Something Green

Barnet has precious green open spaces, mature woodlands, streams and wetlands. Last year brought home what we stand to lose with climate change and bad building development. Surely this is the moment to invest in green initiatives.

The Council is consulting us on projects to help regenerate the Barnet High Street area. The Barnet Society’s web post on 1 February described how we’ve responded to the Community Plan by agreeing five priorities: something old, something new, something for children, something for young people and something green.

Chipping Barnet's abundance of green spaces is one of its unique selling points. Wherever you may be in the area, you’re never more than a few stones' throw away from a park, wood or nature of some kind, which is indeed a luxury considering our proximity to central London. But protecting the environment is also about reducing our carbon emissions in other ways, which can be active (e.g. generating energy from renewable sources) or passive (e.g. saving and enhancing existing buildings).

Here we invite you to consider projects in the Plan that would support something green in various ways:

  • Routes & Riches Wayfinding
  • Rewilding
  • Community Energy Company
  • Opportunity Clusters: Historic Centre, Civic & Market and Hadley Green

It’s important to let the Council know that you support at least one of these projects in the Community Plan hereBelow we explain why they are worth considering in more detail.

Our green assets aren’t always utilised and enjoyed to their full potential. In her recent web post something old, Judith Clouston described how Routes & Riches Wayfinding could result in a series of specially-commissioned signs or markers to highlight the locations not just of our historical and architectural gems, but of our green spaces. This would celebrate them and make them as accessible and enjoyable as possible.

How many people know that loads of free blackberries grow in public spaces within 10 minutes’ walk of the High Street? Or that one of the best views of our Green Belt can be seen from Whitings Hill, only five minutes’ walk beyond Barnet Hospital? This project would be an inexpensive way to show locals and visitors where these delights can be found.

The Society is particularly glad to see Rewilding among the Plan projects. Over the last 25 years, we’ve planted, and persuaded the Council to plant, many hundreds of trees and shrubs in and around the town centre. We’ve supported other local organisations active in conserving and enhancing the environment such as Green Beings and Barnet Environment Centre (illustrated above, right). And we’ve drawn attention to neglected corners that would benefit from better design and management, such as the pocket park between The Spires and the Stapylton Road bus-stop (illustrated above, left).

The strengths of this project are many. It would require relatively little to deliver: mainly seeds or saplings – which are cheap – and labour to find, prepare, plant and maintain new spaces. There’s great and growing enthusiasm for planting among the public, and especially in schools, so much of the labour could be voluntary. It would produce results within a growing season or two, but could also be carried out in stages as money and enthusiasm allow. It would bring quiet satisfaction to those taking part, and to all the passers-by who enjoy the results.

We know that Green Beings are particularly keen to engage the community with re-wilding (and maintaining) suitable pockets of land in and around the town. Provided we can get a handle on our litter problem, this can add significantly to the character and identity of Chipping Barnet, as well as offer opportunities for pollination, biodiversity and habitat creation.

The idea of a Community Energy Company could hardly be more different. Given sufficient uptake by local residents and businesses, this could lead to a significant reduction in our energy costs and carbon emissions.

Putting solar panels on the roofs of suitable buildings around the town centre must be a better response to the need for renewable energy, surely, than the Council’s current inclination to approve solar panels and battery stores in parks and open spaces that it deems to be ‘low quality, low value’?

Of all the green projects in the Plan, it is the most ambitious but could have the greatest impact. But it would need substantial investment upfront before economic and environmental benefits would be felt. And for it to remain a locally controlled initiative, the Council and Chipping Barnet Town Team would need long-term commitment and in-house expertise.

Green initiatives on a more modest scale are also contained in the ideas for Opportunity Clusters in the Historic Centre, the Civic & Market Quarter and Hadley Green. Some could involve actual new greenery – in, around, on the rooftops of, and growing up the walls of existing buildings. But a sustainable environment is not just about plants: it’s about safeguarding the massive amounts of embodied carbon locked up in building fabric. Our town centre is full of interesting architecture, but often so neglected that it goes unnoticed. We already know how to transform the environmental performance of old buildings without destroying their character; what we need is the care and imagination to do it.

The Society would like to hear how you rate these ideas. If you’re a member, we’ve already written to you, so email us at the address in the letter. If you aren’t a member, please contact us via the comment box below – and consider joining us!