Some long-awaited summer sunshine in late July provided the final seal of approval for Barnet’s town centre uplift and the newly-created meeting and seating area beside St John’s Church. Instead of a line of forbidding holly bushes there are now new walkways and benches, sweet smelling lavender in freshly formed flower beds, and an attractive beech hedge to provide some privacy.
At last Barnet has a place to meet and have a chat away from traffic noise and fumes!
Weeks of record rainfall had delayed completion of the town centre improvements which were paid for out of Barnet’s share of the first £10 million being provided by the Mayor of London to improve the appearance and vitality of outer London boroughs not benefiting from Crossrail or the Olympics.
The transformation of Church Passage into a pleasant pedestrian area is the centrepiece of an uplift which Barnet Society hopes is just the start of a determined drive to brighten up the town’s appearance.
There are improvements all along the High Street: benches have been installed at several strategic points on the pavement; there are handsome new heritage-style litter bins; and twenty-five new trees which have had added a welcome splash of green.
Another much-needed boost has been achieved by reducing unnecessary clutter. The removal of battered guard rails and signs at the junction of Wood Street and the High Street has improved the visual impact of the road layout in front of St John’s Church and Barnet College.
The transformation of Church Passage into a
pleasant pedestrian area is the centrepiece of an uplift
Along the High Street there are the first signs of a stylish make-over which Barnet Traders Association and the Town Team hope will encourage other businesses to follow suit. Seven shops have new fascias, signs and awnings and the association’s chair Gail Laser, who is also vice chair of Barnet Society, says she considers these improvements “provide exemplars that the Town Team hopes existing and incoming retailers will follow when making changes and alterations.”
Premises which now boast freshly-painted frontages include The Paper Shop (formerly Smokers Paradise), Flairline, Barnet Opticians, Chudys, Cover and finally Cafe Pacino at the corner of the High Street and the newly-refurbished Church Passage.
So far the feedback from other traders and shoppers has been extremely positive and Gail Laser promises that the Town Team will be doing all it can to encourage other proprietors to add the kind of design style which has been sadly lacking in Barnet High Street.
“What we would like to see is a further greening of the High Street which could so easily be achieved with hanging baskets outside shop windows. We hope more proprietors will follow the lead of Michael Kentish at Hopscotch and James Freeman of Victoria Bakery who without any help from funding continue to work hard to provide attractive shop fronts and well-designed shop windows. All this contributes to the colour and vibrancy which High Barnet so desperately needs.”
Barnet Traders Association and the Town Team have drawn up a six-point action plan to encourage local residents to do their bit to ensure the town continues to offer a welcoming and vibrant shopping centre:
- Shop locally
- Offer ideas for window displays
- Say what you do and do not like about specific shops
- Give us your suggestions on what local shops should sell
- Ideas are always welcome for new interiors – and volunteers are always welcome!
- If you would like to help in any way, please join the Town Team
The churchyard project came about as a result of The Barnet Society identifying the opportunity to open up and improve the former churchyard a couple of years ago - the historic heart of the town centre contained an underused space, largely hidden from the High Street. We felt this was a wasted opportunity and that, if opened up, it could provide valuable public realm for everyone.
The Barnet Society provided a project brief for inclusion in the OLF (Outer London Fund) Round 1 bid and for the architects bidding for the project. The land is owned by the church and the proposed work had to receive approval from the diocese before it could be carried out. The Barnet Society provided the initial liaison between the church and the Council.
The final design was produced by Metropolitan Workshop, an architectural and urban design practice based in central London, and the project was managed by Barnet Council.