a lovely place to meet friends

  • Comment Link Monday, 04 January 2016 12:36 posted by Eva Davies

    Wonderful open spaces must stay - the Coffee Bean in the sun is a wonderful friendly place - we must support Paul and his team.

  • Comment Link Monday, 04 January 2016 12:37 posted by Jennie Woods

    Keep it! The trees and the cobbles, and The Coffee Bean's what gives The Spires character and what us locals like!

  • Comment Link Monday, 04 January 2016 12:37 posted by David Wilson

    What is being proposed? Is it not staying?

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 05 January 2016 18:15 posted by Catherine Sanders

    I think it would be a great loss to the Spires if the Coffee Bean lost the garden which is a focal point and very popular with local people. I am disgusted with the lack of consultation with Paul and his team. Not enough time was given for people to make their concerns known and the box which was described as being at Clintons ( and into which we were directed to post our opinions) was non existent when we tried to do so on the 20th.

    What a disappointing start!

  • Comment Link Friday, 15 January 2016 22:16 posted by Marion

    Shocked to hear Coffee Bean wasn't consulted!! They are a fantastic independent cafe, so few independents survive, I think it's absolutely terrible to be encroaching on their business like this. In the summer their garden is teeming. I really would expect more than this, the Spires regeneration so far has been excellent, I love the new entrance. But if this is the way it will continue - by steam rolling independent businesses, there will be a lot of unhappy locals! We don't want chain restaurants at the expense of a long standing and successful independent cafe which is the hub of the community!

  • Comment Link Monday, 07 March 2016 21:43 posted by jeff

    its not guaranteed that CB will lose their garden. it looks like the plans just show one version of how it will be. surely CB has a lease over this space so will be protected but if not it only has itself to blame.


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